The River is Running Free at Previous Shiatown Dam!

September Update:

The Shiatown dam removal and river restoration project is substantially complete. The river is free flowing and open to paddling and fishing. We highly recommend the paddle trip(s) from Geeck Rd Park down to Shiatown and/or from Shiatown to Vernon or Lytle Road. The contractor, VanDamme Trucking, still has some equipment on site awaiting transfer to Corunna later this month. All stream work is complete and the east park areas will be off limits until later this fall. Final upland restoration will be completed later this year, and the Shiawassee County Parks may pursue additional improvements in the years ahead.

Thank you everyone for your patience and support through this process.  We appreciate the many funders, officials, professionals, workers, volunteers and Friends who made this restoration possible.  Come out to Shiatown to see for yourself and enjoy a free-flowing Shiawassee River.


Post River Cleanup

2019 River Cleanup Best Yet

Friends of the Shiawassee River and the Shiawassee County Health Department wish to thank

all event participants and sponsors of this 24th annual event


August 12, 2019 - OWOSSO, MI – Representatives of the Friends of the Shiawassee River and the Shiawassee County Health Department have declared their July 27th 2019 River Cleanup event to be a rousing success and wish to thank all those who supported the endeavor.

“Almost 200 volunteers turned out to help remove 15 cubic yards of trash (approximately 90 13-gallon trash bags full) and over 800 tires both from the river together with the tire collection event that was held at the Shiawassee County Road Commission,” said Larry Johnson, SCHD Director.  “It was by far our most successful cleanup event ever.”


Tony Newman, Shiawassee County Drain Commissioner added, “We’re thrilled with the number of volunteers who gave their time to help preserve and protect our greatest ecological asset, the Shiawassee River.”  Both Newman and Johnson have both worked with this effort for the majority of the 24 years it has been held.  Phil Hathaway, a Friends’ volunteer and past Community Development Director for the City of Owosso, who has also been responsible for the development/upkeep of several canoe/kayak launches on the river, was also a key figure in the success of this year’s event.

Volunteer cleanup crews were sent to multiple locations on the river between Geeck Road Park and Henderson Park, picking up trash from over 10 miles of the river.

Teresa Sherman, who organized the cleanup in Vernon (where a canoe/kayak launch and associated lockers were recently installed), participated in her third cleanup this year. 

“After three years, we’re still getting a great turnout at Vernon for this event,” said Sherman.  “We truly appreciate everyone who braved the high waters and helped to make our section of the river visibly cleaner.  We always have a great time!”

In addition to the many volunteers who banded together as individuals for the event, a number of groups and businesses also joined in.

Oster Manufacturing and J & S Tire and Service, both in Owosso, generously paid their employees for the day to participate – as well as donated as event sponsors.

“We have been associated with this event for many years now,” said Steve Gill, owner of J & S.  “It’s an effort we feel privileged to be a part of.  My employees look forward to it every year!  I ask that others in the community join us next year to support the Friends and the SCHD in this and other endeavors to keep our river clean.”

Other business sponsors included Hankerd’s Sportswear, VMD & Associates, Matador’s Pizza and Takeout, Foster Coffee Co., Mancino’s, Cheff’s Canoe Rental, and Waste Management.  The Friends and SCHD also received a grant in the amount of $2,000 from the Great Lakes Commission to support the event.

Lorraine Austin, Executive Director of the Friends, added “It truly takes a village to make this event come to fruition every year.  Families, businesses, students, elected officials, and others came together in record numbers – all with one thing in mind.  To clean the river (and have some fun while doing it).  It’s something we can all support.  We are more than thankful to everyone for their hard work.”

After the cleanup was over, participants gathered at the Don and Metta Mitchell Amphitheater in downtown Owosso to obtain a free t-shirt, grab some lunch (courtesy of Mancino’s), and swap stories.  Some of the more unique items found this year included a TV, bicycle, deer skull, trolling motor, Captain America shield, realtor sign, break up note, and more.  The cleanup t-shirts will most likely be seen all around this summer (and beyond).  When you see someone sporting one, please thank them for their participation as river stewards.

