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Terrain 360 project

The photographing of the Shiawassee River from Holly to Chesaning, has started.  Jannell Tillman and Dr. Peter Blank of NOHLC worked with the person from Terrain 360 Inc. in the first section from Holly to Fenton.  Tom Landers, Chris Dickenson, Phil Hathaway, Sara McDonnell and Dave Lossing are working with them further down the river.  The project to photograph the river in 360 degrees, is being run by the Shiawassee River Coalition with donations and grants from a number of sources.  Eventually, this information will be posted on the web to help people see what the river looks like, should they want to paddle down the river and see what it is like ahead of time.

State Water Trail

 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.

National Water Trail

 The Shiawassee River Water Trail Coalition has applied for National Water Trail designation.  That application has been held up in Washington with the applications of other organizations.  The application has now been vetted and submitted to the Secretary of the Interior for consideration by the National Park Service.  The Shiawassee River presents one of the great paddling experiences of the lower peninsula of Michigan.  You can help in getting this River designated as a National Water Trail by writing to the recently confirmed Secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior and asking him to formally designate the Shiawassee River as a National Water Trail.
The Honorable David Bernhardt, Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Fish Lake Road Launch

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.  

The Passport Grant proposal to the DNR was turned down.  Many groups applied for money this year and we did not make the cut.  Headwaters Trails is now working on other sources of funding to build the Fish Lake Road Launch.

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

Past Events

Adventure Paddle 2019

Approximately 60 people participated in the annual Adventure Paddle on the Shiawassee River on June 8, 2019.  Many thanks to those who participated and to those who volunteered to make the event a success.
Adventure Paddle Shiawassee River Headwaters Trails Adventure Paddle
Adventure Paddle

Holly to Byron river cleanup, May 18 & 19, 2019

Many thanks to the people who made the river cleanup from Holly to Byron successful:  Tom Landers, Debbie McCarty, Rex Mathewson, Dave Spaine, Randy Alberts, Chris Compton, Jacquelyne Compton, Jannell Tillman, Mary Blanchard, Bruce Allan, Chris Dickenson, Dora Dingwall, Gary Drury, Cat McCullough, Don Losert, Maggie Yerman, Samantha Forsyth,  Mary Waley, Bill Davis, Jay Kelly, Andrew Kelly, Mike Dietz and Karen Dietz.  These are the people who care about the river and decided to do something about making a trip down the river a pleasurable experience.  We need more people like them.

Woody Debris Training Session

The woody debris training session in Bush Park on May 16 was well attended.  Issues of what to cut and what to leave were discussed along with guidelines give to us by the DNR.  We also discussed safety, use and maintenance of tools, proper dress and allowed volunteers to decide which sections of the river they would like to work on.

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/

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.

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.  Our main cleanup is the weekend in May one week before Memorial Day weekend.  It is our goal to have Holly to Byron ready for the opening of paddling season.  The Thursday before the cleanup, we host a training session to teach volunteers to do cleanups that meet with the MDNR's approval.  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.  These events tend to be a lot of fun working with people who have shared interests.

    Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail cleanup Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail

    • The Adventure Paddle is held the second Saturday in June with the following day as an alternate for bad weather.  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 with the following day as an alternate for bad weather 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 typically have a presentation with live owls and a movie about owls for people who do not want to go on the walk.  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.  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, EZ Kayak in Linden 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.  EZ Kayak will rent boats for the Adventure Paddle and Color Paddle if contacted at least a day in advance.  They do not have boats on site for rental.

Shiawassee River Water Trail Coalition

Headwaters Trails is a member of the Shiawassee River Water Trail Coalition.  This organization is composed of citizen groups and government entities interested in promoting paddling on the river and maintaining it as a water trail.  It has a State of Michigan designation as a State Water Trail and has applied for National Water Trail Designation.  Members of the Coalition consider it to be one of the great kayaking water trails in the country. The Coalition, through the support of its members, has received funding to hire Terrain 360 to do 360 degree photography and GPS mapping of the river from Holly to Chesaning,.  When completed, it will be posted on the Coalition website so that people can view the section of the river that they wish to paddle, being able to view it over 360 degrees, similar to what Google Street View produces, as an aid to planning a trip.


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


Headwaters Trails Inc. came into existence in 1995 and is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, incorporated in Michigan.

                                                                                                        2003-2019, Headwaters Trails, Inc.

2003-2019, Headwaters Trails, Inc.