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National Water Trail

The Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail has been designated a National Water Trail by the National Park Service.  It is now one of five National Water Trails in the State of Michigan.  This designation does not come with money but it recognizes the efforts of those involved in creating a water trail and maintaining it as a recreational asset to the communities along the trail.  

Good News - Fish Lake Road Launch

The Ralph  C. Wilson Jr. Fund has given Headwaters Trails and the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancey (NOHLC) a grant of $50,000.00 to be used for the construction of a canoe launch at Fish Lake Road on property already owned by Headwaters Trails Inc.  Headwaters Trails has additionally raised $80,000.00 to complete this project, through grants of $10,000 from Saginaw Bay WIN, $17,000 from Holly Township and the rest from individual donors.  See the article about the launch in the TriCounty Times:


Covid 19 has delayed getting the necessary permits, but we still hope to get these in time so the project can be completed in 2021.

Fish Lake Road project045.bmp
Parking at this site requires substantial fill and Oakland County Road Commission compliance.  Permits have been applied for and preliminary engineering done.

Along with the launch, the Road Commission is changing out the culvert for Fish Lake Road at the River in 2021.  This change out will have them extending the culvert and putting a sidewalk along the road, over the river, so that people parking on the Holly Township property north of the river can get across to the launch, walking with a canoe or kayak.  The current culvert is so short that there is not space to walk along the side of the road with a boat.  Thank You, Road Commission for Oakland County.


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.
2021 Schedule of Events

Past Events

Spring River Cleanup May 22 & 23, 2021

The river cleanup of the Shiawassee River from Holly to Walnut Hills Campground in Durand, was a big success.  The river is now open.  That does not mean that there will not be newly fallen trees and more trash to pickup, but at least for the moment it is open.  Many thanks to the people who made this possible, including the crew leaders, Rex Mathewson, Debbie McCarty, Brad Jacob, Dave Spaine, Chris Dickenson, Tom Landers, and Rob Vandermark.  There are photos of the event on the Headwaters Trails and Keepers of the Shiawassee Facebook pages.

River Cleanup of May 30 - 31, 2020

The River cleanup was a huge success.  The river is now open for paddling from Holly to the Walnut Hills Campground in Durand.  I want to first thank our team leaders, Rex Mathewson, Dave Spaine, Steve Hoffman, Chris Dickenson, Tom Landers and Rob Vandemark, and then all the people who made this cleanup possible (forgive me if I missed you in this list or mis-spelled your name), Dora Dingwall, Chris Compton, Mary Whaley, Cat McCullough, Don Lostert,  Randy Alberts, Jannell Tillman, Dave Lossing, Sue Lossing, Sue Julian, Pat Cockfield, Rudy Toufar, Andy ?, Trevor Wolff, Maggie Yerman, Bruce Allan, Ricky Ostrowski, Lennie Brousseau, Hunter Taylor, Jacob Vandemark, Jeanette Fureigh, Jessica Fureigh, Pam Albright, Linda Hoogtup, Hubert Ash, Wade Prestonise, Pat Baize, Dale Fishwick, Scott Brittain, Gary Drury, and Amy Drury.  There are a lot of photos published on The Keepers of the Shiawassee webpage, so I am not copying them here.

Canoeing in Color

This year, Canoeing in Color will be held on Saturday October 5, 2019.  We will be welcoming Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin and her husband Dave Moore to join us on the river.   Come early if you would like to meet Representative Slotkin.  In honor of Representative Slotkin's family heritage of owning Hygrade Food Products, we will be cooking and giving away Hygrade Ball Park Franks at the event.  There will also be vegetarian Morning Star Hot Dogs for those who do not eat meat.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, Representative Slotkin will not be able to join us for the paddle.  Her Husband Dave may still make it and her aide Laura Murphy will be there.

 Registration for the event starts at 11:00 am with boats launching from noon to 2 pm.  People may launch before that time, but our helpers at the railroad tubes will not be in place till noon.  At 2:00, we will launch the sweep boat that will be there to make sure that all participants get off the river safely.  Due to engine problems, this year, there will be no tow boat in the Fenton Mill  Pond. With paddling at a leasurily pace, expect it to take 3 hours to get to Strom Park where our volunteers will help you get out of the water and load your boats.
This event is free to Headwaters Trails members, with the only cost being $5.00 if you want assistance spotting your car and getting a return ride back to Water Works Park.  For non-members, there is a charge of $10.00, that includes assistance in spotting your car.  
This event is a fundraiser for Headwaters Trails Inc. whose members have been opening the river for paddling by cutting a passage through downed trees and removing trash since 1995.  Please become a member at this event if you are not already a member.
The fall color season is a beautiful time to be paddling down the Shiawassee River with leaves beginning to change color and migrating birds passing through.  This is a perfect way to end the summer paddling season.

The event starts at Strom Park in Holly, 690 S. Broad Street.  It ends in Strom Park in Fenton, 229 S. East Street.

Fall Color on the Shiawassee River

It is possible to rent kayaks through EZ Kayak in Linden.  They are open Friday through Sunday of the week.  You must call them and reserve a boat at least one day in advance.  They do not bring extra kayaks to the event for rental.  810-241-1195


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 RiverHeadwaters 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 TrailSorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose Trail
Sorenson Park 5K Trail / Hiker T. Moose TrailSorenson 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 from the river, 

Shiawassee River Heritage Water TrailShiawassee 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 bridgeRebuilt Academy foot bridge

Makeshift bridgeHarding 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 pointWater Works Park, Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail startWater 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 TrailShiawassee River Heritage Water TrailBlanding'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 CountyHorse 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 ColorCanoeing 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: Mary Blanchard 

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.

                                                                                                        ©2003-2020, Headwaters Trails, Inc.

©2003-2019, Headwaters Trails, Inc.