Friends of the Detroit River


Blue Heron Lagoon Habitat Restoration

“Just the aesthetics of it look great. And what it does for habitat, for the fish to thrive in this area, the opportunities for fishermen... I think it's money well-spent.”

—Keith Flournoy, Belle Isle Park Manager


Fish are making a comeback in the Detroit River, thanks in part to a series of restoration projects that have reestablished critical spawning and nursery habitat. Over the past two decades, SmithGroupJJR has collaborated with the Friends of the Detroit River, the Detroit Recreation Department, the EPA, and other Federal agencies to create aquatic and terrestrial habitat at historic Belle Isle Park. The latest work features improvements to Blue Heron Lagoon, a lake/wetland complex that had been isolated from the river by sheet pile walls, grates, and an earthen berm.

SmithGroupJJR’s design reconnected the mouth of the lagoon to the river, establishing a nursery for game fish spawning and creating a peninsula for state-listed reptiles and amphibians. An adjacent high-quality rock reef that SmithGroupJJR previously designed upstream was expanded to increase overall spawning habitat and connectivity. Recreational enhancements include a concrete and steel bridge spanning one of the two new inlets.

The Detroit River work represents a highly successful benchmark for the Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), with two more related projects awarded grants in the program’s latest funding cycle.


Related Content

Belle Isle project improves fish habitat
Detroit Free Press article with video and photographs highlighting Blue Heron Lagoon restoration

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Website
Learn more about the GLRI funding program and projects