The 25th (silver anniversary) river cleanup will be held on Saturday, July 25, 2020. 

For more information, about upcoming Friends’ and SCHD events, visit their websites ( & and/or follow each on Facebook.

Saginaw Bay Sturgeon Release


More sturgeon to be released into Saginaw Bay Watershed during public events
on Aug. 23

Local, state, and federal partners invite the public to a Lake sturgeon release celebration on Aug. 23, 2019, in
the Saginaw Bay Watershed. Releases will reintroduce 125 hatchery-raised sturgeon into each tributary of the
Saginaw Bay Watershed (Cass, Flint, Shiawassee, and Tittabawassee rivers). Short presentations will be made
at three of the events by local partners.
The schedule includes:
• A release at 10 a.m. on the Tittabawassee River. It will be held at the Bob G. Caldwell Municipal Boat
Launch in Midland, MI, and will be hosted by the Chippewa Nature Center. For more information,
contact Dennis Pilaske at
• The noon Shiawassee River release will take place at Cole Park in Chesaning, MI, and will be hosted by
the Friends of the Shiawassee River. For more information, contact Lorraine Austin at
• The noon Cass River release is at the Gunzenhausen Walkway in Frankenmuth, MI, and will be hosted
by the City of Frankenmuth. For more information, contact Daren Kaschinske at
• The final release will be held on the Flint River at Mott Park Recreation Area. The release is not open to
the public due to construction in the area. For more information, contact Rebecca Fedawa at
Lake sturgeon are a unique Great Lakes species. They can grow up to 7 feet long and can weigh up to 300
pounds. The slow-maturing fish do not begin reproducing until they are 15-20 years old. Once abundant in
many Michigan lakes and rivers, lake sturgeon were nearly eradicated due to overfishing and habitat loss,
particularly the destruction of rocky reefs in rivers that sturgeon and other native fish species use for
spawning. In recent years, many partnerships and projects are working to restore sturgeon to a self-sustaining
level in Michigan. This work includes restoring sturgeon habitat, reintroducing sturgeon into their native
ranges, and raising awareness and appreciation for this unique species.
The Aug. 23, 2019, sturgeon release events are supported by a variety of partners including Bay County
Environmental Affairs and Community Development, City of Frankenmuth, Chippewa Nature Center, Flint
River Watershed Coalition, Frankenmuth Morning Rotary Club, Frankenmuth School District’s Chief Science
Officers, Friends of the Shiawassee River, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Sea Grant,
Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, MSU Extension, Saginaw Bay Watershed
Initiative Network, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Saint Lorenz School, Sturgeon for Tomorrow – Black Lake
Chapter, The Conservation Fund, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Learn more about the lake sturgeon restoration efforts on the Saginaw Bay Sturgeon website

Update on Shiatown Dam Removal - July 2019


Further restoration of the Shiawassee River will be achieved as the final remnants of the Shiatown Dam are now being removed. The project has been long in coming (see history), and the Friends of the Shiawassee have worked with several state and local stakeholders to gain sufficient funding, meet regulatory requirements, and achieve safety, environmental, and recreational goals.  By the end of 2019 the Shiawassee River will be free-flowing at the site of Shiatown County Park.  

The Shiatown Dam is owned by the State of Michigan Land Bank, and they have sought to eliminate liability by removing this dangerous and obsolete dam where several children have drowned. In 2010, the Dam Safety Division of the State of Michigan had ordered steps taken to reduce the danger of dam failure, and in 2012 partial removal of the dam was accomplished. The State of Michigan asked the Friends of the Shiawassee River to assist with removal and restoration of the site.

The Friends have sought not only to eliminate a hazard in the river, but to take steps to restore the natural aspects of the Shiawassee River, create fish habitat, and expand recreation at Shiatown Park. To accomplish these goals, the Friends worked to secure funding from several state and private sources.  Most notably, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have provided both dam safety funds and an Aquatic Habitat Restoration Grant. Additional funding was secured from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN). Shiawassee County officials have lent technical advice and provided on-the-ground input on project design. 

