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The beaver got it all started in Detroit.  It was a lucrative trade that brought the French, British and several First Nation tribes to the area.  But the beaver was trapped out of existence in Detroit and environs, and it seemed -- for good.

However, several beaver have returned with a vengeance to the nearby Canadian Provincial Park of Peche Island, Detroit's Conner Creek power station canal and even to the Rouge River on Detroit's industrial west side.

White tail deer have been seen on Detroit's Belle Isle a short distance from Downtown and it's hardly unexpected that Peche Island beavers will find their way there as well.  

Fewer People, More Land...

Motown has lost so many people, the city has largely reverted to prairie in many areas attracting a lot of wildlife.  This is no little statistic. Detroit has a total of 143 square miles including its surrounding water.  

Add the two internal cities with which it shares services (Hamtramck and Highland Park) and the area becomes 151 square miles -- about half the size of New York.  

All of Paris could fit comfortably within the city's abandoned expanses with room to spare.


This is a view of the river and RiverWalk from the east end of Milliken State Park's nature area toward Windsor and Downtown Detroit.  The great distances on the RiverWalk provide challenging exercise for joggers, power walkers, bikers and inline skaters.


Now ranked the best fireworks in the nation, the Detroit International Freedom Festival fireworks are launched from three barges in the Detroit River near Hart Plaza.  They are the only fireworks commemorating the independence of two nations.


A symbol of Detroit's defiance and resilience.

  Joe Louis defeated Max Schmeling, symbol of Nazi superiority, on the eve of WWII.  It's a popular backdrop for wedding photos.  (North of Hart Plaza/RiverWalk, Jefferson.)


North of Hart Plaza/RiverWalk, Woodward and Jefferson.


North of Hart Plaza/RiverWalk, west of Woodward on Congress.


A true "Cathedral of Finance," this building features Aztec, Mayan and Woodland Indian design themes that are spectacular.  Designed by Wirt Rowland in the art deco style, it also was the "Arsenal of Democracy" headquarters in WWII.  (Near RiverWalk at Woodward or Griswold and Larned.)


Muskrats have colonized several ponds in the Milliken State Park area.


Located at the east end of Hart Plaza, this church is part of the tune, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," by Gordon Lightfoot memorializing the tragic loss of the ship by that name in Lake Superior in 1975.

RiverWalk Map, through Renaissance Center

RiverWalk Map through Chene Park




The above building is one of the most visible that identifies the southern boundary of Eastern Market nearest to the Dequindre Cut exit.  It will remain so until the Cut is expanded in the coming year.  

Eastern market is open all day long on Saturday and is now considered by many to be the largest farmers' market in the nation.  It has 4 large sheds, more than 250 vendor stands, several small sheds and numerous other attractions within 12 blocks.  It continues to expand and undergo renovation.

Restrooms, Drinking Fountains & Picnic Areas.  You can find  restrooms and fountains on the west side of this facility and plenty of places to picnic with a view of the river.

A broad sidewalk (shown on photo, right) parallels Atwater Street.  Continue following that east, if on foot or climb the adjacent Harbor Hill and take a break.  

The new asphalt bike trail winds around the Harbor Hill with a gentle grade.  You can traverse this route or follow the concrete walkway a short distance north to the Atwater Street sidewalk.  You will reach the same point from either side.

The Cut trades rail tracks for a strip of asphalt, bike lanes and strollers.   (This intersection joins with E. Lafayette Street.)

Dequindre Cut Entrance and Exit Ramp

Lily Landscape (exit to Lafayette Street)

(One day a travelling puppet show appeared in the Cut.)

The Cut's concrete viaducts are scribbled with graffiti and work by artists who paint over every available patch for bragging rights.  Rain washes the Urban Glyphs away and a new contest starts.  Art geeks win this trump.  Who's next?

Travelling Puppet Show

Biking the Bend

Plural Urban Mural

Pedestrian Avenue

Glyph Grotto

Highway to the Skyway

Avian Atavism

Mixed Palette

Primary access  This particular spur runs  at a right angle from the Walk northward (starting next to the Globe Trading building/Outdoor Adventure Center).  If you're  feeling like an extra stroll, you'll be rewarded with some interesting artwork along the way, including more DIA weatherized art pieces and Urban Glyphs.

If you're here on Saturday, Eastern Market offers a great destination at the other end of the Cut -- as long as your arrive by 3:00 p.m. to catch the best deals.  Bring along a sack or two and pack some of the market's fine bread, cheese, produce or cider for your return trip.

