Michigan Wild & Scenic Rivers: Ontonagon River
May 18, 2011
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.
~Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968
Michigan has 16 nationally designated Wild & Scenic Rivers. Since Field & Stream tapped Michigan #1 for flyfishing in the USA, I thought it would be cool to profile these unique rivers & streams. We’ll start with the Ontonagon River. The Our Favorites page at upflyfishing.com says:
The Ontonagon River, along with its four branches and tributaries drains an enormous area of the western Upper Peninsula in Ontonagon, southwest Houghton and northern Gogebic Counties. The system offers a wide diversity of opportunities for wading, canoeing, shoreline, and even boat anglers. Much of the flow is through wild, scenic country. Several beautiful waterfalls and whitewater rapids appear along its journey.
…A 12 mile stretch of the East Branch (from Lower Dam Falls to Sparrow Rapids has been designated as a Michigan Blue Ribbon Trout Stream. The Middle Branch supports a good population of resident Brown, Rainbow, and Brook Trout. Access is fairly good with sections flowing along the Ottawa National Forest. A few anglers tube or canoe and the river is wide enough to permit flyfishing in most stretches. Overall, the Middle Branch supports the best trout fishing on the Ontonagon and the village of Watersmeet is in the heart of several of these great fishing areas. Down stream from Agate Falls, the river becomes receptive to anadromous fish, and anglers enjoy an extended fishing season. Expect good Steeelheading in spring, with browns up to 6 pounds and salmon showing up in the fall. Some Brook trout also frequent the river here.