River Raisin

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River Raisin
Rivière Aux Raisins
The River Raisin passing through Monroe, Michigan
Country  United States
State  Michigan
Cities Blissfield, Brooklyn, Clinton, Deerfield, Dundee, Manchester, Monroe, Petersburg, Tecumseh
 - location Rollin Township, Michigan
 - elevation 1,043 ft (318 m)
 - coordinates 42°01′29″N 84°16′05″W / 42.02472°N 84.26806°W / 42.02472; -84.26806
Mouth Lake Erie
 - location Monroe, Michigan
 - elevation 571 ft (174 m)
 - coordinates 41°53′31″N 83°20′12″W / 41.89194°N 83.33667°W / 41.89194; -83.33667Coordinates: 41°53′31″N 83°20′12″W / 41.89194°N 83.33667°W / 41.89194; -83.33667
Length 139 mi (224 km)
Basin 1,072 sq mi (2,776 km2)
 - average 741 cu ft/s (21 m3/s)
Location of the River Raisin in Michigan

The River Raisin is a river in southeastern Michigan, United States that flows through glacial sediments into Lake Erie. The area today is an agricultural and industrial center of Michigan. The river flows for almost 139 miles (224 km),[1] draining an area of 1,072 square miles (2,780 km2) in the Michigan counties of Lenawee, Monroe, Washtenaw, Jackson, Hillsdale, a portion of Fulton County, Ohio, and Monroe County, where its mouth is located.[2] French settlers named it as La Rivière aux Raisins because of the wild grapes growing along its banks, since the French word for grape is raisin. The French term for "raisin" is raisin sec (dry grape).[3]

History and geography[edit]

The River Raisin was used by local Potawatomi and Wyandot peoples, who used a portage between the upper river to gain access into the Grand and Kalamazoo rivers flowing west toward Lake Michigan. The river is still classified as canoeable throughout its length. But, low gradient, access issues, frequent logjams in the upper reaches and 22 dams on the mainstream limit its recreational use.[4] The first European settlement of the river were the "ribbon" farms of Frenchtown established in the 1780s, which typically had narrow fronts on the river for access, with deep rectangular lots reaching back from the river. Now part of Monroe, Michigan, this area is still the most populous area along the river. The resort area of Irish Hills lies in the uppermost region of the watershed, which includes 429 lakes and ponds. The largest of these is the 800-acre (3.2 km2) Lake Columbia.

During the winter of 1813 as part of the War of 1812, the Battle of Frenchtown occurred near the river. British and Native American troops under the command of British General Henry Procter and Native American chiefs Roundhead, Walks in Water, and Split Log were allied against a division of ill-trained Kentucky infantry and militia under command of General James Winchester. Cut off and surrounded and facing total slaughter, Winchester surrendered with British assurances of safety of the prisoners. The British marched those who could walk to Detroit. But the next day, many of the severely wounded prisoners left in Frenchtown were killed by the Native Americans allies of the British.

River Raisin through Sharon Township

The Massacre of the River Raisin became a rallying cry ("Remember the Raisin") particularly for Kentuckians. United States troops returned in the spring to drive the British from Michigan forever. The original battlefield was preserved for years as a county park in Monroe, Michigan and it has several monuments to the Kentucky soldiers who died there. On October 12, 2010, the land was transferred to the federal government. By Congressional authorization, it is now the only National Battlefield Park devoted to a battlefield of the War of 1812 - the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.[5]

Since industrialization and intensified agriculture, the river has been polluted by industrial wastes and agricultural runoff. While cleanup efforts have mitigated some of the pollution, difficult-to-remove PCBs continue to constitute a hazardous waste. An established Area of Concern covers only 2 square miles (5.2 km2) of the watershed at the mouth of the river, much of which is industrial and harbor use, including the Ford Motor Company plant, Detroit Edison Monroe powerplant, and the Port of Monroe.[6] Environmental authorities advise people not to eat some species of fish from the river, if taken below the outlet of the Monroe Dam.[7]

The river has many small dams to control water flow. This is a legacy of the many paper mills constructed along it in the mid-1800s during the lumber boom and of Henry Ford's rural industry program. While most of the dams are in Monroe, the most significant one is located in Dundee, Michigan. The Port of Monroe was constructed near the mouth of the river in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.