Over the Top of the Cut

SNAPSHOT The Dequindre Cut links the RiverWalk to Eastern Market with a 1.25 mile pathway, and is part of the expanding Detroit Greenway project, eventually connecting 100 miles of trails.

The Cut is a former railroad line that runs below grade with roads passing over and ramps leading out.

Franklin Street Intersection of Dequindre Cut, View North

Dequindre Cut Intersection a Block North of the Atwater/RiverWalk Junction

Dequindre Cut 

Dequindre Cut Greenway Connecting to RiverWalk, Eastern Market and Midtown

Atwater Street to Dequindre Cut Entrance (across from Milliken State Park)

Some walkways are covered by steel plates forming Walleye and Bass reliefs.  Historic markers honor Detroit's early residents and Civil War deeds.

The renovated Dequindre Cut Greenway runs north at the nearby street intersection.  

(You may turn north here along the Dequindre Cut or continue east on the Walk.  Go to Returning to RiverWalk, if you plan to skip the Cut section.)

Harbor Motifs

Boats await another day of exploration on the river and Lake St. Clair.

Docked Pleasure Craft

Light breezes breathe fresh air through a harbor under silver skies.

Evening at the Harbor, View West

Heading Home to the Harbor

A lone mariner returns to the lighthouse for the evening

Glistening waters reflect a brilliant, cloud-filled sky over the north shore and river.

River View, East

The Lighthouse is a a smaller version of the Tawas City Lighthouse on Lake Huron.  At 63 feet it's exactly 9/10 of the original.  As you tramp your way to the river, a nautical theme of mast-mounted flags and ship's anchor is featured at the riverside grounds, once known as St. Aubin Park and Marina.

Harbor Lighthouse, Evening

Adjacent to the park canal is a covered picnic area and restrooms.

The Boat Marina is surrounded by a landscaped peninsula, with weeping willows, guarded by a white lighthouse with a circular fishing rail at the marina entrance.

View from Lighthouse

Harbor Peninsula, Early Spring (Freighter, left)

Harbor Marina, Early Spring

Park Office and Facilities

Picnic Shelter

Milliken State park Harbor, Picnic Area, Facilities and Lighthouse

Atwater Street Portion of RiverWalk adjoinging Milliken State Park Harbor Area

A small diorama of welded ship steel, the size of a bathtub tells the story.  Note the Globe Trading Building, foreground. (This relic was found buried beneath dirt and debris.)

Globe Trading Company, Commemorative in front of Dry Dock Portrayed

Shoreline Views of the Lighthouse

This portion of the Walk follows the street east, past the hill, dredged from the riverbed.

Local History  Milliken State Park is part reliquary of the Globe Trading Company dry dock canal, and a kind of spa for lake freighters that docked Downtown.  The canal's water was sealed off and water was pumped away so ships could be re-fitted and re-stocked for the next voyage.

Dry Dock Canal and Harbor Lighthouse (east end of Milliken State Park)

RiverWalk Map and Tour Directions, if heading East

For a good view, climb the nearby hill.  The scene from this perch looks upon the dry dock canal, park facilities and harbor to Chene Park beyond, delivering a river panorama with conviction.

Atop Harbor Hill, facing east -- across from the Outdoor Adventure Center

East and West Elevations of new Outdoor Adventure Center and DNR 

(Department of Natural Resources) September, 2014

Outdoor Adventure Center, Southwest Corner under Construction, November 2013

Globe Trading Building undergoing Deconstruction, September 2013

Abandoned Globe Trading company Building/Planned Interpretive Center Site (2012)

The ramshackle Globe Trading Company building at this intersection was shuttered for renovation.  Big gaping holes revealed an interior that looked like the rust heap where Peter Weller got cornered in the Detroit based movie, Robocop. (Incidentally, a $60,000 Robocop statue may soon be erected three miles west at the abandoned Train Station.  Detroit has its priorities.)

But a more ambitious building project started.  The old brick warehouse and grounds transformed into classrooms, a forest interpretive area, zip lines, rock climbing walls, simulated kayak runs and an archery center in 2014.   (An apartment retail complex with potential for 500 units will adjoin the site.)

Re-paved Atwater Street, New Street Lamps and Bike Lanes

Harbor Hill and Grounds with nearly complete Bike Trail Landscaping, March 2014

Harbor Hill and Grounds undergoing Bike Trail Landscaping, September 2013

He could be an ambassador offering a message.  Is it a warning or a promise?  OR is he some guy from a crime scene fleshed out in brushed steel, shot with holes by rival rum runners?  After all, this was Purple Gang turf.  The world of artist, John Sauve landed on this place at the river where stands a large monument called "Seinsfrage" (...the question is...).  It's transforming this intersection of the urban and the natural into a third realm.

