Clinton River Invasive Species Threats and Positive Practices

The City of Auburn Hills offers the community access to pristine nature, well-loved city parks, and my personal favorite, the Clinton River. The Clinton River flows roughly 83 miles and is most commonly frequented by individuals using the Clinton River Trail – a 16-mile trail made on an abandoned rail line. Whether you are enjoying time in the water, or on the trail near the water, it is important to reduce your impact on its natural ecosystem.

The natural order in the Clinton River and its surrounding areas is largely at risk of harm from pollution and the introduction of quickly spreading invasive species. An invasive species is an introduced organism that causes economic or environmental harm to the ecosystem or human health. Some species of invasive plants, such as phragmites, swallow-worts and Japanese knotweed, have been marked as high-priority invasives due to their large impact on the local ecosystems (Sands & CISMA, 2021). Outside of the high-priority invasives, there have been over 15 additional invasives identified along the Clinton River Trail – many of which are not common in the area, for example: wild parsnip.

There are many ways for invasive species to arrive in different ecosystems. One way that is controllable by humans is introduction, both intentionally and unintentionally. We are able to lessen our likelihood of transmitting non-native species into our ecosystem by following basic outdoor recreation standards. Leave No Trace guidelines recommend some simple practices to greatly reduce the potential of spreading invasive species (Leave No Trace, 2022):

  • Leave what you find. Removing biotic factors from their natural environments may result in its introduction into non-native ecosystems. Leaving what you find is a simple way of allowing the species to continue to thrive and contribute appropriately to its surrounding ecosystem and will stop the spread of the species if it already exists where it shouldn’t.
  • Travel on durable surfaces. Stay on the trails! If that is not possible for a short duration of your hike or walk, we encourage you to walk on abiotic surfaces, like rock, sand, and gravel. This will lead to smaller chances of carrying seeds, mud, insects, and plants on the bottom of your shoes.
  • Plan ahead and prepare. This is the most important practice to focus on when you’re enjoying time on the river. No matter your method of travel – kayak, canoe, tube, etc. – it is important to plan your trip ahead of time so you can make sure your equipment is taken care of before entering a new waterway. After exiting the water with your equipment, follow three simple steps to reduce your chances of spreading non-native species: Clean, Drain, Dry. Please see the infographic below for more information.

Together, we can help our community and its ecosystems survive and thrive. After all, the health and safety of our environment contributes greatly to the health of our community.

For more information about threats to the Clinton River, please contact the Clinton River Watershed Council at 248.601.0606 for the most up-to-date information.

If you would like to learn more about the invasive species threats that exist in the parks throughout the city and would like to volunteer to help with the maintenance efforts that we’re taking to keep them at bay, please contact the Auburn Hills Parks and Recreation Department at 248.370.9353 for more information.

Cameron Kniffen, Recreation Coordinator for the City of Auburn Hills
Leave No Trace, Nationally Certified Instructor