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The State of Michigan DNR announced on December 20, 2018, the first Michigan waterways to be designated as State Water Trails.  The Shiawassee River Trail, starting in Holly, Michigan and extending 88 miles downstream, is on the list of those first eight designated trails.
 The Shiawassee River Water Trail Coalition has been working to achieve this goal and has also applied for National Water Trail designation.  That application has been held up in Washington with the applications of other organizations due to the Trump administration.

Headwaters Trails has received a grant of $10,000.00 from Saginaw Bay WIN to be used as match money toward a grant proposal to build a launch at Fish Lake Road, on the Shiawassee River, in Holly Township.  Headwaters Trails currently has a grant application with the Michigan DNR Recreation Passport Fund.

Upcoming Events

The link below lists all the events put on by both Headwaters Trails and the Keepers of the Shiawassee in 2018 as well as other events on the river that we are aware of..  There is a handy printable map included.
2019 Schedule of Events

Quiet Water Symposium

Headwaters Trails in conjunction with the Shiawassee River Coalition, will be displaying at the Quiet Water Symposium,  March 2, 2019, from 9 AM to 5:30 PM.  This event is at 4301 Farm Lane, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.  It is an event where people display information on places to paddle, along with a a lot of equipment you may want, from kayaks and canoes to camping gear.  Included in the Expo, are speakers who cover a variety of topics related to paddling.  For more info, go to  https://quietwatersociety.org/

Past Events

Owl Walk, Presentation of Live Owls and Pot Luck Dinner

Saturday January 26, 2019
Owl Walk

Free Owl Walk, Live Owl Talk & Pot Luck Dinner

Saturday January 26, 2019

The Event was a great event with live owls and a bald eagle shown by the Howell Nature Center.  92 people attended the event with plenty of food available and a large number of door prizes.  Afterward, we watched the movie, "Owl Power".  The walk itself was cancelled on the recommendation of the park manager at Seven Lakes State Park, due to icy conditions on the roads in the park.  You can see pictures of the event on the Headwaters Trails Facebook page.

Canoeing in Color , Saturday October 6, 2018

This event was canceled due to a forecast of lightening.

Fall is a beautiful time to paddle the Shiawassee River.  The leaves are starting to turn color.  Deer can be seen along the river banks, with full antlers, getting ready to mate.  Beavers are busy stocking up on tree branches in their lodges for the long winter.  Sandhill cranes are collecting in groups, getting ready to migrate.  A lot of birds are passing through on their fall migration.  Endangered blandings turtles can be seen sunning themselves on logs along the river.  Ripe wild rice sits above the water on long stems.  It is coming to the last hurrah for warm weather as the winter season approaches.  Time for one last paddle down the river.

Fall Color on the Shiawassee River

 Headwaters Trails will host its annual Fall Event, Canoeing in Color, on October 6, 2018.  Registration and the spotting of cars will start at 11:00 am.  Boats will launch between noon and 2 pm.  Launching before then means that we may not have people in place to help you through the railroad tubes, if needed.  We will have a person at the Academy Foot bridge if you want to portage instead of go under that bridge.  There will be a person at Fish Lake Road, for emergency takeout.  We will have someone to help you over the beaver dam.  At 2:00, the sweep boat will launch to make sure everyone gets off the river safely.  There will be people at Strom Park to help you out of the water and load up your boats.  If you wish to rent, EZ Kayak, 810-241-1195, is renting kayaks for $25.00 per boat.  They will drop boats off between noon and 1 pm at Water Works Park.  Kayak rental is by reservation only, you need to call them at least 4 days in advance to rent.  EZ Kayak does not provide shuttling, so if you need this service, it is free for members and $10.00 for non-members. This is a fundraiser for Headwaters Trails where we would appreciate people who are not members, becoming members.  

We are trying to raise match money for the grant proposal we have before the State Recreation Passport Fund, to build a launch at Fish Lake Road.  The less match money you have, the less likely it is that they will fund the launch.  Due to the requirements of the State in how launches are constructed in a wetland, the project is pretty expensive.  Our engineer is estimating $160,000.00 now.  We already have some money to contribute from Headwaters Trails plus money contributed to the project by Holly Township.  Help us make this happen and enjoy paddling on the river.

