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Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5121

Environmental Baseline Study of the Huron River Watershed, Baraga and Marquette Counties, Michigan

By Laurel G. Woodruff, Thomas L. Weaver, and William F. Cannon

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This report summarizes results of a study to establish water-quality and geochemical baseline conditions within a small watershed in the Lake Superior region. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) completed a survey of water-quality parameters and soil and streambed sediment geochemistry of the 83 mi2 Huron River Watershed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Streamflow was measured and water-quality samples collected at a range of flow conditions from six sites on the major tributaries of the Huron River. All water samples were analyzed for a suite of common ions, nutrients, and trace metals. In addition, water samples from each site were analyzed for unfiltered total and methylmercury once during summer low-flow conditions. Soil samples were collected from 31 sites, with up to 4 separate samples collected at each site, delineated by soil horizon. Streambed sediments were collected from 11 sites selected to cover most of the area drained by the Huron River system. USGS data were supplemented with ecological assessments completed in 2006 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality using a modified version of their Great Lakes Environmental Assessment Section procedure 51, and again during 2008 using volunteers under supervision of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Results from this study define a hydrological, geological, and environmental baseline for the Huron River Watershed prior to any significant mineral exploration or development. Results from the project also serve to refine the design of future regional environmental baseline studies in the Lake Superior Basin.

Posted August 2010

For additional information contact:
Laurel G. Woodruff,
Eastern Mineral Resources Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2280 Woodale Drive
Mounds View, MN 55112-4900

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Woodruff, L.G., Weaver, T.L., and Cannon, W.F., 2010, Environmental baseline study of the Huron River Watershed, Baraga and Marquette Counties, Michigan: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5121, 64 p., available at




Description of the Huron River Watershed



Bedrock Geology

Glacial Geology


Previous Studies in the Huron River Watershed

Methods of Data Collection and Analysis

Streamflow Measurement and Water-Quality Sampling

Streamflow Measurement

Water-Quality Sampling

Water-Quality Reporting Levels and Analysis

Quality Assurance

Soils and Stream Sediments

Soil Sampling

Streambed Sediment Sampling

Chemical Analyses

Quality Assurance and Quality Control for Soils and Streambed Sediments

Statistical Methods for Soil and Streambed Sediment Data

Ecological Assessment



East Branch Huron River, Downstream of East Branch Falls

Tributary to East Branch Huron River

West Branch Huron River

Robarge Creek

Black Creek

Huron River at Big Eric’s Bridge

Results and Discussion

Water Quality of Streams in the Huron River Watershed

Field Water-Quality Parameters, Major Ions, and Alkalinity


Manganese, Nickel, Zinc, and Copper


Soils and Streambed Sediments

Total Digestion for Soils

Vertical Variability among Soil Horizons

Lateral Variability for Soils

Total Digestion of Streambed Sediments

Partial Digestion of Soils and Streambed Sediments

Ecological Assessment

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Study Results

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Study Results

Future Baseline Studies in the Lake Superior Basin

Water-Quality Sampling

Soil and Streambed Sediment Sampling


References Cited

Appendix 1. List of Abbreviations

Appendixes 2, 3, 4, and 5

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