Charlie LeDuff canoes the Rouge River - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Charlie LeDuff canoes the Rouge River

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Charlie LeDuff canoes the Rouge River (Photo: WJBK) Charlie LeDuff canoes the Rouge River (Photo: WJBK)
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Armed with a paddle, a life jacket and friends who carry cameras, Fox 2's Charlie LeDuff takes us down the 'Rouge.' With every bend and twist of this metro Detroit River, a story unfolds that tells us as much about who we are and where we've been to how we're all connected through water.

LeDuff is joined by Fox 2's videographers Matt Phillips and Bob Schedlbower, who are far more skilled with cameras in their hands than paddles.  Look for a Rich Luterman cameo.  Along the journey the crew stops to talk to Rouge River experts Joel Thurtell, who wrote the book 'Up the Rouge' and John Haritg, who wrote 'When our Rivers Caught Fire.'

Enjoy this three-day journey condensed to a few minutes on video, as edited by Matt Phillips. Listen for Matt's beautiful falsetto as part of the sound track. Sorry to Bob who blew out his knee on the expedition. 

To see and use and interactive map of the crew's voyage, CLICK HERE.>>

Thanks to organizations like Friends of the Rouge, who work to restore a treasure that belongs to all of us.

The Rouge River runs through the  most heavily populated and industrialized area in southeast Michigan.  The Rouge River watershed has four main branches totaling 125 miles of waterways primarily flowing through Wayne and Oakland counties, with some headwaters in Washtenaw County.

The Woodland Indians were the first to settle in the rouge River Watershed around the year 1700. They were followed by the French, the British and finally by Americans.

The Rouge supplied them with food, water, and a mode of transportation, all these early settlers depended upon the Rouge River for their survival.

Pollution in the river is well documented.   In 1969, like the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, the Rouge caught fire.  In the 1980's, a young man allegedly died of "Rat Fever" after he swallowed Rouge River water.  Today there is a resurgence of fish and wildlife, but there is still much work to be done to make this water and what lives in it or near it, pure again.

The Rouge River Watershed covers 1,210 square kilometers in southeastern Michigan. It includes sections of three counties and encompasses 48 municipalities with a population of 1.5 million people.

The Rouge drains a 438 square mile area that includes more than 400 lakes and ponds, and more than 50 miles of parkland along its banks. The river winds its way through 48 communities and provides recreational opportunities for more than a million people. The lower four miles of the river are maintained as a shipping channel from the turning basin to the river's mouth at the south end of Zug Island.

According to the Friends of the Rouge web site, degradation of the Rouge River is representative of that found in many urbanized and industrialized areas within the Great Lakes Basin.   Over 50% of the land-use is residential, commercial, or industrial.  In the northern branches there are large areas of park land adjacent to the river.  

An issue at all points on the river is an overflow of sewage that occurs, especially after heavy rain.  In the Great Lakes region, 41-billion gallons of sewage pours into the system every year, according to healthylakes.org.  Polluted run off is another concern. Pesticides, fertilizers, oil, grease and other pollutants and all of it ultimately ends up in the Great Lakes, harming water quality and posing a risk to people, fish and wildlife.

Cradle the thought: What one person can do

There are many ways to get involved to help with the continued restoration of the Rouge River.  It's also important, no matter where you live in the world, to understand the function of water sheds and how the things you do around your home effect water quality throughout the world.  Please consider the following resources as a way to become informed or involved.

Friends of the Rouge - Promoting restoration and stewardship of the Rouge River since 1986: http://www.therouge.org/

Make a Donation to Friend of the Rouge: CLICK HERE>>

Great resource for kids and adults from the Cranbrook Institute of Science: http://www.greatlakeswatershed.org/educator-resources.html

Rouge River Activity Book (for kids and maybe adults too)

Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives: http://healthylakes.org/successes/restoration-success-stories/detroit-embraces-ggreat-lakes-restoration/projects-help-restore-iconic-rouge-river/

Michigan Environmental Council : http://www.environmentalcouncil.org/priorities/article.php?x=264

Burning Rivers: Revival of Four Urban Industrial Rivers That Caught Fire  -- by John Hartig
http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Rivers-Industrial-Ecovision-Monograph/dp/1907132163

Good article about Hartig's book and the value of restoration:  http://blog.nwf.org/2011/07/book-shows-value-of-great-lakes-restoration/

Up the Rouge!: Paddling Detroit's Hidden River (A Painted Turtle Book) by Joel Thurtell.

Great Lakes Watershed: http://www.greatlakeswatershed.org/

EPA studies on the Rouge:  http://glc.org/raptest/rougriv.html

2004 Rouge River Remedial Action plan Revision: http://glc.org/raptest/rougriv/2004_Rouge-River-RAP-Revision.pdf

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