Purple Gang Member?

Along the sidewalk at the eastern edge of the nature area, stands a tall steel figure with fedora who beckons you.

RiverWalk/Milliken State Park North Section leading to Atwater Street

(Lafayette Park Towers in Distance)

Kiosk interpretive areas profile old sailing ships, freighters and river fish.  Other kiosks provide wetland information. The low-built railing is designed to eliminate a casting barrier for fisherman.

Fish Interpretive

Lake Vessel Interpretive

Interpretive Kiosk and Binoculars

Stop for a moment and take a gander at a lifelike statue honoring Peter Stroh, longime Detroit philantropist at the riverside location.  

Local History  Stroh's Beer Company was established in Germany in 1775, and then in Detroit in 1850, where it was a popular Detroit-made brew.  It was sold to Pabst a decade ago.  

Mr. Stroh's likeness protrudes waste-high from a solid block of granite.  A low-profile fisherman's rail with interpretive areas, offers you and fishermen a survey of the river.  One provides binoculars.

Peter Stroh Statue Close-up

Peter Stroh, Beer Baron and Nature Lover Tribute

If you listen closely you may hear a Red Winged Black Bird's tremolo or the bull frog's "HARR-UMMM."  

Milliken State Park and Harbor contains a fifth-mile long Nature Walk with manmade ponds, streams and wetlands designed to restore the shoreline not seen for a couple hundred years.

The ponds are fed from the river by an underground sluice with a cyclone filter that activates as the pond levels drop, replenishing the water supply cleanly and naturally.

Three paved areas meander through meadows planted with native plants to attract wildlife. Ducks, geese, pheasants and muskrats colonize the area in summer, and once a coyote was seen loping through the nearby fields (until it was trucked away to give birth in the wild).  In April the terns appear by the shore, and hungry cormorants and gulls dive for fish in the river just beyond.

Male Red Winged Black Bird & Cormorant

Nature Trail Bridges, Spring 2013

Bull frogs and turtles are appearing in the ponds for the first time.

Red Ear Turtle, Painted Turtle, Spotted Sandpiper & Crayfish

Wetland Stream Bull Frog and Pond Cattails

Numerous visual aids guide you through the areas's attractions and wildlife.

Urban Wetland, Spring 2012

Wetland Interpretive Area

Wetland Streams and Ponds under Construction, Summer 2009

The Plaza merges with the new MIlliken State Park and Harbor, now one of two urban State Parks in Detroit.

William G. Milliken State Park & Harbor Nature Walk

RiverWalk Map through Milliken State Park, Harbor

Tours √Rec The Diamond Belle and Diamond Queen pick up passengers for unreserved riverboat tours here.

Passengers Disembarking Diamond Belle

Diamond Belle arriving at Rivard Plaza

Passengers wait for Diamond Belle Tour Boat

Two landscaped berms are expertly planted in the summer and fall with eye catching flowers by pools that gush over ledges on long spillways (Boll Family Fountains).  A colorful carousel of fantasy fish, birds and mermaids revolves to old-time carnival music.

Rivard Plaza Spillway and Carousel

Flowers and Reflections at the Plaza

Another 30-foot map of metropolitan Detroit and Windsor is engraved in granite paving.

Engraved Paving

A glass relief map provides a window on Great Lakes geography.  (Note the outline of Michigan, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.)

Rivard Plaza Glass Relief Map

Tours and Information Wheel House Detroit is located at the north side of the plaza building.  It offers bike rentals, repair services, tours, RiverWalk maps and information.

Wheel House Detroit

Rivard Plaza Playscape

The counters offer beverages, Coney dogs and ice cream, at the south end of the plaza.  A new kids' playscape was built on the opposite side.

Rivard Plaza Refreshment Area and Seating

Winter Afternoon and Evening at Rivard Plaza

Food, Beverage and Recreation Options  Rivard Plaza provides recreation and refreshment.  This is a popular, pavilion seating area providing restrooms and visitor information.  Stop at the Wheel House Detroit bike rental, Cafe Classics, Sweets & Treats and Expresso Express counters.  Or just take a load off.  Rent a bike and finish the tour on wheels, if you like.