Securing these grant awards, meeting funding requirements, and coordinating different grants from different sources were the first challenge of the project. Gaining regulatory approval for the restoration of the River, which will involve work in the riverbed itself and the movement of a considerable amount of dirt, was the second challenge.  The offices of State Representative Ben Glardon, and his successor Ben Frederick, helped move the project forward. All of it required patience and persistence from the volunteers working with and through the Friends. Four different executive directors for the Friends have been involved with the project. None of it could have been possible without the long-term commitment of GEI Consultants who provided engineering expertise.

Now, with water levels lower, a bid has been awarded for the final removal and restoration work.  The contractor has begun work and will be putting in long days Monday to Saturday and plan to get most of the work done by Labor Day.  Booms to collect sediment, called turbidity curtains, are one of several steps taken to protect water quality. 

For safety reasons, access to all of the site has been limited. The small boat launch at Shiatown East Park just downstream from the dam is closed. The next downstream public access is the Vernon launch.  Paddlers should either avoid, or take extreme caution, with any paddling trip in the area. Watercraft must exit the river well upstream of the dam. Once the project is complete there will ready access to the launch and no need to portage.  The Shiawassee offers many other excellent paddling alternatives (see our Paddling Resources). 

Kayak Raffle News

Kayak Raffle “Launched” by

Friends of the Shiawassee River


May 30, 2019 - CORUNNA, MI. —The Friends of the Shiawassee River (Friends) have launched a fundraising raffle for a 12’6” Venture Kayaks Islay 12 kayak to informally kick off summer season.  The kayak is from The Power of Water in Lansing and is valued at over $1,200.  Funds generated by the raffle will be used to host water quality monitoring stream teams, an annual river cleanup event, paddling events, and other Friends’ efforts.  Winners of the kayak and 2nd/3rd place prizes will be announced at the Friends’ annual wine-tasting event on Wednesday, September 11th at the Owosso Country Club.

“The raffle is more than just a way for the Friends to raise money,” said Friends’ Kayak Raffle Co-Chair Matt Van Epps.  “We hope to promote the whole idea of paddling the Shiawassee.  It’s a great way to rediscover this river we love so much.”

Raffle tickets may be purchased from any Friends’ Board member and from the following locations:

Fifth Third Bank, Owosso

Friends Office (538 N. Shiawassee St.), Corunna

Gilbert’s Hardware and Appliance, Owosso

J & S Tire, Owosso

Shiawassee Arts Center, Owosso

Shiawassee Family YMCA, Owosso

And, along with the kayak raffle, the Friends’ wants to remind everyone that the Shiawassee River was recently approved as only one of eight state-designated water trails in Michigan. To highlight this acknowledgement, they will also be hosting two upcoming paddling events this summer:

Saturday, June 22nd @ 10 am – Harmon Patridge Park to DeVries Nature Conservancy with a cookout following

This short paddle is great for beginners or families.  After the paddle, participants will be treated to a fun cookout at DeVries.  Pre-registration is required at

Saturday, June 29th @ 5:30 pm – Harmon Patridge Park to Henderson Park

This beautiful stretch of the river is even nicer at twilight.  Both this paddle and the paddle on the 22nd will be led by experienced paddler Joyce Haak.  If you’ve been reluctant to go it alone, these adventures are a great way to enjoy nature and make new Friends!  Pre-registration is required at

For more information on the Friends’, visit   To remain up-to-date on all of their activities, like them on Facebook at, follow them on Twitter @FOSR_Tweets, email, or call the Friends’ office at (989) 723-9062. 


Corunna, MI – The Friends of the Shiawassee River, a nonprofit organization dedicated to help Care for, Share, and Enjoy the Shiawassee River through activities and events that support the health, public awareness, and enjoyment of the river, is pleased to announce the selection of Lorraine Austin as its new executive director. The Friends selected Lorraine after she served as the Interim Executive Director since September.