This is a rain or shine event which will only be cancelled should there be a prediction of lightening.  Be sure to dress for the weather.  We will not have a tow boat on the Fenton Mill Pond this year.

Adventure Paddle 2018, Sunday June 10, 2018

In spite of less than perfect weather, the Adventure Paddle had a good turnout of around 50 people.  13 volunteers assured that the paddlers had a good experience.  There were people at the railroad tubes, the Academy Foot bridge, Fish Lake Road, the beaver dam and at Strom Park.  The tow boat was not able to run this year.  The combination of weeds in the mill pond and strong winds out of the east overpowered the 3 hp motor on the tow boat.

Shiawassee River Cleanup, Holly to Byron, May 19 & 20, 2018

The river is now open for  paddling from Holly to Byron.  See What's New, for the names of people involved.  Over 40 people were involved in the two day effort that saw fallen trees cut enough to make a passage, with wood anchored to the banks for shoreline protection and fish habitat maintenance.  Several tires were removed from the river along with bags of trash.  You can view our guidelines by clicking on the Best Practices link above.

Owl Walk 2018

Barred Owl - Headwaters Trails Inc.
Barred Owl
Headwaters Trails hosted the Owl Walk at the Calvary United Methodist Church in Holly.  There was a large turnout and plenty of food to pass.  The Howell Nature Center again presented an interesting group of birds, including owls, a falcon and a turkey buzzard.

Canoeing in Color

Saturday October 7, 2017 was a beautiful day with 80 degree weather and the sun shining.  Unfortunately, it rained over night and in the morning, which seems to have discouraged people from coming.  Only 22 people came to the event.

River Cleanup August 6, 2017

Thank you to David Spaine, Randy Alberts, Rex Mathewson, Bruce Allan, Jannell Tillman, Dennis Terry, Dudley Behrens, Chris Dickinson, Roger Drury, Dawn Hittle, Gary Drury and  Janell Reeves for cleaning the Shiawassee River from the Ball Fields in Byron to Walnut Hills Campground.  Thank you also Chris Dickinson and Matador's Pizza in Byron for bringing us all the pizza we could eat after the enent.  See the Headwaters Trails Facebook page for images of this and the two previous cleanups.

River Cleanup July 23, 2017

The river cleanup started at Tom Landers' house on Duffield Road.  Some of us went up stream to take out a newly fallen tree that was blocking the river.  The rest went down stream.  After clearing the up stream tree, those who went up stream, went down stream and joined the other crew.  That cleanup went all the way to Byron.  Thank You to Erin Haynes, Avery Haynes, Chris Dickinson, Chuck Gosh, Amy Drury, Gary Drury, Roger Drury, Jannell Tillman, Marianna Fitzgerald, Tom Landers, Diane Landers and Dennis Terry.

River Cleanup Sunday July 16, 2017

The river cleanup went well, with us clearing the river from Hogan Road in Linden, to McCaslin Lake Road in Argentine Township.  Many thanks to Dudley Behrens, Chuck Gosh, Terry Reechko, Pat Cockfield, Rudy Toufar, Amy and Gary Drury, Joetta Pyles Zalewski, Jannell Tillman, Marianna Fitzgerald, Nick Brown, Bruce Allan, John McCubbin, Debbie McCarty,  Maggie Yerman and Chuck Julian.  Maggie also fed us a huge dinner at her place afterward.
cleanup-7-16-2017-2 cleanup_7-16-2017-3 cleanup_7-16-2017-4 cleanup_7-16-2017-1

Adventure Paddle June 11, 2017

The Adventure Paddle was a well attended event this year, with 90 degree sunny weather.  Thank You to everyone involved.  Photos by Michelle Czerniak are posted on the Headwaters Trails Facebook page.

River Cleanup June 4, 2017

The River cleanup went well.  Steve Darby, Chelsea Cuter, Adam Schmieder, Christa Schmieder, Mary Blanchard, Dennis Terry, Rex Mathewson, Bruce Allan, Michelle Czerniak, Steve Hoffman, Janell Tillman, Al Tingley, Debbie McCarty, Dave Spaine and Chuck Julian opened the river from Fish Lake Road to Strom Park.  Dora Dingwall helped spot cars at Strom Park.  Bruce Allan then bought Pizza at the Fenton House for the participants.  In all, we spent about 4 hours on the river.  The water was warm and though we started out in light rain, it soon gave way to bright sunshine and warm temperatures.  Thank you to all that made this possible.  The river is now ready for the adventure paddle.

