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Kalamazoo River Wildlife


Before the first dams were installed on the river in the late 1830s, the rivers waters and banks were thriving with abundant fish and wildlife species. Written accounts tell of Native Americans spearing and roasting huge lake sturgeon that would come up as far as Kalamazoo. More common were testimonies on how easy it was to pull out both large and small mouth bass with regular ease. Great blue herons, American bald eagles, turtles, minks, bear, moose, wolves, beaver, and trout were all abundant until the arrival of the settlers. From then on industry and municipalities were dumping their wastes directly into the river un-treated until 1955. This combined with a battery of fish kills documented all along the river's course from arsenic and cyanide dumping led to the river's inability to maintain crucial oxygen molecules. Sections literally died off, taking all neighboring wildlife with it. Due to the eventual stopping of raw waste, and restrictions placed on the offending industries in the late 1960s, the river has since returned back to its original state on the surface, with many species thriving today. In fact parts of the river are designated "wild scenic river" under the Natural Rivers Protection Program, due to abundant wildlife species. Though still not enough oxygen exists in the main stream to support sensitive fish species like river trout, the more recent discovery in the river's ecosystem of millions of yards of paper-waste containing 200,000 pounds of PCBs, many species of birds and mammals suffer reproductive troubles or cannot exist at all. The following images represent species found on the river today.