“We’re exceptionally pleased that Lorraine has taken on this leadership role,” said Nick Tereck, President of the Friends’ Board. “Her broad knowledge of science and education, coupled with years of experience working with many nonprofit organizations, both locally and elsewhere, make her well positioned to lead us going forward. Her passion and commitment to our cause coupled with the fact that she is well acquainted with our area and its residents, will enable her to plan more effectively for the future, collaborate with other organizations, and introduce innovative approaches to expand our programs.”

Austin was born and raised in Owosso and started her relationship with the Friends many years ago, first as a member, then as a Board member, and then as the organization’s Vice President.  Before becoming Executive Director, acting as Interim Executive Director, she helped orchestrate the Friends’ move to their office in Corunna, the recent Giving Tuesday/Raise Up Shiawassee effort (in which she served as co-chair for the Shiawassee County effort), and the recent Shiawassee Water Trail State Water Trail designation.

With over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits, she has worked as the Curator of Education and Public Relations at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana and the Staten Island Zoo in Staten Island, New York.  After moving back home to Michigan, she served as the Executive Director of EarthShare of Michigan, Education Marketing Coordinator at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, and with the Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative in coordination with the Grand Traverse Conservation District.  Most recently, she has volunteered with the Downtown Owosso Farmers Market, Community Cats of Owosso, DeVries Nature Conservancy, Shiawassee Arts Council, and other local efforts.

Lorraine holds a BS in Wildlife Management from Purdue University and an MA in Education from the University of Michigan – Flint.

For more information about the Friends’ organization, visit their website at, become a member of their Facebook family, or stop by their new office at 538 N. Shiawassee Street in Corunna.

Shiawassee River is Designated as a State Water Trail

The State of Michigan has just designated the first ever State Water Trails, and we are pleased to announce that the Shiawassee River Water Trail is among the inaugural eight. This success builds on several years of efforts by Friends of the Shiawassee River, the Keepers of the Shiawassee, the Headwater Trails, and several local governments and associations along the Shiawassee River from Holly to Chesaning. For more information click the link below.


The Friends of the Shiawassee River have launched a fundraising raffle for a 12’ Oru Folding Kayak to informally kick off the paddling season.  The kayak is valued at over $1,300.  Funds generated by the raffle will be used by the Friends to host water quality monitoring stream teams, an annual river clean-up, paddling events, and other Friends’ efforts.  Winners will be announced at the Friends’ annual wine-tasting event, to be held on Wednesday, September 26th at the Owosso Country Club.                                            

“The Shiawassee River is an amazing natural resource in our community, yet I hear time and again that so few get on the river and enjoy it first-hand. The opportunity to get a quality kayak, hand-picked by the Friends of the Shiawassee River will give you the opportunity to experience the Shiawassee and take advantage of our river every year! Whether you win the raffle or not, get out on the river and enjoy what it has to offer! – Board President, Nick Tereck

 “The Raffle is more than just a way for the Friends to raise a little money.  Part of our mission is to promote the recreational use of the river. This raffle will enable the lucky winner to get out and enjoy the river we love so much.” – Board Director, Matt VanEpps

Raffle tickets will be available for $5 at Fifth Third Bank (Downtown Owosso branch), Gilbert’s Hardware and Appliance (Owosso), J & S Tire (Owosso), Matador Pizza (Byron and Morrice) Shiawassee Arts Center (Owosso), YMCA (Owosso), and - or from any Friends’ Board member.  They may also be purchased at the Friends’ wine-tasting event in September.  The kayak will be on display for much of the summer at Gilbert’s Hardware and Appliance, J & S Tire, and other sites around town (including the Downtown Owosso Farmers Market on May 19, June 16, July 21, August 11, and September 15.