Flooding along the river comes from three causes: heavy rains, ice dams during spring break-up, and on-shore winds pushing Lake Erie waters upstream. The worst flood was recorded on March 16, 1982 at 15,300 cu ft/s (430 m3/s), compared to an average mean flow of 741 cu ft/s (21.0 m3/s). Flooding affects mostly the lowest portions of the river. In contrast on July 13, 1988 during a severe drought, a measuring station found 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s) of water flow.

Most of the flow of the river is diverted through the Detroit Edison plant and then discharged into Plum Creek. Previously it was discharged into the river but is now diverted to limit additional pollution of the river mouth area. The power plant's peak use of 3,000 cu ft/s (85 m3/s) of water exceeds the river's average flow of 741 cu ft/s (21.0 m3/s), so water is drawn upstream from Lake Erie into the plant on some occasions. The high level of industrial water use is thought to kill large numbers of fish in the intake screens and to make fish migration from the river into the Great Lakes almost impossible.[4][8]

In 2013 U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, along with the entire Michigan delegation, introduced a resolution (H. Res. 37, 113th Congress) to honor the 200th anniversary of the battles at the River Raisin.[9]


Boats docked near the mouth of River Raisin

In addition to the river forming from the Upper River Raisin and the South Branch River Raisin, the following streams flow into the River Raisin:[10]

The Eagle Island Marsh is part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The River Raisin is home to "warm-water" fish including bluegill, white sucker, channel catfish, walleye, carp, white bass, black buffalo, freshwater drum and smallmouth bass. Very few fish migrate between the river and the Great Lakes because of the seven dams in Monroe, as well as the power plant intakes.[4] Bird species use the area as part of the flyway along eastern Lake Erie; they include bald eagles, sandhill cranes, ducks and seagulls. Invasive fauna include zebra mussels and rusty crayfish. The threatened American lotus is present in Eagle Island Marsh but several invasive plant species are present in the watershed, including flowering rush, Eurasian milfoil, curlyleaf pondweed, Phragmites and purple loosestrife.[6]


Red Millpond, Tecumseh

Towns along the river include:


Source: Google Maps[11]


  • I-75 (Detroit–Toledo Freeway)
  • Winchester Parkway
  • Macomb Street
  • M-125 (Monroe Street)
  • Roessler Street
  • US 24 (Telegraph Road)

Monroe Township–Frenchtown Township–Raisinville Township

  • Raisinville Road

Raisinville Township

  • Ida–Maybee Road


Summerfield Township

  • Petersburg Road

Summerfield Township–Petersburg

  • Railroad Street/Deerfield Road

Deerfield–Deerfield Township

  • Rodesiler Highway


Palmyra Township

  • Crockett Highway
  • US 223
  • Deerfield Road

Palmyra Township–Raisin Township

  • Academy Road

Raisin Township

  • Laberdee Road
  • Wilmoth Highway
  • Raisin Center Highway
  • Sutton Road

Raisin Township–Tecumseh

  • Russell Road


  • M-50 (Chicago Boulevard)
  • Evans Street

Clinton Township

  • Staib Road


Manchester Township

  • Allen Road
  • Wilbur Road
  • Austin Road


  • M-52 (City Road)
  • Duncan Street
  • Main Street


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed May 19, 2011
  2. ^ River Raisin Watershed Information, River Raisin Watershed Council, 2010
  3. ^ A.C. Quisenberry, "A Hundred Years Ago: the River Raisin", Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Sept 1913, p.18
  4. ^ a b c River Raisin Assessment, Kenneth E. Dodge, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, October 1998
  5. ^ Anderson, Elisha. "Monroe hands over battlefield land for national park". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Delisting Targets for Fish/Wildlife Habitat & Population Related Beneficial Use Impairments for the River Raisin Area of Concern, Environmental Consulting and Technology, November 20, 2008
  7. ^ 2010 MICHIGAN FISH ADVISORY, MDCH Division of Environmental Health, 2010 - River Raisin, below Monroe Dam: no consumption of carp, channel cat, larger white bass; limited consumption of black buffalo, freshwater drum, smallmouth bass, smaller white bass.
  8. ^ The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Biennial Remedial Action Plan Update for the River Raisin Area of Concern, Michelle D. Selzer, Water Bureau, Aquatic Nuisance Control & Remedial Action Unit, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, December 19, 2006
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ River Raisin Watershed Hydrologic Study, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, February 17, 2006
  11. ^ Google (April 1, 2015). "Overview Map of the River Raisin" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved April 1, 2015. 

External links[edit]