Lake Okonoka restoration efforts under way at Belle Isle; temporary closures to take place

Contact: Amanda Hertl (DNR), 313-396-6872 or Sam Lovall (Friends of the Detroit River), 248-797-566
Agency: Natural Resources

Oct. 26, 2017

Lake Okonoka restoration effort project map

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that the Friends of the Detroit River is leading the Lake Okonoka habitat restoration project that is currently under way. Construction began last week and final work is slated for completion by fall 2018.

Lake Okonoka is a 24-acre, man-made lake that is located in the Detroit River at the mouth of Lake St. Clair. It is a popular destination for fishing and paddling.

The Lake Okonoka restoration project incorporates habitat and site improvements, which are vital to improving both fish habitat and recreational access to the lake. Construction includes replacement of an existing culvert located between the lake and lagoon, now blocked by a weir structure, with a 45-foot-wide, free-flowing channel. A new bridge will span well above the channel, allowing paddlers easy passage between the two water bodies. At the lake’s opposite end, a new culvert connection to the river will be constructed. These actions will bring Lake Okonoka online with the Detroit River, create important Great Lakes fish spawning and nursery habitat, improve water quality and increase oxygen water levels in the lake. In addition, a kayak launch and trail crossing will be incorporated into a new stop-log structure at the mouth of Nashua Canal near Woodside Drive.

Additional improvements to Lake Okonoka itself include dredging to make it deeper and adding gravel spawning beds and deep holes to give fish safe passage when water levels are low. Completion of all work is anticipated by fall 2018. Anticipated temporary closures during construction include:

  • Temporary closure to the Nashua Trail canal crossing near Woodside Drive begins this week.
  • Bridge and culvert construction will require traffic to be redirected from The Strand onto Woodside Drive beginning this winter and lasting until spring 2018.
  • Upon completion of construction on The Strand, construction work will begin on Woodside Drive. 

The project is a result of a collaboration between the Friends of the Detroit River, SmithGroupJJR, WadeTrim, Z Contractors, Inc., the Detroit River Area of Concern Public Advisory Council, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the DNR. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding totaling $4,975,520 is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a $70,000 match from the DNR.

Belle Isle Park, a 982-acre island park located in the Detroit River near downtown Detroit, is rich with natural beauty and historical and cultural resources. The park is home to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, multiple water features, walking trails, bicycle paths, a golf course, the James Scott Memorial Fountain and many more cultural and natural attractions popular with all ages and interests.

For more information on the restoration project, contact Sam Lovall, project manager for Friends of the Detroit River, at 248-797-5667 or sam.lovall@gmail.com or Amanda Hertl, DNR urban area field planner, at 313-396-6872 or hertla@michigan.gov.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

An accompanying map is available below for download.