Beautiful Rivard Plaza on a Bright Summer Day

Giant Sports Bauble-head of Josh Smith (Detroit Pistons basketball player)

Giant Sports Bauble-head of Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons basketball player)

DIA Weatherized Art Piece (ersatz/copy)

Rivard Plaza Approach

RiverWalk Map through Rivard Plaza

View West near Rivard Plaza

Beach Volleyball on the Walk

RiverWalk Park Map

New Lounge Chairs face the River

The adjacent area parking lots host the annual River Days, International Freedom Festival Midway carnival and

entertainment venues.

As the Walk rambles east, it broadens to include a landscaped lawn with more groves of river birch trees and shoreline benches, turning 40 feet to the river at Rivard Plaza.

Before & After Sand Sculpture, River Days, International Freedom Festival, June 2012

Portion of Midway being erected in RiverWalk Parking Lots, River Days, June 2012

Stroll for another quarter mile on 18 feet of pavement landscaped with River Birches, mini-parks and benches. These are decorated by hedgerows of ornamental grasses, festooned with large, flower-filled vases set among ground cover and pea gravel.

Pocket Park Hedgerows and Artwork

Sculptures and weatherized copies of Detroit Institute of Arts museum pieces line the park by-ways along the Walk.


(Book Lending Nook)

These appear to be large birdhouses.  But if you look closer you'll discover there are books stored inside the front door for the convenience of a stroller who might like to sit and read.  


"Sphere" & "Spiral Roll" Sculptures (for the literal...a football thrown in a spiral or is it a 

corkscrew with cork?)

Pocket Park Sculptures

Continue your walk toward Rivard Plaza and a comfortable rest area.

Heading East on RiverWalk to Rivard Plaza

West Warehouse District Restaurant Map (area north of Rivard Plaza and RiverWalk)

Restaurant/Bar Options A short detour north will take you to one of the three venues between Schweizer's and Riopelle: Waterfall's Ultralounge and Grille (673 Franklin), Steve's Soul Food Restaurant (1440 Franklin) for authentic Detroit food or Vondie's On the River Bar and Restaurant (260 Schweizer's Place).

Venues near the RiverWalk and Ren Cen:  Waterfall's (lt.), Steve's (ctr.) and Vondie's (rt.)

Infinity Luxury Yacht

and a landscaped lighting area with piped-in classical music.   (Atwater Street passes between it and the Wintergarden atrium.

Landscaped Lighting Area, Fall

Fountain Fun

Fountain Fantasy

This location includes a 200 ft. fountain array that erupts with shifting sprays of water, delighting kids -- who can't resist splashing through it --

RiverWalk Fountain Array -- Renaissance Center


Cadillac was as much a paradox as the city he founded.

  • He was as much Huguenot Protestant as Jesuit Catholic

  • He was as much gentleman as gentleman pirate 

  • He was as much Native American admirer as Native American manipulator

  • He was as much fortune seeker as administrator

  • He was as comfortable in the French Court as in the wild 

  • He was as much a builder as negligent landlord

  • He was perhaps as much speculator as thief

  • He was as much soldier as entrepreneur

  • He was as much a prisoner of state as honored French citizen

  • While from a modest background, Cadillac had a family crest, which became the logo for GM's luxury brand​

Many wedding receptions are held near the RiverWalk.   Here a carriage awaits -- big diapered horse included.

Wedding Carriage at Wintergarden Entrance, Ren Cen

Wintergarden & GM Promenade on an Icy-Blue Winter Evening

The Walk then merges with the giant Renaissance Center and GM Promenade a wide stretch of brick pavers and granite terraces elevating walkers to Atwater Street at the Ren Cen Wintergarden.

Restaurant Options  Visit Andiamo's restaurant on the 1st floor and Joe Muer's Seafood restaurant on the 2nd floor. They face the river.  The 42 Degrees North restaurant and buffet provides a good meal and a grand river view just as dramatic from the east side of the Wintergarden, 2nd floor level.

GM Promenade/PLaza

The Port Detroit complex handles Passenger embarkation for cruise ships and river boats.

The facility is at the forefront to make Detroit the Great Lakes Cruise Ship Capital according to the Federal Department of Transportation.   Ships dock at the new wharf attached to this part of the Walk.

Two cruise ships made several visits in 2012.  More followed beginning with the Hamburg in 2014 a 400 cabin cruise ship that visited Windsor. The St. Laurent will visit Detroit in 2015.

(Artists may offer to sketch your portrait here.)

