Saving Syers Creek

Oct 1, 2021

Rear view of travel woman rowing the boat at sunset
catching a brown trout in the river
Happy dog with stick
Beautiful winter in forest on the river at sunset. Winter landscape. Snowy branches on trees, beautiful river with reflection in water, sun and blue sky. Seasonal background. Frosty cold evening
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The recent removal of an earthen berm dam breathed new life into Syers Creek’s struggling ecosystem


The Little Manistee is one of the coldest and most stable rivers in Michigan due to its long stretches of undeveloped forests and groundwater-fed streams. One of those streams, Syers Creek, is a small tributary that provides high-quality spawning and rearing habitat to a self-sustaining brook trout population. Like many of the river’s tributaries, trout are the creek’s dominant species. However, Syers Creek also uniquely provides habitat to a diversity of both warm and cold water species, including mottled sculpin, coho salmon, and tadpole madtom.

Photo: Construction crews remove the Syers Lake Dam, August 2019.
The Syers Lake Dam Removal is a project four years in the making, culminating last August with the structure’s extraction and subsequent installation of a stream sizeappropriate culvert. Those that have been following the project know that its removal couldn’t have come soon enough. Last summer’s unusually high water levels threatened to overwhelm the dam’s water control structure and cause catastrophic damage to the surrounding property and downstream road crossings. In periods of low water, the opposite scenario surfaced – the structure had become so deteriorated that the creek would regularly run dry.

Besides, the dam regularly created an inhospitable environment for its inhabitants by restricting the movement of aquatic species, increasing sedimentation, and elevating water temperatures.

“As with any dam removal, our work isn’t over yet. In the coming season, we will focus on post-restoration efforts, including the planting of native trees and shrubs and surveying fish, insect, reptile, and amphibian populations”

With the barrier removed, Syers Creek again exhibits an environment where fish and other aquatic organisms can thrive. The stream’s natural flow, nutrients, connectivity, and temperatures have been re-established, and fish can move freely through the restored area to preferred, seasonally important habitats. Coldwater species can find refuge in high-quality habitat and are more resilient to increasing water temperatures and the impacts of climate change. Meanwhile, native wetlands that had been impounded by Syers Lake’s unnaturally high water levels have a chance to flourish and protect the creek.
Photo: The freshly installed culvert restores natural wetlands, balances water levels, and improves the natural riparian ecosystem.


Lake County

Brook Trout

White Sucker

Blacknose dace

Mottled sculpin

Tadpole madtom

Pickerel Frog

River Otter

Bald Eagles
Common Loons
Green Herons
Great Blue Herons
Caspian Terns

Photo: Old culvert choaked by weeds and sediment
Photo: Larger culvert properly sized to width of Syers Creek

Projects like this are not possible without the help of our members and partners. We’d like to send a special “thank you” to:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, USDA-NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council, Patagonia, Trout & Salmon Foundation, Michigan Fly Fishing Club, Dale & Lisa Pominville and Syers Lake neighboring landowners, Federation of Fly Fishers – Great Lakes Council, Federation of Fly Fishers – International, the George Fund, and DTE Energy Foundation. Thank you to all of our contributors for making this project possible!