Looking Glass Logjams Cleared, But More to Do

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Saturday, October 4, 2014, 12:10 pm
Bob Bishop

A float in a canoe or kayak just a few miles north of East Lansing on the Looking Glass River conjures up wilderness areas one might associate with being “up north”—except there are usually more buildings on the rivers up there. It is not uncommon on a paddle along the Looking Glass to see no other human for hours at a time. What you often will see are sandhill cranes, kingfishers, cedar waxwings, great blue herons, woodpeckers of multiple species, muskrat, and the occasional raccoon enjoying an afternoon nap in a snag.

It is the appreciation of this extraordinary treasure of a river that each year motivates the people of the organization Friends of the Looking Glass to come together to clear logjams, to keep the river healthier and to make the paddling easier. As reported previously in ELi, last Saturday was our annual Logjam Bee. This year, we had fourteen men, a teen son, and two working women on the river—about half of last year’s turnout, but we managed to remove nine of the twelve logjams in the course we set for the day.

Attached to this article you can see “before” (above) and “after” (below) shots of one of the monster logjams we dealt with between the City of DeWitt’s new launch at Riverside Park (at Bridge Street) and DeWitt Township’s Looking Glass Riverfront Park on Herbison Road, just east of Airport Road. My son Brian Bishop is in the “before” shot to show scale. The jam looks more like an earthen dam than a logjam, with most of the willow trees in it still growing.

This jam, located at the west end of Fuerstenau Early Childhood Center’s sports field in DeWitt, was bank to bank. It was formed by three crisscrossed fallen willow trees, a maple tree, and two ash trees, plus three-to-four tons of packed limbs and debris skimmed from the river for over two years. When we used GPS to track the dozen logjams between the two launches, this was the first one downstream of the city launch. It was designated “A-1”: “A” to signify it was the first one on the river course, and “1” to indicate that it was a Class-1, bank-to-bank jam that would take some sharp chainsaws, patience, and hard work to remove.

As it turns out, it took our four-person crew from 9 am until 12:45 pm to clear it, limb by limb and chunk by chuck. All jam materials were carried into the wetland, well past the bank, to avoid their reentering the stream during a subsequent flood event. We couldn’t count the number of three-inch crayfish we came upon in the rocky and cobble riverbed; no wonder the smallmouth bass are so fat in the Looking Glass River.

The City of DeWitt and DeWitt Township were very helpful converting our GPS readings into maps, which I handed out to each team captain. Written instructions included driving directions to each team’s jam, as well as contact information for owners through whose property we would gain convenient access to the logjams.

Midday, Friends of the Looking Glass board members and their spouses served up a hearty lunch of barbecue sloppy Joes, potato salad, fruit, veggies, and drinks. The weather was perfect for work, with temperatures in the mid 70’s. A few loggers even took a cooling work break by sitting in the river.

Later in the afternoon, my wife Kathy and I kayaked the course to survey the results and to chat with a few river folks. The float took us an hour, making it a perfect little jaunt for anyone who doesn’t have the whole day to kill. We saw turkeys, blue herons, wood ducks, kingfishers, white-tail deer, many smallmouth bass, and the beginnings of a great autumn color tour.

Bob Bishop is the LogJam Bee Organizer for Friends of the Looking Glass. He encourages those interested in joining Friends of the Looking glass to check out the group’s website (www.lookingglassriverfriends.org ) and to contact him at by email by turning this into an email address: rjb60 at comcast dot net. Bob's article is a great example of what we mean when we say ELi is a local news cooperative. Find out how you can be a citizen reporter by clicking here!

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