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The Paw Paw River after a snowfall in Van Buren County, Michigan

The Paw Paw River is located in the U.S. state of Michigan in the southwest portion of the lower peninsula. It is formed by the confluence of the north and south branches at 42°15′17″N 85°55′36″W / 42.25472°N 85.92667°W / 42.25472; -85.92667 in Waverly Township in the northeast of Van Buren County. It flows approximately 89 miles (143 km) through Van Buren County and Berrien County until joining the St. Joseph River just above its mouth on Lake Michigan at Benton Harbor.

Native Americans named the Paw Paw River after the paw paw fruit that grew abundantly along the river's banks.[1]

The watershed covers about 445 square miles (1,150 km²), mostly in Van Buren County, and also drains a tiny portion of Kalamazoo County. The watershed includes rare Great Lakes marshes and floodplain forests, which serve as habitats for migratory birds such as the Prothonotory Warbler (commonly known as the Golden Swamp Warbler), as well as the endangered Mitchell Satyr butterfly. Other rare species include the Massasauga rattlesnake and the spotted turtle. The Paw Paw River has 39 species of fish including walleye, bass, bluegill, black crappie, and northern pike.

Tributaries of the main branch include:

  • Sand Creek and Blue Creek in Benton Township
  • Ryno Drain in Coloma
  • Mill Creek near Watervliet
  • Paw Paw Lake and Little Paw Paw Lake (in Berrien County) near Watervliet
  • Pine Creek between Hartford and Watervliet
  • Mud Lake Drain between Hartford and Watervliet
  • Hog Creek near Hartford
  • Brush Creek near Lawrence
  • Carter Creek between Paw Paw and Lawrence

North branch tributaries include:

  • Brandywine Creek
  • Hayden Creek
  • Ritter Creek
  • Todd Drain
  • Campbell Creek

The north branch headwaters arise in springs near the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery.

South branch tributaries include:

  • The east branch is about 8.5 miles (14 km) long and arises from two main sources: Paw Paw Lake (in Kalamazoo County) and Mattawan Creek in the village of Mattawan. It joins the South Branch in the city of Paw Paw.
  • Three Mile Lake Drain, south of Paw Paw
  • Eagle Lake Drain, south of Paw Paw
  • Lawton Drain, east of Lawton

The south branch headwaters arise in Decatur Township in eastern Van Buren County.

In November 2003, The Nature Conservancy announced the purchase of 139 acres (0.6 km²) in the Paw Paw Prairie Fen, located in the East Branch of the river near Mattawan. The Sarett Nature Center owns 800 acres (3.2 km²) of along the river in Berrien County, just north of Benton Harbor.

References

  1. ^ Romig, Walter (1973). Michigan Place Names, p. 432. Wayne State University Press (1986 reprint). ISBN 081431838X.

External links

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