River Cleanup May 20, 2017

The river turned out to have many more trees in it than we anticipated.  Eleven people went on the cleanup and were only able to get as far as Fish Lake Road.  We are scheduling another cleanup for June 4, 2017 to finish the job.  Thanks to Bruce Allan and Rex Mathewson for leading the cleanup, Michelle Czerniak, Tom Landers, Dennis Terry, Krista Schneider, Adam Schneider, Dora Dingwall, Marianna Fitzgerald, Maggie Yerman and Chris Compton who went down the river with them.  Joetta Zalewski and Chuck Julian helped spot cars.

Owl Walk January 14, 2017

The Headwaters Trails Owl Walk and presentation  went well with 76 attendees, netting $850.00 in memberships.  Thank you Dora Dingwall for sponsoring the event and paying to bring the Howell Nature Center with owls and raptors.  Special thanks also to her sister Nancy,  Michelle Czerniak, Bruce Allan, Rex Mathewson, Sue Julian, Mary Blanchard, Debbie McCarty, Dennis Terry, Jim Wright, Rachael Ray and Calvary United Methodist Church.  See photos and more by clicking on the What's New icon.

Who We Are

Headwaters Trails Inc.

Headwaters Trails is a non-profit 501(c3) group whose mission is to facilitate and promote the cooperation of local governments in Southeast Michigan with specific emphasis on Holly, Rose, Groveland, Springfield, Fenton and Argentine Townships, the Village of Holly, the City of Fenton, the City of Linden and Oakland County Parks to create new recreational opportunities including the creation of a network of trails for the area residents and visitors.  Those trails include both water and land trails.

The Foundation Trail at Holly High School

The Foundation Trails is a Mountain Bike Trail created at Holly High School.  There is a link to a map of the trail on our Trail Resources tab.

The Sorenson Park 5K Trail is a walking and jogging trail constructed by Headwaters Trails within the confines of Sorenson Park in Holly, Michigan.  The trail was cleared, leveled and then wood chipped to make a walking surface.  Along the edges of the trail, large amounts of the invasive tree, autumn olive, were removed and chipped for use on the trail.
Sorenson Park 5K trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail Sorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail
Sorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail
Sorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail
The Trail gets used in all weather.
 Sorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail Sorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail

The Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail is our major accomplishment over the last several years.  For the last several years we have sponsored "The Adventure Paddle", a pleasure paddle down the river in June and "Canoeing in Color" a Color Paddle in October.  Both go from Water Works Park in Holly to Strom Park in Fenton.  The River Heritage Water Trail starts in Holly and goes to Saginaw Bay.  The Keepers of the Shiawassee have joined us as have the Friends of the Shiawassee in maintaining the river and the river is now open and mostly free of portages and trash, for canoers and kayakers to enjoy from Holly to Saginaw, except for the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, where portages are still necessary.  Our Volunteers paddle the river regularly to remove downed trees and trash.  We are always looking for additional volunteers to help keep the river open and free of trash.  We use Best Practices for River Cleanups.  These have been reviewed by the MDNR.  Contact Chuck Julian if you are interested in joining us for river cleanups.

We started out, removing trash, 

Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail - cleanup 

Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail cleanup

then rebuilding a bridge and constructed a new bridge where we had built a temporary bridge along the river.

Old Academy foot bridge Rebuilt Academy foot bridge

Makeshift bridge Harding Mott Bridge

Water Works Park is the start of the Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail.  We did a lot of work to improve the appearance of that park and the river, with help from the Village of Holly, the Holly DDA, The Harding Mott Foundation, Saginaw Valley WIN, REI, Haddon Nursery, North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy and a host of dedicated volunteers.

