What is a watershed?


  • A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common place.
  • Precipitation in the form of rain and melting snow fall on land and the water runs downhill into the lowest areas in the surrounding landscape (i.e. the creeks, inland lakes and wetlands).
  • That water runoff can carry pollutants that exist throughout the landscape, including bare soils, toxins such as oils, and wastes from both animals and humans.
  • These pollutants originate from diverse sources, or non-point sources, and threaten the water bodies where they are deposited.
  • This is the rationale for managing pollution on a watershed scale. If we properly manage activities on lands that drain to our water bodies, we will protect those water resources.
  • If we maintain the integrity of the watershed in our plans for land use, we will guarantee the sustainability of our resources and our way of life.

What is the Les Cheneaux Watershed?

The Les Cheneaux watershed is considered a subwatershed of the Carp-Pine Watershed located in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. Specifically, the Les Cheneaux watershed is located in eastern Mackinac County with one subwatershed located in south-central Chippewa County.

les cheneaux watershed outline

Natural features define the Les Cheneaux watershed. The area boasts 200 miles of Lake Huron coastline, which includes a 36–island archipelago known as the Les Cheneaux Islands. The islands area is strewn with bays, coastal marshes, dune and swale communities, rock and sand beaches, fens, swamps, peat bogs, and relatively undamaged northern forests. In fact, natural features inventories indicate that some of the best examples of Great Lakes coastal marsh, interdunal wetlands, and northern fen remain intact in the watershed.

These habitats support numerous rare species, including bald eagles, ospreys, wolves, colonial nesting birds, caspian and black terns, threatened fish species, and moose. The coastline supports such threatened flora including dwarf-lake iris, Houghton’s goldenrod, Pitcher’s thistle, Hart’s tongue fern and the Lake Huron tansy. The State of Michigan also recognizes several areas within the watershed as environmental areas (Artizone), including parts of St. Martin Bay, Mismer Bay, Mackinac Bay, Goose Island, Voights Bay, Duck Bay, Sheppard Bay, Scottys Bay, Crow Island, and Prentiss Bay.

Fortunately, these waters are relatively protected by forest cover, which makes up the majority of the watershed’s land cover (71%). Wetlands also help to protect these surface waters, with at least 16% of the land cover classified as such. The remaining landscape consists of 8% urban, 1% agricultural, and approximately 4% open or barren. The urban concentration is centered in the two villages of Cedarville and Hessel. The watershed falls within three townships, including Marquette, Clark, and Raber townships.

                                Watershed Goals

Watershed goals are based on combating pollution sources and causes in order to protect threatened designated uses of water. These goals are broad but declare the end product of eliminating the threats to designated uses.

  • Protect drinking water quality
  • Protect partial body contact recreational use
  • Protect total body contact recreational use
  • Protect the integrity of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems within the watershed
  • Establish, promote, and execute land and water management practices that conserve and protect the natural resources of the watershed
  • Protect navigation opportunities
  • Provide appropriate opportunities for public enjoyment of aquatic/terrestrial resources including but not limited to walking trails, scenic overlooks, boat launches, and public access areas
  • Establish and promote education/information programs that promote stewardship and low impact recreational enjoyment of aquatic and terrestrial resources
  • Preserve the unique nature-based aesthetic character of the Les Cheneaux Islands area
  • Identify and protect priority habitat for threatened and endangered species
  • Come and join us ! 

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