Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Exploring Allen Creek

Allen Creek is a tributary of the Huron River that runs more or less along the Ann Arbor Rail Road tracks. Much of Downtown Ann Arbor, Central and South Campus and the west side of town fall within the Allen Creek Watershed. The creek was a major driver of industry in early Ann Arbor. Tanneries, breweries and foundries used Allen Creek for its water. A flower mill located at the mouth of the creek (just below Argo Pond) used the creek to turn a water wheel for power.

Allen Creek became quite polluted because of the industrial activity and open sewers located along its banks. In the 1920s, after floods sent filthy water into nearby neighborhoods, residents petitioned the city to inter the creek. Since 1926, the only place where you can see the Allen Creek is where its cement culvert empties into the Huron River.

One good thing about the drought we're in is that water levels in the Huron River and Allen Creek have been quite low. I took this as a sign from on high that I should go poking around inside Allen Creek. Here are some pictures:

The River is the lowest I have seen it in my life. This makes it easier to approach the mouth of Allen Creek. There are some pretty deep spots still, and reports of northern pike.

Inside the creek's culvert it's quite dark. The culvert starts out about 4m tall and about as wide. The water was about ankle deep but was flowing quite briskly.

As my exploring partner and I continued up the tunnel, the ceiling and floor became more rounded.

We spotted a few solitary bats clinging to the top of the tunnel.

There are numerous smaller tunnels along the walls of Allen Creek. We found a crayfish (one of many in the creek) chilling out in this little tributary. We also found some raccoon footprints around the mouth of the creek. Maybe they were snacking on the crayfish.

UPDATE: The article has been edited to reflect the proper spelling of Allen Creek.


  1. That crayfish looks like a lobster--it's so big. Or is the stream just a trickle?

  2. The crayfish was about 10cm long--so a large crayfish in a small stream. We saw a few slightly larger ones too.

  3. OK, this is the ultimate townie experience. Ann Arbor Underground. Would it be possible to 'daylight" the stream and run it next to Main St? I know San Antonio has a great downtown riverwalk. Maybe we could have the same?

  4. I think there are some good areas where it could be daylighted along the railroad tracks by 1st St.