The Boardman River is a 28.2-mile-long (45.4 km) river that flows into the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. The Boardman's upper tributaries rise near Kalkaska, Michigan, and its watershed drains an area of 295 square miles (760 km2) through 130 miles (210 km) of river and tributaries. The Boardman River is considered one of the top ten trout streams in Michigan. Before entering the Grand Traverse Bay, it becomes Boardman Lake, a natural lake that was originally 259 acres (1.05 km2) in size and increased to 339 acres (1.37 km2) after the Union Street Dam was constructed in 1867.
After flowing through Boardman Lake, the river descends through downtown Traverse City, following a hairpin-shaped course to Grand Traverse Bay. This Traverse City section of the Boardman River is accessible by motorboat from the lakeshore up to a weir upstream from the lakeshore. A short distance upstream from the weir is the Union Street Dam, a small decommissioned mill dam located between Cass and Union Streets.
The other three dams on the river are being removed: Sabin, Boardman and Brown Bridge. On October 6, 2012, a temporary structure put in place to facilitate drawdown at Brown Bridge Dam was breached, flooding the river valley. In June 2014 the Michigan DEQ issued a report identifying erosion around the temporary drawdown structure as the likely cause of the failure.
Brown Bridge Dam removal was completed in January 2013 and resulted in the reestablishment of 2.5 miles of river channel. Revegetation and restoration work in the project area is ongoing. In preparation for the removal of the Boardman and Sabin Dams, both spillways have been opened and the impoundments have been drawn down as low as permitted by the permanent structures in place today. Deconstruction and removal are pending.
In March 2016, Grand Traverse County Road Commission Officials announced the closure of the One-Lane Cass Road Bridge near Keystone Road in Southern Garfield Township. This would lead to the demolition and reconstruction of a new modern-style bridge arch-bridge over the channel between Keystone and Sabin ponds. On March 28, the bridge closed for good, creating a detour along South Airport, U.S. 31, and Beitner Roads to Keystone Road.
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