St. Joseph River (Lake Michigan): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St. Joseph River flowing west from Elkhart (top) through Osceola (middle) and into Mishawaka (bottom).

The St. Joseph River (locally known as the St. Joe) is a river, approximately 210 mi (338 km) long, in southern Michigan and northern Indiana in the United States. It drains a primarily rural farming area in the watershed of Lake Michigan. It was enormously important in the days of Native Americans and the colonial settlement as a canoe route between Lake Michigan and the watershed of the Mississippi River.




The St. Joseph River rises in southern Michigan in Hillsdale County near Baw Beese Lake, within 5 mi (8 km) of the headwaters of the St. Joseph River in the Maumee watershed. It follows a zigzag route generally westward across southern Michigan, dipping into northern Indiana. From its headwaters it flows initially northwest past Hillsdale into southeastern Calhoun County, then turns abruptly southwest to flow past Tekonsha, Union City, and Sherwood. At Three Rivers it is joined from the north by the Rocky and Portage Rivers, then 3 mi (5 km) further southwest by the Prairie River from the east.

The river continues southward into northern Indiana, flowing west through Elkhart and South Bend, where it turns abruptly to north to re-enter southwestern Michigan in southeastern Berrien County. In southwestern Michigan it follows a wide meandering route generally northwest through Niles and past Berrien Springs. It enters Lake Michigan between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, receiving the Paw Paw River from the north approximately 1 mi (1.6) km from its mouth on Lake Michigan.


The St. Joseph River flows through downtown South Bend, Indiana. The abrupt turn of the river gives the city its name.

Early European explorers found Miami and Potawatomi peoples living near the mouth of the St. Joseph River at the site of present-day St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.[1]

The river was one of the most significant early transportation routes both to Native Americans and to early French fur trappers in the Illinois Country. It furnished two different portages that allowed nearly continuous travel by canoe among different watersheds of the region. The first major transfer point was at its headwaters in southwestern Michigan, where it furnished a portage to the St. Joseph River of the Maumee River watershed, which drained into Lake Erie.

The second major transfer point was at South Bend, Indiana, where a short portage to the nearby Kankakee River allowed access to the Illinois River and subsequently to the Mississippi.

Another major access point along river was at Niles, Michigan, where the Old Sauk Trail, a major east-west Indian trail crossed the river. The French established Fort St. Joseph there in 1691.

From the early 1830s until 1846, the river bore various commodities from upstream to a busy port at St. Joseph, where they were loaded onto lake boats for shipment to Chicago and elsewhere.[1]

On April 11, 1893, a Lake Michigan seiche (a phenomenon similar to an ocean tsunami) pushed a wall of water, 3 to 5 feet (1.5 m) high, up the river at St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. This raised the level of the river by 4 to 5 feet (1.5 m). The cause of the seiche was unknown, but has been attributed to a sudden squall or change in atmospheric pressure.[2]

East Race Waterway

In 1984, the abandoned East Race canal in South Bend, whose outlets were both at the river, was converted into the East Race Waterway 41°40′34″N 86°14′42″W / 41.676°N 86.245°W / 41.676; -86.245, North America's first artificial whitewater waterway[3] and the first of four in the United States.[4] Through the use of movable barriers and obstacles the East Race provides a configurable whitewater course for recreational and competitive canoeing, kayaking and rafting.

In 1995 Dorla Null was the first known woman to canoe the entire length of the river.

Cities and towns along the St. Joseph River

The St. Joe River widens as it flows west through Elkhart.



See also


  1. ^ a b Bogue, Margaret Beattie (1985). Around the Shores of Lake Michigan: A Guide to Historic Sites, p. 334. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299100049.
  2. ^ Hilton, George Woodman (2002). Lake Michigan Passenger Steamers, p. 13. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804742405.
  3. ^ South Bend Parks and Recreation "East Race Waterway." Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  4. ^ The other three are Dickerson Whitewater Course, U.S. National Whitewater Center, and Adventure Sports Center International. A fifth course, Ocoee Whitewater Center, built in a modified riverbed for the 1996 Olympics, is no longer used for training or competition.

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address