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The City of Ann Arbor retained the design/build team of TSP Environmental, Beckett & Raeder, Inc. and Recreation Engineers & Planners to design and reconstruct a bypass channel to the Argo Dam on the Huron River near downtown Ann Arbor. The existing headrace channel, which formerly served an abandoned hydro-electrical substation, did not connect to the lower Huron River. Those traveling down the Huron River using the headrace had to portage their canoe from the end of the headrace down a steep embankment to the main stem of the river, greatly limiting the users to those who were physically able to carry their watercraft and walk down the embankment. Parents with small children and people with disabilities found the canoe / kayak portage difficult, if not impossible, to maneuver.  


The proposed design eliminated the need to portage by making a direct connection between the Argo pond and the main stem of the Huron River through a series of white water drops and recovery pools. The white water drops are designed for the novice canoeist / kayaker. Where the bypass channel ties to the main stem of the Huron River, two additional whitewater features are introduced: a more challenging upstream feature for more experienced kayakers to “surf” in and another novice drop downstream. These two features serve to slow the main stem river’s flow to ease the transition between the bypass channel and the river, again ensuring ease of maneuvering for the novice canoeist / kayaker.


This design also completed an important segment of Washtenaw County’s Border to Border Trail. While the trail previously existed in this location, it was little more than a worn path only wide enough for a single user and dangerously close to the elevated edge of the headrace. The new path is more comfortably removed from the edge of the headrace and ten feet wide to accommodate multi-directional, non-motorized traffic. The path fully complies to ADA guidelines.

Argo Cascades
Ann Arbor, Michigan
2013 Outstanding Park Design Award
Michigan Recreation & Park Association
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