Hydrologic Unit Code: 04060102
Located in north-central Michigan, the Muskegon River watershed drains approximately 2,738 square miles of land spanning the better part of nine counties: Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Osceola, Clare, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Muskegon. The Muskegon River is approximately 219 miles long from its start at Houghten and Higgens Lakes down to its mouth at Muskegon Lake where it eventually discharges into Lake Michigan. Muskegon Lake is an Area of Concern. The AOC includes the entire lake with the lake being separated from Lake Michigan by sand dunes.
Sport fishing on the Muskegon is estimated to be worth about 5 million dollars per year in revenue. The river and many of its tributary streams and creeks are considered cool water fisheries. The can support both cold water fish such as trout and salmon, and warm water fish such as northern pike and smallmouth bass.
The Nature Conservancy has identified the following critical ecological resources in the watershed:
- The Muskegon Dunes have Hemlock – Yellow Birch Forest, Great Lakes Beachgrass Dunes, and Interdunal Wetlands.
- The Muskegon and White Rivers include Great Lakes Hemlock – Beech – Hardwood Forest, Inland Coastal Plain Marsh, Mesic Sand Tallgrass Prairie, and White Pine – White Oak Barrens.
- Houghten Lake, Higgins Lake, and the Upper Muskegon River include very large, deep, insland lakes, very large, wetland connected inland lakes, and wetland connected headwater streams on outwash plain, ice contact and end moraine.
The river is faced with significant thermal pollution, which raises the water temperature, from dams from hydroelectric facilities, stormwater runoff, and a lack of streamside canopy. The rise in temperature reduces the available dissolved oxygen in the water stressing aquatic life. Other impairments include excessive nutrient loading, sedimentation, hydrologic flow, invasive species and toxic substances.
Between the years of 1996 and 2001, there has been a slight increase in developed land, grassland, and wetland, and a slight decrease in farmland and forest.
Several efforts have been made to address water quality issues in the Muskegon River Watershed.
- The Great Lakes Fisheries Trust has selected the watershed as the focus of the “River Initiative”.
- The Hershey River Restoration Project is working to clean up contaminated sediments and the removal of dilapidated dam structures on the Hershey River.
- The Muskegon Lake and Estuary Emergent Vegetation Restoration Demonstration Project is working to re-establish native and wild rice stands, soft stemmed bulrush, and other aquatic vegetation for fish and wildlife habitat in the Muskego Lake AOC.
- The Sustainable Futures for the Muskegon River Watershed project has developed a geographical information system (GIS) outreach tool.
- There are efforts to correct the effect of urban runoff and soil erosion and sedimentation at three highly visible sites within the AOC.
- Muskegon River Assembly
- Huron Pines RD&D Council
- Muskegon River Watershed Project, Annis Water Resources Institute
- Muskegon River Watershed River Initiative Assessment
- Muskegon Watershed River Partnership
- City of Cadillac
- Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership
For more information, see the USEPA “Surf Your Watershed” website or contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment at 517-335-6969 to request a copy of the following reports:
- MI/DEQ/WB-05/070, “A Biological Survey of the Middle Muskegon River Watershed, Clare, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola Counties, Michigan, 2001,”
- MI/DEQ/WB-05/071, “A Biological Survey of the Upper Muskegon River Watershed, Clare, Missakee, Osceola, and Roscommon Counties, Michigan, 2001.”
- Report number 05/054 “A Biological Survey of the Lower Muskegon River Watershed, Muskegon, and Newaygo Counties, Michigan, July 7-11, 2001.”
Additional information is available at Michigan State University's Institute for Water Research's Digital Watershed Tool for the Muskegon Watershed. This site has interactive watershed-based information on industrial facilities discharge sites, toxic release inventory, permit compliance system, water quality stations, bacteria stations, national sediment inventory stations, best management practices, water quality observation stations, weather data stations, impaired waters (reach and area), landcover change (1992-2001), landuse 2001, soil, and elevation.
Watershed Management Plans
- Higgins Lake – Huron Pines RC&D Council
- Muskegon River - Grand Valley State University, Annis Water Resources Institute
- Upper Clam River – City of Cadillac
- Bear Creek
- Bear Lake
Muskegon River Area of Concern
Muskegon Lake is a 4,149 acre inland coastal lake located in Muskegon County, Michigan along the east shoreline of Lake Michigan. The Muskegon Lake Areas of Concern (AOC) includes the entire lake with the lake being separated from Lake Michigan by sand dunes. The Muskegon River flows through the lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. Additional tributaries include Mosquito Creek, Ryerson Creek, Ruddiman Creek, Green Creek, and Four Mile Creek. The immediate inland area is primarily residential and industrial, with chemical and petrochemical companies, foundries, a pulp and paper mill, and other industries located on the lake or within its immediate watershed.
Muskegon Lake priorities include remediation of contaminated sediments in the lake and tributaries, prevention of eutrophication, nonpoint source pollution control, brownfield and waterfront restoration, and habitat restoration.
In 1985 Muskegon Lake was designated an AOC because of water quality and habitat problems associated with the historical discharge of pollutants into the AOC, and the potential adverse effect the pollutants could have on Lake Michigan. The high levels of nutrients, solids, and toxics entering the lake had caused a series of problems including nuisance algal blooms, reduced oxygen in the lake's deeper water, tainted taste of fish due to petroleum products in the water, and contaminated sediments. The pollutant discharges also were suspected of contributing to the degradation of benthos (bottom-dwelling organisms, also referred to as the benrhic community), the contamination of fish, and the reduction in fish and wildlife habitat. In addition, the development of chemical, petrochemical, and heavy industries was causing localized groundwater contamination that was moving toward the lake and its tributaries.
Watershed Data and Information
USGS Water Resources Links for: 04060102 - Muskegon
USGS State Information and Contacts:
Current Water Data:
- NWIS Real-time Streamflow Stations Grouped by County in Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- NWIS Real-time Water Quality Samples Grouped by County in Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- NWIS Real-time Groundwater Sites Grouped by County in Muskegon - HUC 04060102
All Water Data (Current and Historic Sites):
- National Water Information System: Mapper
- NWIS Site Inventory Grouped by County in Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- NWIS Water Quality Samples Grouped by County in Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- NWIS Groundwater Inventory Levels Grouped by County in Muskegon - HUC 04060102
Other Data Links:
- USGS Drought Watch - U.S Map of Drought and Low Flow Conditions
- USGS WaterWatch - Real-time Streamflow Map for the Great Lakes Region- HUC 04
- USGS WaterWatch - Real-time Floods and High Flow Conditions Map for the Great Lakes Region - HUC 04
Current Regional/National Conditions:
- USGS GIS Spatial Data Sets Available on the WRD NSDI Node
- Water Use In The United States
- Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS Data) for the Muskegon - HUC 04060102
Search USGS for Links, Publications and Web Sites Associated with:
- Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- Northeastern Lake Michigan - HUC 040601
- Northeastern Lake Michigan-Lake Michigan - HUC 0406
- Great Lakes - HUC 04
EPA Links for the Muskegon - HUC 04060102 :
- EPA - Impaired Waters for the Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- EPA - Storet Watershed Station Summary for the Muskegon - HUC 04060102
- EPA - Surf Your Watershed for the Muskegon for HUC 04060102
- EPA - Adopt Your Watershed for the Muskegon HUC 04060102
- EPA - EnviroMapper for the Muskegon HUC 04060102
Impaired (303d) Waters
A listing of impaired waters can be found on the U.S. EPA's website for the Muskegon Watershed