Written by Dan Wire
Co-Founder Friends of the Rivers
What is the number one pollutant to the rivers?
Sediment from farms, construction sites, and roadways. That gives the river its brown coloring.
How dangerous are the rivers? Currents? Pollution?
Most of the time the rivers are very safe. The river currents are very slow or stopped unless there is a flooding situation. There is never a concern about pollution for boating activities.
There are only advisories about full body contact. For the St. Joe River, it is only a problem for a day or two after a rain. The St Mary’s and Maumee exceed full body contact 20-40% of the time. Again the concern is FULL BODY CONTACT. A splash, hand getting a fish off the hook, or a little wading is not a problem.
What can you do on the rivers?
- Boating, all types.
- Fishing, there is a consumption advisory that is posted on the DNR web site. It varies for each river and type of fish. Simply put, you can eat the fish but not a lot.
- Bike and hike along the rivers. Enjoy the rivers running through our parks.
What’s goin’ down with the brown color?
You’re seeing sediment from farms, construction sites, and roadways.
Can I drink river water?
Certainly do not drink it directly from the river. That being said, everyone already drinks treated river water — that is where the City water comes from.
Most municipalities get their water supply from surface waters (rivers, lakes and streams) so everyone should be mindful of what they discard into the waterways.
Where does our drinking water come from? City? County?
Most municipalities get their water supply from surface waters — rivers, lakes and streams. Only very small communities get their water from underground wells.
Why should I care about the rivers?
There is a fixed amount of water in the world. It is all recycled. The better we all take care of the natural waters the more benefit we all receive from them.
What kind of fish are in the rivers?
Just about every lake and river fish you can name have been caught in our rivers. Some types are more numerous than others. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Fish Information page offers plenty of details.
Can I eat the fish?
Simply put, you can eat the fish but not a lot. The Indiana DNR posted fish consumption details in their fishing guide (downloadable PDF file). Recommendations for fish consumption vary for each river and type of fish.
Do the rivers still flood?
Yes! However, the areas of high density development (i.e. neighborhoods and businesses) have been protected by levees. For those that are not, the only way to protect them are to buyout these properties and remove them from the floodplain. It is important to let floodwaters flow over the banks onto unimproved areas and to not fill in these critical areas with more development.
The new floodplain development initiative simply states: “No adverse impact can occur as a result on a proposed development project.” SIMPLE!
Are we safe from flooding?
See “Do the rivers still flood?” above.
Where are the access points for canoes, kayaks, boats?
There need to be more access points, specifically for canoes and kayaks.
Within Ft. Wayne, there are only three access points, as shown on the Fort Wayne boat ramp map (downloadable PDF file):
- Shoaff Park
- Johnny Appleseed Park
- Guildin Park.
Outside the city there are boat ramps on North River Road between Ft. Wayne and New Haven and in Leo/Cedarville.
Is there a map with access locations?
Unfortunately, no, not specifically dedicated to access locations.
Where is the best place to fish on the rivers?
Wherever you are makes a great place! Moving water is always good, so just downstream of a dam is used often.
Many people fish in the parks because of the accessibility. However, anglers all have found what they believe to be the best spot, and I see them all along the rivers.
Is it true that the Maumee Watershed is the #1 contributor to the Great Lakes?
Does fertilizing my yard contribute to the pollution of the rivers?
Absolutely, if you are not cautions about the application. Don’t apply fertilizer over hard surfaces, such as driveways and sidewalks. If you do, the fertlizer will run into the street drains and then into the rivers during rain storms. Over-applying fertilizer will do the same thing.
Are the rivers safe to boat on?
Yes, unless it is during extreme flooding conditions. Winter canoeing and kayaking is especially enjoyable.
Are the rivers safe to swim in?
Generally no. However the upper St. Joe is okay for some full body contact as long as there have not been recent rains.
Where can I travel on the rivers?
Barriers to water travel are the dams or very shallow 3”-6” of water. In the heart of the city you can travel by boat from Johnny Appleseed Park to Foster Park to the South Anthony St. Dam.