Shiawassee River Cleanup

Shiawassee County Health Department

Contact: Larry Johnson, Health Director

Phone: (989) 743-2392


Friends of the Shiawassee River

CONTACT: Ginger Koester, Executive Director

PHONE: (989) 723-9062



23rd Annual Shiawassee River Cleanup and Tire Collection to be held on July 28th, 2018


 People who love the Shiawassee River have much to celebrate in July. The Friends of the Shiawassee River, in collaboration with the Shiawassee County Health Department, will be hosting their 23rd annual Shiawassee River Cleanup and Tire Collection on Saturday, July 28th – and everyone interested in pitching in is welcome to join the fun.  There will be prizes for the most unique items to be pulled from the river and all event volunteers will receive a free t-shirt and lunch.  Event organizers ask that those interested in attending register at

Saturday, July 28th

23nd Annual Shiawassee River Cleanup

9:00 am to 12:00 pm

Volunteers meet at one of the following locations by 9:00 am: 

  1. Owosso – Oakwood Street Bridge (behind Little League fields)
  2. Corunna – McCurdy Park (near footbridge over the river)
  3. Vernon – Crawford Park

Cleanup Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Mitchell Amphitheater

219 N Water Street, Owosso, MI 48867

(located on the grounds of Owosso Middle School)

All Cleanup Volunteers will receive a free t-shirt and lunch.

 The 2017 Annual Cleanup was generously supported by Waste Management, Oster Manufacturing (Owosso), J & S Tire (Owosso), Matador’s Pizza (Byron and Morrice), Mancino’s (Owosso), Cheff’s Canoe Rental (Vernon), Hankerd’s Sportswear (Owosso) and The Bagelman (Owosso).

 “Thanks to the commitment of our volunteers and generous event sponsors, more than 700 tires and hundreds of pounds of garbage and debris have been removed from the river since our first cleanup more than 20 years ago” said Larry Johnson, Director of the Shiawassee County Health Department.  “This event is a great way for the community to come together and care for one of our greatest natural treasures, the Shiawassee River.  By caring for the river, we’re providing recreational opportunities for the public and ensuring a healthy habitat for aquatic life.”

 In 1996, the Friends of the Shiawassee River was founded by a group of individuals who wanted to continue the work of Owosso resident, Jim Miner. In the 1970's, Miner organized some of the first volunteer river cleanup events in Owosso. These events inspired a generation of river stewards, and ultimately the formation of the Friends.

 Cleanup Volunteers can choose to assist with the cleanup in the river and parks, or paddle stretches of the river via canoe and search for tires. Volunteers should wear old clothes and shoes so that they can walk in the river. Tires collected from the river by volunteers will be recycled free of charge, courtesy of the Shiawassee County Health Department.  Community members who wish to recycle old tires (not from the river) can bring them to the Shiawassee County Road Commission on July 28th, from 8 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.  Tires will be accepted for a fee of $2 per car/truck tire without rims, and $3 for tires with a rim.  Semi-truck tires will be accepted for a fee of $5 each without a rim, and $10 dollars for each tire with a rim.  No tractor tires will be accepted.  Arrangements for advance tire donation and storage can be made by calling Shiawassee County Health Department  at (989) 743-2392.

 For more information about this event, contact the Friends of the Shiawassee River at,  on the Friends’ Facebook page, by calling (989) 723-9062, or sending an email to  The Shiawassee County Health Department can be contacted by calling (989) 743-2392, or by visiting their website,  The Health Department is also on Facebook.

 For an unprecedented eleventh consecutive year, the Shiawassee County Health Department and the Friends have received grant funding from the Department of Environmental Quality and the Great Lakes Commission Volunteer River, Stream and Creek Cleanup program. The funds will support ongoing efforts to improve the health of the Shiawassee River and its surrounding natural resources through events such as the annual Shiawassee River Cleanup and tire collection.


 The mission of the Shiawassee County Health Department is to prevent disease, protect the health of the public and enhance the quality of life for Shiawassee County residents by providing information and services.  The Environmental Health Division’s broad objective is to provide a means of safeguarding the environment.  This is necessary for the health and welfare of the users and all other persons in Shiawassee County. 