Water Works Park, Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail starting point Water Works Park, Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail start Water Works Park in Holly, Michigan, Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail

The Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail is one of lower Michigan's treasures.  We view it as an "UP North" experience down here in SE Michigan. Along the river you will see very few houses, mostly, open fields, trees and wet lands.  Wildlife is abundant.  The Shiawassee has beavers who have built a dam.  This might be your first time to have ever seen a beaver dam or glimpse a beaver, since most have been killed for their fur.  The river has abundant fish and birds attracted by the fish and the plants along the river.  Deer graze along the shore.  Blue Heron are common as are kingfishers, king birds, and ducks.  Endangered Blandings Turtles nest along the river.  The fields and wetlands along the river provide habitat for the endangered Powersheik Skiperling and Karner Blue butterfly as well as rare and endangered native flowers.  Nature presents itself in all its glory as you glide down the waters of the river.  Water quality monitoring shows the Shiawassee to be a healthy river, accounting for all the wild life.  We believe that when people can see and enjoy this treasure, they will also become advocates for its protection.

Beaver Lodge, Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail Blanding's Turtles - Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail

Beaver Lodge                                   Great Blue Herron                                Blandings Turtles on a log

Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail             Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail

Beaver Dam                                              Good sport fishing on the river

Headwaters Trails has also helped promote equestrian activities in the Northwest corner of Oakland County.  They co-sponsored with Rose Oaks Equine Adventurers several "Ride the Rose" events which acquainted the equestrians with trails opened for horses in Rose Oaks County Parks.  They are also working with Oakland County and the Highland Equestrian Conservancy on a connection from Highland Oaks up to Rose Oaks, including working to open, the unmaintained, Water Road as a trail.  We have encouraged Oakland County Parks to create horse friendly trails in both Highland Oaks County Park and Rose Oaks County Park, and they have done so.

Horse Trails in Oakland County Horse back riding in Oakland County Michigan


  • Meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month, 7 pm, at the Holly Village Council Chambers, 315 S. Broad Street, Holly Michigan.  Anyone interested in building trails, supporting trails or trail maintenance is welcome.
  • River cleanups are held from May to September with others added if the weather is good.  Volunteers are always welcome.  You need to provide us with a phone number or an email address if you wish to be contacted for these events.  It is not necessary to own a chain saw or a boat to participate.  Once logs are cut, it take several people to move them to the banks and anchor them.  We have pulled a tremendous amount of junk out of the river that had accumulated over many years, including tires, a wheel chair, a trailer, home heating oil tanks, shipping containers as well as bottles, cans, food wrappers, styrofoam, old docks, toys, fishing gear and a variety of miscellaneous stuff.  You just need a willingness to get wet and a desire to help out.  We generally try to eat at someone's house afterward and enjoy each other's company in a non-work setting.  

    Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail cleanup Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail

    • The Adventure Paddle is held the second Sunday in June.  You may attend the event as a participant or volunteer to help with the organization of the event.    
    • Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail - Adventure Paddle Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail - Adventure Paddle Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail - Adventure Paddle
  • Canoeing in Color is a fall adventure paddling the Shiawassee to see the color changes.  It is held the first Saturday in October and is a last paddle of the warmer weather for most people. 
  • Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail - Canoeing in Color Canoeing In Color Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail
  •  Owl Walks are typically held in  January or February.  We move the location from place to place each year so as to experience the wonders of different trails while looking for owls.  These events are usually pot luck and intended as social events to get to know other people interested in trails better.   We do ask that people become members at these events.  They are not inexpensive to put on.

We are not: 

We are not a canoe or kayak rental company.  When we sponsor events on the river, usually Heavner's Canoe Rental in Milford will provide rentals on site for that event only.  The rest of the year, there is no livery in Holly to rent boats to you.  If you need to rent a boat, we suggest that you rent one at Proud Lake Recreation Area, in Milford, Michigan from Heavner's Canoe Rental or from Cheff's Canoe Rental in the Walnut Hills Campground in Byron, Michigan.  It is our hope that some day a livery will open in the area that will service the Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail in Holly and Fenton but until that time, you need your own boats except for the Fall, Canoeing in Color event and the Spring, Adventure Paddle.

Contact Info

Headwaters Trails Inc.                                 

P.O. Box 33

Holly, MI 48442-0033

President: Sue Julian                   248-634-3513

Vice President & Treasurer: Rex Mathewson  

Secretary: Chuck Julian              248-634-3513         HeadwatersTrailsInc@gmail.com


                                                                                                        2003-2019, Headwaters Trails, Inc.

2003-2019, Headwaters Trails, Inc.