On the Maumee below the South Anthony St. Dam, you can travel to Toledo. Once past the shallows of Foster Park, you can travel to Decatur. From the IPFW campus you can travel to Cedarville Dam
Can the rivers be a business?
Yes. All sorts of business opportunities exist, including boating, fishing, wildlife tours, restaurants and bars, equipment sales, housing, and more.
Is there a difference in the water quality of the different waters?
Yes. Most of the time the rivers are very safe. The concern with the rivers is FULL BODY CONTACT. A splash, hand getting a fish off the hook, or a little wading is not a problem.
- For the St. Joe River, water quality is only a problem for a day or two after a rain.
- The St Mary’s and Maumee exceed full body contact 20-40% of the time.
Where are the sewage treatment plants located? Why next to rivers?
Sewage treatment plants are always located next to waterways. This is because once the water is “cleaned” it is returned to the source, the rivers, to be used again. The amount of water is finite so it is necessary to recycle and reuse our waters.
Why is there a color contrast between the rivers at the meeting of the 3 rivers?
It is usually two shades of brown, lighter and darker. The lighter river water has had the most recent rain event within its watershed. This is evident because the light brown color is topsoil runoff. As the current slows down and the sediment begins to drop out the color darkens.
What are the rivers names? Have the changed over history?
Saint Joseph River, Saint Mary’s River and the Maumee River. They changed names as the Europeans settled the region and created their own names.
What did the rivers look like 200 years ago?
Mostly smaller streams because of no dams. And clearer also due to less topsoil run off.
What used to live in the rivers, but doesn’t now?
Some species of fish that require better water quality and many small creatures formerly lived in our rivers. As water quality declines, the smallest of living organisms die off. The health of water is better determined by the smaller creatures living than the larger ones.
Are beavers good?
It depends who you talk to. They are a nuisance for an urban environment. They will “ring” a tree of bark. This is to strip a tree around the bottom of all the bark. This leads to the tree dying the next year. They then fall into the river a few years later and most likely get caught on the bridges or in the gates of dams. This then requires spending public money to remove the problem.
How does urban and/or rural living affect the rivers?
In very similar ways by man-made pollutants and building in critical floodplain space.
Who likes the river?
What plans are there to fix our rivers?
Many groups advocate for the development of the waterways but no “official” plans have been developed. We are getting closer to the community embracing a “development plan for our waterways”.
How can I help?
Go play on the and around the waterways and tell everyone of the fun you had!
Local and Regional Water-focused Groups
- water quality resources
- links to related organizations
- experts, workshops, and education
- Project WET (Water Education for Teachers)
- presentations for schools and civic groups
- links to resources
- services for developers, educators, rural and urban residents
- topographical maps, aerial photographs, flood plain maps, and more
- environment info for the Great Lakes area
- links to resources, clean-up and restoration efforts, pollution, and more
- connect with people in the Great Lakes area interested in water issues
- share ideas, opinions, and commentaries
- acquiring, restoring, and preserving wetlands in Allen and Huntington counties
- educational programs for the community
- volunteer opportunities to get involved
- creating awareness of conditions in Fort Wayne’s three rivers
- conducting restoration projects
- revitalizing the St. Joe/Maumee Watershed
- water quality monitoring
- watershed management and planning
- public education and outreach
- new local group working on a watershed management plan
- educational programs and outreach for the community
- water quality monitoring
Click to open a new window with the video player. In Local Productions, scroll to the “Watershed Mentality” image, then click the image to play.
- award-winning documentary from PBS 39
- looks at the health and status of the Maumee River Basin
- explores how we can protect – and hopefully improve – this vital natural resource
- winner of the Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence
- finalist for a regional Emmy
Federal Government Resources
- watershed health indicators
- drinking water information
- air pollution data
- links to volunteer monitoring efforts
- state-wide streamflow conditions
- links to statistical summaries for Indiana rivers
Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- see the current height of rivers throughout northeastern Indiana
- one-click access to water level and flow details for all major rivers