The River Rouge Watershed has a vast and interesting past.It was formed millions of years ago by glaciers and its first settlers were Woodland Indians.Settlers began to arrive and farm and then there was a move towards industry.The river has provided many things to the different settlers and as time went on the settlers had a bigger impact on the river.

Geologic History

The geologic history of the Rouge River watershed is around 450 million years old. The Rouge River watershed expands 466 square miles. The Rouge River watershed was formed when the glaciers melted millions of years ago. As the ice melted they left behind lakes and major rivers. The watershed is quite flat with the highest point on Woodward Avenue at about 62 feet above the level of the river.Lakebeds, glacial moraines and beds of sand and gravel are common in the watershed.


The first people to settle near the Rouge River were the woodland Indians about 1000 BC. Or as people called them the Red men along the Red River. They lived there many years before any other people arrived in America. The woodland indians were attracted there because of the water. It gave them everything that they needed to survive, food, water and they could use it for fishing and canoeing in the river.By the time of the late woodland Indians several tribes were living peacefully along the Rouge River.They understood that their survivial depended upon what nature provided them and they were great conservationists.They made the first disposable diaper by mixing cattail fluff from the wetland with moss to make an absorbant material that they put in baby's cradles.Many Indian trails becameour major roads like Woodward Avenue. The Woodland Indians thought the whole community was more important than any one person within the community.



There were lots of things that happened in the rouge watershed during the period 1700-1800. One important thing that happened during this time is that the French came and made a fort they called Detroit.The French had a huge impact on our watershed because the fur trade was huge in the 1700s-1800s so the French killed a lot of beavers to get there great fur. The population of beavers went way down and has never come back to its original population and may never go back to its original population. The French used big rivers in our watershed, like the Detroit River, for major highways. The French also used the Rouge River for transport to get further into Michigan. During the end of the 1700's the British came and used the Rouge River for fresh water. Lots of things attracted people to live here like it was easy coming here because of the Detroit River, there was great fishing in the Rouge River and because of the abundant vegetation there was a great fur trade. Lots of very important people lived here like Cadillac, the person who made Detroit, many French Cartographers who mapped the land . British settlers started to arrive and the Ottawa Chieftain Pontiac led an uprising against the British.The French and Indian War treaty was signed in 1763 and the land was signed over to the British.



By 1830 the population of Detroit was about 2200 but increased gradually with the opening of the Eerie Canal in 1825 and the arrival of more European and American settlers looking for farmland.The river was very important to these farmers for watering their crops, drinking , fishing, recreation and to power water mills.Human and animal waste was entering the Rouge River but there were so few residents that there was not much negative impact from it.Industry started to develop in the watershed between 1859 and 1900 and in 1837 a railroad had been built forn detroit to Dearbornville.Many new towns were built and the population grew and so did the amount of waste and industrial pollution that was being put into the river.People at that time did not understand the consequences of what they were putting into the river.Diseases like cholera became common beacuse of the dirty water and the City of Detroit had to start building sewer systems.The civil war was a time when manufacturing began to grow in the watershed.

In 1902 marketing of the first automobile made on an assembly line was established in the Rouge watershed in Detroit and as the industyr grew so did immigation. Hungarians, Europeans, Chaldeans, Palestinians, Ukrainians and other northern cities, all came looking for jobs. The water was threatened by pollution so a second pumping station was built between 1909 and 1914 when the complaints of the first pumping station’s complaints had become too great. When the second pumping station was done being built it became the biggest water plant in the world.
In 1917 Ford started to build eagle boats to hunt down German submarines and the Lower River Rouge was deepened and widened to let bigger boats come and go. This increased the population higher because this gave people jobs. In 1930 more than 100,000 people worked in the Rouge watershed. In the 1950's combined sewers were built because of concerns about the amount of sewage in the river.
In the 1980's the River Rouge was one of the most polluted rivers in the country. More houses were being built so there was more run off and more pollution.This led to many projects in the area to help clean up the river like the Friends of the River Rouge Project.

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