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Book Notes 1899 Information on the River and Wells

Posted by ppna on March 4, 2008

I found this information interesting and I think the other Ypsilanti Historians would as well.  I was surprised to learn that the average depth of the river was only 1.5ft,  I had it in my head that the river would have been deeper in the early days.


Water Resources of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan

By Alfred C. Lane

Washington Government Printing office 1899

 Condition 1 – The head is artificially obtained and the water is raised by pumping. In such cases the water acts merely as a distributor of power.  In this way water is used in many of the cities and towns, running motors for light machinery, especially for elevators.  The chief advantages are that it is ready at hand, quiet, noiseless, odorless, not dangerous, and convenient in every way.  There is, however, considerable loss of head in narrow and crooked pipes.

 Huron rivers main source of power is from Dexter to Ypsilanti

 Pg 38 (437) water power of Huron River.

The country is flat or rolling, with a glacial drift of clay, sand, and gravel, well adapted to raising of wheat, which is the staple and which gives work to many flouring mills.  The river was declared navigable by Congress.  Once a flatboat for freighting ran from Ypsilanti 30 miles to the mouth, but its use was discontinued on the advent of railroads.  There was too little water for navigation, and the dams interfered.

 The bulk of manufacturing is between Dexter and Ypsilanti, on the line of the MCRR.

 At Ypsilanti the average breadth is 100 feet, the average depth is 1.5 feet, and the maximum depth about 5 feet.  The ordinary low-water flow, calculated from the estimated horsepower, is 220 cubic feet per second, or .23 cubic foot per second per square mile of drainage are.  The available power under 10 feet head at ordinary low water is from 225 to 250 horsepower.  There is no difficulty from floating ice.  A mill using the full average power of the stream can run at full capacity ten months of the year, and during August and September at half capacity.  The river has no large tributaries below the lakes, and hence the power for a given fall is nearly the same in the upper and in the lower part

 Developed power

Most of the mills are between Dexter and Ypsilanti, a distance of 17 miles.  Above Dexter and below Portage Lake are the Hudson and the Dover Mills.  Below Ypsilanti are mills at Rawsonville, Belleville, etc.

            Three forms of dams are in use: 1 – The pile dam, a common form.  A typical specimen is one belonging to the Ypsilanti Paper Company.  Piles were driven 6 feet between centers, both across and down the stream, covering a strip 50 feet wide across the channel.  The ends were then cut, so that taken together their surface formed two planes, meeting at the center line of the dam, like a roof.  The space between the piles was filled in with stone and the top planked over.  A plank apron was built on the lower side.

2: The crib-work dam – ordinary timber cribs, filled with stone and planked over.

3 – the fram dam, used at the Dover mills.  A triangular fram was built and planked over and stone thrown under; a plank apron was built on the lower side, and gravel thrown in on the upper side.  So far as ascertained there have been no instances of the breaking away of dams.


Ypsilanti is the chief manufacturing center on the river.  There are three paper mills, two flouring mills, a woolen mill, and a small custom sawmill, also a low dam in connection with the city waterworks.  The banks are from 9 to 12 feet high and ponds do not spread.  There are three dams, about one-half to three-fourths of a mile apart, and no fall is wasted.  The bed is hard clay.  The MCRR runs up the valley from this point, and freight facilities are good.

            The lower pond has 7 feet available fall and 175 available horsepower.  There is a pile dam 190 feet long.  The average breadth of the pond is about 150 feet and the length half a mile.  The power is utilized by the Ypsilanti paper company’s mill.  The middle pond has ? feet available head and 125 available horsepower.  The only mill at the power is the Huron flouring mill, which uses on the average 75 horsepower.  There is a pile dam 5 to 6 feet high and 100 feet long.   The pond is from 150 to 200 feet broad and half a mile long.  The upper pond is owned by the City flouring mill and the woolen mill and feeds them and also a small sawmill fed from the race of the flouring mill.  The fall at the dam is 8 feet and the available power is 225 horsepower.  The dam is from 120 to 130 feet long, the area of the pond 35 acres, and the depth 5 or 6 feet; the dam does not spread much.  The woolen mill uses 42 horsepower.  The flouring mill situated on a race, has 1 foot additional fall, making a total fall 9 feet; it uses 100 horsepower.  The sawmill, when running, uses about 10 horsepower.

            The mills of the Peninsula Paper Company are situated at a pond a short distance above Ypsilanti, and have 300 available horsepower. 

            The largest power on the river is at Lowell, and it is used by the Ypsilanti Paper Company.  The available head is 16 feet and 400 horsepower is available.   The pile dam has been described; its length is 166 feet.  The area of the pond is 30 or 35 acres.

            At Ann Arbor 7 or 8 miles above Ypsilanti, there is a level with a head of 10 feet and 250 available horsepower.  The dam is a pile dam 200 feet long, which is utilized by the Ypsilanti Paper Company’s Mill. 

 There are a few undeveloped powers.  Three miles below Ypsilanti of 300 horsepower, which has not been used, because the pond spread over valuable farming lands and because the location is …at the railroad.  

 Economic Value of Mineral Waters – Medicinal Properties (pg531)

The various inorganic impurities which unfit water for domestic and ordinary uses may be of value from a medicinal point of view.  The moorman well at Ypsilanti is concentrated to throw down the lime salts and then diluted and charged with CO2.  Other table waters also seem to be diluted salines.  The main horizon for bathing purposes developed at Ypsilanti, Mount Clemens, Alma, Benton Harbor, etc., is that of limestones immediately underlying the Devonian black shales.  From these waters the salts can be extracted for medicinal purposes, as at Ypsilanti, Alma, and Big Rapids, or for their general value. 58.1 degrees

 Ypsilanti Mineral Well

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