 The Friends of the Shiawassee River is 501©3 nonprofit organization governed by a local board of directors and supported by a dedicated group of volunteers and generous donors.  The mission of the Friends is to help the community Care, Share, and Enjoy the Shiawassee River.  The Friends are committed to improving the environment, promoting the responsible use of, and enhancing the appreciation of the River throughout its watershed.


Owosso Rotary Adopt-A-River




 The Friends of the Shiawassee River organization is proud to announce that the Owosso Rotary Club has renewed their $1,000 Adopt-A-River sponsorship.  The Adopt-A-River program offers businesses and non-profit/service organizations the opportunity to help care for specific stretches of the River in collaboration with the Friends.  This Friends/Rotary partnership was celebrated with a photo session with John Oliver, President of Owosso Rotary Club (left), and Nick Tereck, Vice President of the Friends of the Shiawassee River and Rotarian member (right).

“The Owosso Rotary Club is pleased to continue its support of the Friends of the Shiawassee Adopt-A-River program,” said John Oliver, Owosso Rotary Club President.  “This is a great opportunity to give back to the community through helping to improve the quality of the river.”

And although the Adopt-A-River partnership may be a fairly new endeavor for these two organizations, they have been collaborating since 1996.

“In addition to their generous financial gift through the Adopt-A-River program, the Rotarians have also devoted many hours of volunteer service caring for the River,” added Lorraine Austin, the Friends’ Executive Director.  “Their members have been a part of our annual River Cleanup every year since the very first one – specifically targeting the Harmon Patridge section each of those years.”

“The participation of community groups like Rotary makes it possible for the Friends to meet their mission to care for the Shiawassee,” said Friends’ President Tom Cook.  “We appreciate the help from Rotary, other community groups, and our many Friends throughout the watershed.”

Funds generated by the Adopt-A-River program are used by the Friends to support water quality monitoring Stream Teams, their annual River Clean-Up, paddling events, educational outreach, and other Friends’ efforts.  Businesses can become Adopt-A-River sponsors for a commitment of $2,000 a year for two years.  Non-profit/service organizations can become sponsors for $1,000 a year for two years - with a pledge to help maintain their stretch of the River.    



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Join us for a fun filled evening at Wrought Iron Grill! 

Dinner with Friends begins at 6pm. The Annual Meeting begins at 7pm.

Spots fill up fast so don't forget to RSVP here!



New App Connects People to Outdoor Fun

Be sure to download the awesome new Parks and Recreation app for Shiawassee County! It's FREE and available from your App Store. Check out the hidden gems of Shiawassee County!

You can find everything from parks, golf courses, trails, campgrounds, river access, health/workout centers and much more!  

Thank you, Larry Johnson, Directory of the Shiawassee County Health Department - Environmental Health Division and the the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners for approving this app using Waste Management - Venice Park corporate donation money.  

CLICK HERE to go to the apple store or search your store using the term "Shiawassee County" to find this cool app. 

Friends Purchase First HQ: Seeking Remodel Assistance


Friends HQ House Party
Monday, October 24, 2016
Noon to 2:00 PM
538 N. Shiawassee Street
Corunna, MI
RSVP at (989) 723-9062 or
Maybe you already heard the great news at the Wine Tasting Celebration, but the Friends have taken a major step forward.  We purchased a house next to the dam in Corunna, and will be converting it into our office and meeting place, complete with storage space and amazing public visibility.
Read more

Final Part of Michigan’s Water Strategy Released Today in Owosso


Jon Allan, Director of the Office of the Great Lakes, thanked the Friends for their exemplary work with volunteer water quality monitoring.

Way to go Stream Teams!

The Friends were honored to host Director Allan for the release of the final portion of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Water Strategy. The State Water Strategy focuses on monitoring systems, community engagement, and shared governance.

"Water literacy, community engagement, and integrated monitoring systems will help create a vision of healthier ecosystems, improved resource management, and increasing stewardship of Michigan’s globally unique water resources.”  

Read more