Metro Detroit
Country United States
State Michigan

Downriver is the unofficial name for a collection of 18 suburban cities and townships in Wayne County, Michigan south of Detroit along the western shore of the Detroit River.[1]

The name derives from the fact that the Detroit River, after running more or less west along the banks of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, then bends to flow largely south before emptying into Lake Erie. Communities to the south of the city can thus be accessed by traveling downriver (as opposed to upriver) along the waterway.



In the early to mid-20th Century, the urban communities in the northern and middle parts of Downriver were mainly populated with workers who were employed by the dozens of auto factories, manufacturing suppliers, ship builders, steel mills and chemical plants that called the area home, including the Ford Rouge Plant Complex, Great Lakes Steel, McLouth Steel, and BASF.

While heavy industry is still an important source of jobs, these communities became home to more white collar workers in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries as the economy of Metropolitan Detroit diversified, larger single family houses were developed and improved freeways made commuting longer distances feasible.

Brownstown Township, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Huron Township and Rockwood in the southern parts of Downriver were predominately rural communities during the first half of the 20th Century. While these communities experienced significant population growth and became more suburban during the second half of the 20th Century and 2000s, some working farms can still be found in these towns.

Today, Downriver overall is largely known as a suburban Detroit region with middle-class residential neighborhoods and recreational opportunities focused on boating, fishing, bird watching and waterfowl hunting areas around the Detroit River. The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, and an extensive network of recreational trails built under the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative are two environmental conservation and recreation projects in the region.

The News-Herald is a local newspaper for Downriver, publishing on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

Downriver itself is rumored to be mentioned in a song by the band Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'," there referred to as "South Detroit". "South Detroit" was also a candidate name for Windsor, Ontario, which is across the river south of Detroit. An unincorporated community that was annexed by Wyandotte in 1904 was also named South Detroit.

Downriver communities

Differences of communities

Downriver communities near Detroit and Dearborn (such as Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Wyandotte, River Rouge, Melvindale and Ecorse) were developed in the 1920s-1940s and are identified by brick and mortar homes (often bungalows), tree-lined streets and Works Progress Administration-designed municipal buildings. Communities that developed further south — like Southgate, Taylor, Riverview, and Trenton — in the 1950s-1970s are more closely identified as tract homes and subdivisions. Through the 1980s, areas such as Huron Township, Flat Rock, Rockwood, Woodhaven and Romulus were undeveloped, some of which still have operating farms.

The Downriver cities of Ecorse, Gibraltar, River Rouge, Riverview, Trenton and Wyandotte as well as Brownstown Township directly border the Detroit River. Grosse Ile is an island community located in the middle of the Detroit River between mainland Downriver communities and the Canadian towns of LaSalle, Ontario and Amherstburg, Ontario.

Socially speaking, the Downriver communities collectively have a distinct cultural identity within suburban Detroit although some individual Downriver communities share many similarities with towns in the western, northern and eastern suburbs of Detroit.

Taylor is the most populous city in the Downriver area and includes the Wayne County Community College Downriver Campus, Michigan State Police Metro South Post, Southland Center, a state of the art sports complex called the Taylor Sportsplex, Oakwood Heritage hospital, Taylor Meadows and Lakes of Taylor golf courses, Wallside Windows Factory, Cruisin' Telegraph, and a very large park called "Heritage Park" in the center of the city where in August, the city hosts the Junior League World Series.

Romulus is home to Michigan's busiest airport, Detroit Metro Airport, and it also includes the Romulus Athletic Center, an indoor fitness center, water park, and conference center.

Cruisin' Downriver

Cruisin' Downriver is an annual car show and cruise that takes place on M-85/Fort St. in the Downriver cities of Southgate, Riverview, Wyandotte, and Lincoln Park. It has run yearly since 2000, with people bringing their vintage cars to be seen and heard. There are also places to eat, drink, and shop along the route.[2]

Muskrat dinners

A Catholic tradition of Downriver is the eating of muskrat during Lent. Although muskrat is a mammal, not a fish as required, "custom had been so long held along Michigan's rivers and marshes that it was "immemorial custom," thus allowed under church law."[3] This traditional meal has been declining in recent years.


According to the 2000 census, the 18 Downriver cities and townships had an aggregate population of 361,454.

Downriver communities were once known for their large number of people of Southern origin who had migrated to Michigan to work in the automotive industry during the early to mid-20th Century. This migration slowed after World War II; today, distinctively or predominantly Southern neighborhoods have not existed in Metro Detroit, including Downriver, for several decades.

The composition of the workforce in Downriver communities is diverse as residents work in white-collar and blue-collar occupations. One of the largest employers is the Ford Motor Company which has a large industrial complex in nearby Dearborn and numerous other area plants. In addition, residents work in professional jobs in downtown Detroit.

Downriver is also home to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, in Romulus.


The proximity to Canada, coupled with residents associated with The Purple Gang, made Downriver one of the nation's major bootlegging hubs during prohibition. According to "Intemperance: The Lost War Against Liquor" by Larry Englemann, "Soon after the passage of prohibition thousands of residents of the downriver communities began participating in rum-running and consequently reaped nearly unbelievable riches from their activities. During the prohibition years, in Ecorse and the other downriver towns, crime paid. Lavishly."[4]

Famous Downriver residents or natives


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • downriver — ► ADVERB & ADJECTIVE ▪ towards or situated at a point nearer the mouth of a river …   English terms dictionary

  • downriver — [doun′riv′ər] adv., adj. toward the mouth of a river; with or in the current of a river …   English World dictionary

  • downriver — 1. adjective Closer to the mouth of a river My house is downriver to his. 2. adverb Travelling in the direction of the river current. It is easier to paddle downriver. Syn: downstream …   Wiktionary

  • downriver — /down riv euhr/, adv., adj. with or in the direction of the current of a river: logs floating downriver. [1885 90; DOWN1 + RIVER1] * * * …   Universalium

  • downriver — down|riv|er [daunˈrıvə US ər] adv in the direction that the water in a river is flowing ≠ ↑upriver →↑downstream ▪ The bridge was another mile downriver …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • downriver — adverb in the direction that the water in a river is flowing: The bridge was another mile downriver. compare downstream …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • downriver — adverb or adjective Date: 1760 toward or at a point nearer the mouth of a river …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • downriver — kelt (a spawned out or spent Salmo salar or other salmonid up until the time it enters salt water. A name used in British Columbia. Also called dropback) …   Dictionary of ichthyology

  • downriver — down|riv|er [ ,daun rıvər ] adjective, adverb at or toward a place that is farther along a river as it flows in the direction of the ocean ─ opposite UPRIVER …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • downriver — see down river …   English dictionary

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