The Appledore IV Schooner and Ovation Luxury River Yacht, Docked at Port Detroit

The 400 Berth Hamburg visits Windsor Docking Facility on Canadian Side of River, 2014

Grande Mariner and Yorktown Great Lakes Cruise Ships, Docked at Port Detroit on RiverWalk

1763 British Cannon Retrieved from River in front of Cobo Convention Center, 2011

The 2-story building and wharf have been added to the RiverWalk.  Several vessels dock here in the summer.

Local History This cannon barrel was pulled from the bottom of the river in front of Cobo Convention Center in 2011. It was brought to the area by the British to put down the Pontiac rebellion not long after French capitulation. Another cannon found a bit west was recently displayed at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum at nearby Belle Isle Park. The British were in a hurry to scuttle their cannon when Americans claimed the city in 1796.

Detroit was alternately occupied by the French, the British, the Americans, and then the British again before reverting to American administration in 1815.  For a time in 1763 it was nearly overrun by Chief Pontiac's 900 warriors who occupied the surrounding territory and brought the city to siege exacting cruel revenge on captives.  (Refer to Detroit Weird and Wonderful, Mystery History section for details on great Native American leaders of the region.)

Construction on the new Port Detroit, Great Lakes Cruise Ship Terminal and Wharf was completed in 2011.

Port Detroit Dock Administration Facilities

One of Upper Stage Areas during Annual Techno ("Movement") Festival

Hart Plaza will be renovated into a GREEN park area.  Granite pavers will be replaced with grass.

View toward Windsor from Hart Plaza

Art Gallery on Lower Level

Amphitheatre Stage at start of Detroit International Jazz Festival

Statues of Underground Railroad travelers are perched on a RiverWalk overlook.  Detroit was a major stop for escaped slaves heading to Canada until the Emancipation Proclamation  in 1863.  Former slave, Thornton Blackburn established the first major escape route to Canada in 1831.

This section contains donor-engraved brick pavers honoring contributors to the RiverWalk project.

The Main Amphitheatre:  One of Three Existing Stage Areas at Hart Plaza

Ford Auditorium, recently demolished, may be replaced with a new 5,000 seat, pavilion amphitheatre, adjoining this location or built at the Uniroyal site.  Hart Plaza is a popular festival staging area.  There remain seven major festivals at the plaza since some were moved to Grand Circus Park.   For a description of current festivals refer to Theatre Page 3 or Events Calendar Page 17.

Underground Railroad Statuary

Hart Plaza Overlook from Stairs with View of Windsor, Canada

The "Hippie"

the Landing of Cadillac statue (or the "Hippie," as it appears to some), and a few small outdoor stages that ring the area. (This statue is not an accurate depiction of Cadillac whose likeness more closely resembled fictional character, Cyrano De Bergerac.) 

Local History  Cadillac landed within yards of this location with his coureur des bois in 1701 before building Fort Pontchartrain (after Comte Pontchartrain) a short distance north at Fort and Shelby.  In time it would be known as Fort Detroit.

The "Swizzle Stick"

Other attractions  include the Labor Union, Ring of Transcending (or the "Pinky Ring," if preferred), the DNA monolith (which resembles a "swizzle stick"), 

The plaza is dominated by the Noguchi Fountain (known as the "Space Doughnut" or Dodge Fountain).

"Space Doughnut" Revelers Cooling Off in the Fountain on a Hot July Night

The new M-1 rail is being built from Larned a block north to the New Center three miles up Woodward.

Hart Plaza, with View toward Canada, the River and RiverWalk

Guardian Building ("Cathedral of Finance"/"Arsenal of Democracy"), lt. and Mariner's Church, rt.

A less "Spacy" Noguchi Fountain, foreground

(Skyscrapers left to right:  Madden Building, Buhl Building, the stepped Penobscot Building (background), One Woodward Avenue, Detroit One Center, Coleman Young Municipal Center) 

The "Pinky Ring"


Return to the RiverWalk and head East...

See Chene Park in "Attractions Cont'd" (by clicking on that selection at top of this Page)

The eventual network of trails in Detroit will extend 100 miles.

Returning to RiverWalk 

Upon your return to Atwater Street, you can continue past the Cut, east of Milliken State Park and toward Chene Park Theatre.  (Or refer to Eastern Market, Page 12 for details.   The Dequindre Cut ends at Gratiot and most of the market's outer buildings are not clearly indicated from a distance.)

Work on North Cut Extension, November 2013

End of the Line (bordering Eastern Market)

Artist Graphic, Unencumbered

The Winding Way



Some landscaped portions bloom lily orange in summer.