Frequently Asked Questions

Q?
HOW CAN I JOIN THE ASSOCATION?
A.
If you are a property owner with Thornapple River frontage between the Cascade and Ada dams, you qualify for membership. More information is available here on this site.
Q?
HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF THE RIVER IS RISING AND HOW HIGH?
A.
Check out the question below for directions to obtain actual water height readings.
Q?
"I HAVE SOMETHING FOR SALE"    THAT COULD BE USEFUL TO ANOTHER RIVER OWNER: A BOAT, PWC, DOCK, BOAT LIFT. DOES THE ASSOCIATION HAVE A PAGE ON THE WEBSITE WHERE WE CAN LIST ITEMS FOR SALE TO EACH OTHER?
A.
Go to the classified section and follow directions: (Look for Classified Ads below the News tab on this site) 
Q?
WE LIVE JUST DOWNSTREAM FROM THE CASCADE DAM. SOMETIMES THE RIVER LEVEL RISES QUICKLY WITHOUT ANY WARNING, RHYME OR REASON, EVEN THOUGH IT HAS NOT RAINED. WHY?
A.
Sign up for e-mail or text water level alerts. Our dam operators, STS, are required to keep the water level as measured at the dam within a few inches. Whatever water flow comes down the river must be let through the dam. As you would expect, rainfall and snowmelt are the primary causes for increased flow, raising the water level below the Cascade dam by up to 4 feet or more. But word has it that the operators of the dam near 84th street operate their dam manually, and "dump" large volumes of water at random times. STS has no choice but to let that water flow through.  If it is of any help to you, there is a two hour delay from the time water is released at the LaBarge dam until it reaches Cascade. The site below allows you to sign up for text message alerts or e-mail. There are the two links to view the river gauging data. The river gage downstream of the Labarge Dam is the "Caledonia Gage on the Thornapple River".

First link is for National Weather Service.  During very large floods they will show actual data on left side of graph and predicted data on right side of graph.  A dotted vertical line shows current time. The prediction portion is very useful and will show predicted flows for several days, including approx crest.

http://water.weather.gov//ahps2/index.php?wfo=grr

Click on the little dot for Caledonia.

Second link is for USGS.  I typically use this when there isn't a flood.  Graph is a little easier to read.

http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mi/nwis/uv/?site_no=04118000    NOTE: You may sign up for a text message alert or e-mail which is user selectable for whatever height you wish to be warned about when the water level reaches that level. This may give you up to a two hour window to check your boat or dock before the high water reaches Cascade. TRA offers this for information purposes only and accepts no liability for the usefulness or reliability of this third party service. Click on the button below the graph for water alerts.

If for some reason this link doesn't work right, go to waterdata.usgs.gov, click on current conditions, click on Michigan, click on statewide streamflow table.  You will need to scroll down to find the gage and click on the gage site number.

Meanwhile, keep your docks and kayaks tied securely!

Q?
WHY CAN'T I BLOW MY LEAVES AND GRASS CLIPPINGS INTO THE RIVER?
A.
Believe it or not, there's something even worse than dumping spare tires and old pianos in our river. It's your lawn refuse. There's nothing more troublesome to our dam than your leaves, grass clippings, brush, or other lawn waste in the river.

Most residents know this, but if you are new to the area, you or your lawn service might not. These materials can plug the trash racks at the dam, which reduce water flow and can cause the facility to shut down. Trash racks are the grates that prevent fish and foreign items from entering the turbine chute. Leaves and grass and branches clog the grates, reducing water flow. As the grates become clogged, less electricity is produced. In some cases, it requires costly divers to clear the obstruction. If that's not enough, the disposal of yard waste in the river is a violation of Public Act #106, which is punishable by a fine of $800 to $2500 or 90 days in jail. So be sure your lawn service knows this, and please help us reduce the amount of debris in the river.

Q?
Why are those orange buoys down by the dam?
A.
They're there for your safety! Under no circumstances should anyone operate a boat, or swim inside of the marker buoys around the dam. The water flow near the dam can change at any time without warning. If the dam gates are open, there can be rapidly changing currents and whirlpools that ar capable of pulling small crafts and their occupants into the dam machinery.
Q?
Is there a speed limit on the river?
A.
It is a misdemeanor to operate at greater than "no-wake" speed within 100 feet of docks or anchored boats. The same precaution should apply especially when navigating any of the narrow channels or when passing beneath the Camelback Bridge. Creating a wake in this area could cause other passing boats to strike the bridge piers or header. Always yield the right-of-way to rowboats, canoes and kayaks. New residents should familiarize themselves with the shallower areas of the river and should study the rules published by the DNR in the Michigan Boating Guide.
Q?
What about life preservers?
A.
Use your head, and be prepared. All boats (this includes canoes, and kayaks) must be equipped with approved flotation devices for each passenger or risk a fine (currently $25) for each passenger for whom no such device is available and handy. It's always smarter to be wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) when on the water.
Q?
Are there age restrictions for boats?
A.
Age 16 and above must complete a certified boating safety course to operate any motor boat of 6hp or more. Youth under 12 must be supervised by someone 16 or older and may not operate jet skis or any boat with more than 35 hp.
Q?
What about trees in the river?
A.
Any shoreline trees that have fallen into the river and interfere with navigation, or pose a threat to safety, should be reported to one of the board members who are Tree Liasons. Typically the Board annually appoints two Trustees as "Tree Liaisons", and when you contact them, they will assess the problem; and in those cases where a threat is deemed sufficient, they will obtain at least two competitive bids for removal. They will then authorize the appropriate service to remove the tree and deposit it on the owner's property at Association expense. But the responsibility for its removal from the lawn will remain the owner's as in the past. Exceptions might include large floating tree trunks of unknown origin that have washed up to your shore, or been pushed out of mid-stream by some good Samaritan. In these cases the Association will remove the tree when reported to a Trustee. You may also email treeremoval@damowners.org to notify the trustees regarding this matter.