Michigan and the Great Lakes

Rouge River Revived

How People Are Bringing Their River Back to Life
John H. Hartig and Jim Graham, Editors
Foreword by William Clay Ford, Jr.

The history and restoration of an important watershed


Listen to an interview with the editors on Michigan Radio's Stateside online. 
The Rouge River is a mostly urbanized watershed of about 500 square miles populated by nearly 1.4 million people. While not geographically large, the river has played an outsized role in the history of southeast Michigan, most famously housing Ford Motor Company’s massive Rouge Factory, designed by architect Albert Kahn and later memorialized in Diego Rivera’s renowned “Detroit Industry” murals. In recent decades, the story of the Rouge River has also been one of grassroots environmental activism. After pollution from the Ford complex and neighboring factories literally caused the river to catch on fire in 1969, community groups launched a Herculean effort to restore and protect the watershed. Today the Rouge stands as one of the most successful examples of urban river revival in the country.

Rouge River Revived describes the river’s history from pre-European times into the 21st century. Chapters cover topics such as Native American life on the Rouge; indigenous flora and fauna over time; the river’s role in the founding of local cities; its key involvement in Detroit’s urban development and intensive industrialization; and the dramatic clean-up arising from citizen concern and activism. This book is not only a history of the environment of the Rouge River, but also of the complex and evolving relationship between humans and natural spaces.
John H. Hartig serves as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, as the Great Lakes Science-Policy Advisor to the International Association for Great Lakes Research, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

Jim Graham is an award-winning journalist for the Detroit News and the former Executive Director of Friends of the Rouge.

Praise / Awards

  • “The subject is of national significance in that the Rouge River was once one of the most polluted watersheds in America. Its well-documented and well-told stories are beacons of hope in difficult environmental times.”
    —Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor of FLOW and author of Great Lakes for Sale and Ruin and Recovery: Michigan's Rise as a Conservation Leader
  • "Hartig and co-editor James Graham have assembled an inspiring story that tells of the river’s recovery from decades of pollutants and the communities that made the revival a reality. Contributors to the book include activists, journalists, engineers, professors, scientists, leaders of non-profit organizations and of university programs. All dedicated years to the restoration of the Rouge."
    Great Lakes Echo
  • "The transformation of our local river was nothing short of tremendous. Likewise, the literary collaboration among two scientists, two engineers, two journalists, and anthropologist, and architect, a filmmaker, two biologists and four people who have made environmental education their life's work, is also tremendous."
    Wyandotte Warrior

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Article in The 'Ville, page 5 | November 3, 2022
Read: Article in Wyandotte Warrior, pages 16-17 | October 27, 2022
Read: Article in Planet Detroit | October 17, 2022
Read: Article in Capital News Service | October 14, 2022
Read: Article in Great Lakes Echo | October 10, 2022
Read: Article in Great Lakes Now | September 7, 2022
Listen: Interview with the editors on Michigan Radio's Stateside | September 16, 2022

Product Details

  • 230 pages.
  • 33 figures, 6 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2022
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-22072-4

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  • Rouge River Watershed, water pollution, urban river, environmental cleanup, concerned citizen