Important Features and Needs of the
Cheboygan River Watershed
Ground Water-Driven Streams and Riparian Corridors
Small ground water-driven streams are the lifeblood of the Cheboygan River Watershed. Numerous springs and seeps collect into the cold and pure streams that feed the Sturgeon, Pigeon, and Black Rivers, which in turn feed the large lakes in the Watershed. These streams and their associated riparian (riverside) corridors define the southwest portion of the Watershed and provide habitat for thriving populations of trout. These ground water-driven streams have been subjected to erosion from past logging as well as ongoing impacts such as road/stream crossings, increased runoff, shoreline development, and vegetation clearing.
Bogs, Fens, and Conifer-Hardwood Swamps
Swamps in the Cheboygan River Watershed are typically found along streams and rivers and include a wide range of vegetation from shrubs to forests dominated by red maple, black ash, northern white cedar, and balsam fir. Bogs and fens have unique water chemistry and support an interesting array of plants and animals. These wetlands serve a range of important functions that contribute to the health of the entire Cheboygan River Watershed. Green Swamp, which feeds the headwaters of two major branches of the Black River, supports at least two-thirds of all orchid species known in Michigan, provides habitat for deer and bear, and is home to a thriving population of state threatened red-shouldered hawks.
Hungerford's Crawling Water Beetle (Brychius hungerfordi)
This ice-age relic species occurs only in the Great Lakes region, and three of the five known occurrences of the species are found in the Cheboygan River Watershed. This creature is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by the State of Michigan. This beetle is a link to the geologic history of the region and contributes to the biological diversity that is unique to the Watershed. While much remains unknown about the beetle's life cycle and habitat requirements, it is generally found in stream segments with moderate to fast stream flow, inorganic substrate, and good stream aeration.
Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
The lake sturgeon is a member of a family of fishes that has remained virtually unchanged since before the dinosaurs became extinct. This bottom dwelling species is most frequently associated with large lakes or the deep pools of rivers where aquatic insects are abundant. Historically, lake sturgeon inhabited numerous inland lakes and rivers in Michigan. Currently, known spawning populations persist in only a few of the systems, most notably in Black and Mullett Lakes. Migratory barriers, loss of spawning and nursery areas, fishing and poaching pressures, combined with the species late maturity and low reproductive rates, have led to the decline of sturgeon populations.
Lakes and Associated Wetlands
The Cheboygan River Watershed is known for its large, deep, high quality, kettle lakes which support an array of fish and wildlife and serve as the core attraction for a thriving resource-based tourist economy. Expansive wetland systems have formed where the large rivers filter into these lakes. These large marshes, such as the Indian River and Pigeon River Spreads provide critical spawning habitat for fish and nesting, foraging, and migration habitat for a wide range of birds. Such areas are essential to the recreational activities of fishing and waterfowl hunting in the Watershed. Much of the shoreline around these lakes has already been developed, so conservation efforts are needed to preserve and restore remaining wetland and shoreline habitats.
Michigan Monkey-Flower (Mimulus glabratus var. michiganesis)
Michigan monkey-flower, known only to occur in Michigan, was federally listed as endangered in 1990. The species is restricted to habitats with a consistent flow of cold ground water and abundant sunshine. This flower is unique to Northern Michigan and is a good indicator of the health of our small tributaries. Michigan monkey-flower is highly vulnerable to isolated disturbances including residential and recreational development, lake level fluctuations, upstream water diversions, and increased shoreline and riparian activity by humans.
Lakes and Streams in Karst Terrain
The eastern side of the Cheboygan River Watershed is distinguished by a karst landscape composed of sinkholes, abrupt ridges, caverns, and disappearing and underground streams. This unique landscape is a result of fractured limestone overlain with relatively thin deposits of sand and gravel left over from the glaciers. Because the karst topography provides numerous pathways for surface contaminants to infiltrate very rapidly into an unpredictable subterranean network, this part of the Watershed is highly vulnerable to ground water contamination.
Wildlife Core Habitat and Corridors
This conservation target recognizes the need to preserve and restore large, contiguous tracts of intact forest to provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife species including black bear, elk, bobcat, and neotropical migrant birds. These forests have been highly altered by historical and current logging practices, roads, development pressure, and agricultural activities. Because of existing blocks of state land, such as Pigeon River Country, and large tracts of privately held hunting land, there is a great potential for success in maintaining existing habitat and restoration.