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Michigan's Natural Rivers program is a river protection effort that protects the natural quality of select river systems throughout the state by regulating their use and development through zoning rules. The Natural Rivers Program was developed to preserve, protect and enhance our state's finest river systems for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations by allowing property owners their right to reasonable development while protecting Michigan's unique river resources.
There are 16 designated Natural River systems in Michigan. The designation includes the mainstream, as well as most of the tributaries. Nearly all construction, land change/earth moving, and placement of structures is regulated within 400-feet of any designated stream segment. Please consult with Natural Rivers Program staff for specific regulatory determinations.
For more information, please email DNR-NaturalRivers@michigan.gov or reach out directly to the appropriate permitting staff.
Michigan's Designated Natural Rivers
Au Sable River
The Au Sable is a major tributary to Lake Huron. It drains a north-south basin that includes 1,932 square miles in north-central lower Michigan. The basin is approximately 90 miles long and 10 to 30 miles wide. The river basin is partially within the Huron National Forest and includes parts of Otsego, Montmorency, Crawford, Osco, Alcona, Roscommon, Ogemaw, and Iosco counties. Zoning standards for the Au Sable River system are found on pages 1-21 and 46-50.
Lower Kalamazoo River
Pere Marquette River
Two Hearted River
The Two Hearted River is located in northern Luce County in the eastern third of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The 35-mile long mainstream flows from the northwest portion of the county in a northeasterly direction to Lake Superior. It has five major tributaries: the East, South, West and North branches, and Dawson Creek. The mainstream itself starts at the confluence of the South Branch and West Branch. Zoning standards for the Two Hearted River system are found on pages 1-21 and 57-59.