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Henry Ford Estate Dam Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration

The Henry Ford Estate (HFE) dam, part of a National Historic Landmark, is located 8 miles upstream of the Rouge River’s confluence with the Detroit River. In the early 1900’s Henry Ford built a dam and powerhouse to generate his own electric power. Mr. Ford hired Jens Jensen, a renowned landscape architect, to develop garden designs and ultimately a master landscape plan for Fair Lane, which included the dam. This project creates a natural channel around the dam, allowing fish to migrate upstream. The downstream end opens directly into the Rouge River with no control structure or culvert.

The project passes a diversity of fish species over the widest range of flow conditions possible. It will provide suitable aquatic habitat for many of the organisms that live in the river. The construction is simple and ecologically minded - a good fit with the natural riverine floodplain aesthetics.

The ARC developed the plans, specifications and permit to allow for this recommended fishway around the dam with a GLRI NOAA grant and construction began in 2018 under a GLRI EPA grant to Wayne County from 2018 to 2023.

Funding and Parnters

Design was funded through an approximately $256,000 grant to the Alliance of Rouge Communities (ARC) from the U. S. EPA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Implementation was funded by the U. S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office through a portion of an almost $8.7M Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant received by Wayne County for 3 projects (the Fishway at the HFE, Nankin Lake, and the Oxbow at The Henry Ford) Grant #GL-00E02040-0. Partners in this project include Wayne County; Alliance of Rouge Communities; U.S.EPA; NOAA; National Park Service; Rouge River Advisory Council; Michigan Department of Natural Resources; and, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Where and When

The HFE Fishway is located in Dearborn, Michigan between the Main and  ower Branch of the Rouge River. Project design began in 2015 with construction starting in the summer of 2018 and an anticipated completion date of 2023. 

Anticipated Outcomes

Constructing passage around the HFE Dam hydrologically reconnecting approximately 43.5 miles of the Rouge River and 123 additional miles of its tributaries to the Great Lakes system. Providing for ancillary benefits at the project site (e.g., bank stabilization / erosion control, enhanced habitat and recreational use). Restoring riparian corridor along both sides of the channel and along the west bank of the Rouge River. Controling invasive species through implementation of integrated pest management strategies and best management practices. 2 acres of riparian/creek habitat created by 850 linear feet of natural channel fishway construction.

Photo History of Project:

Historic Dam at Henry Ford Estate

Conceptual Design of Fishway

Photo Gallery of Restoration Activities

Construction sign announcing project


Construction of fishway begins

Channel construction

Logs are placed to create habitat and riffles/pools

At the top of this photo the historic Jen Jenson designed dam can be seen with the fishway passage going around it

Planting of vegetation and trees along fishway

Continued plantings along fishway

Establishment of vegetation important to stabalize the fishway

Fishway returns to the Rouge River

Water flowing downstream in the fishway

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Phone | 734-768-2180

46036 Michigan Ave., Suite 126 | Canton, Michigan 48188