Flooding from heavy rains submerges part of a Dodge Park picnic table.

Flooding from heavy rains submerges part of a Dodge Park picnic table.

Photo by Brandy Baker


Clinton River water levels higher than usual, experts say

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 7, 2019

 A duck swims in a flooded grassy area near the Clinton River in Dodge Park in Sterling Heights June 4. Heavy rains have flooded parts of the park and elevated the river.

A duck swims in a flooded grassy area near the Clinton River in Dodge Park in Sterling Heights June 4. Heavy rains have flooded parts of the park and elevated the river.

Photo by Brandy Baker

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Jerry Reis, the owner of Clinton River Canoe & Kayak in Sterling Heights, said the recent spring rains and higher water levels can make paddling along the Clinton River challenging — especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

“(It’s) one of the most technical rivers to paddle in Michigan, period,” he said.

Experts say lake and river levels have recently been significantly higher than normal in Michigan. And water gauges along the Clinton River have likewise shown the same, according to the Clinton River Watershed Council.

Kathleen Sexton, the CRWC’s program manager, said the river hasn’t been at a dangerous level that would cause flooding, but it nevertheless has been higher.

“I would say that we’ve had a pretty wet spring,” she said. “So, due to increased precipitation and increased runoff, we’ve had higher levels than normal, but it’s nothing alarming.”

Sexton mentioned that a standard benchmark for determining whether the river is too high for paddlers and kayakers is when the water gauge in Auburn Hills shows over 2.2 feet of water. Sexton said the river was at 2.1 feet in Auburn Hills June 1.

Nevertheless, she mentioned that the Clinton River just had a Paddlepalooza event in Auburn Hills that was successful despite the recent rain. She said the river conditions are often dependent on recent weather, and the river depth should return to a normal range soon.

“People were in the river,” she said. “The Clinton River is what we call flashy, so it responds quickly to precipitation. Typically, the river is at its highest level in the spring. As the weather gets hotter and drier, it will go down.”

Reis estimated that water levels of 1.6 feet in Auburn Hills and 8 feet in Sterling Heights are good water levels for canoeing or kayaking.

“Anytime they’re over 2 feet at Auburn Hills’ gauge or 10 feet at the Sterling Heights gauge, that’s high water,” he said. “We won’t put people out on the river when it’s above the two levels.”

But he explained that it can be a balance. The river in Auburn Hills is a less forgiving portion than in Sterling Heights, and if levels drop below 1.5 feet, “you can’t even paddle in it,” he said.

Reis gave some additional tips for people who want to navigate the river.

“Don’t paddle alone. Wear your life jacket,” he said. “Don’t paddle above your abilities. It’s not a lake.”

Find out more about the Clinton River Watershed Council by visiting www.crwc.org or by calling (248) 601-0606.  

Find out more about Clinton River Canoe & Kayak in Sterling Heights by visiting www.clintonriverkayak.com or by calling (248) 421-3445.

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