Joel’s water taxi 2.0

Guess I jumped the gun.

I’d heard that one of the plans for the Rouge River was to have water taxis taking tourists to such destinations as the Ford Motor Co. Rouge assembly plant, Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum, and the Henry Ford Estate, aka Fair Lane mansion.

All of these places can be reached by water on the Rouge River.

In fact, when we canoed the Rouge River not quite three years ago, Detroit Free Press photographer Patricia Beck and I passed all of these places. At the time, we could not have reached Greenfield Village because the concrete sides of the river blocked passage to the old Rouge meander that once allowed Henry Ford to cruise his motor boat down from his mansion to the Village.

By the way, watch for our book, UP THE ROUGE! PADDLING DETROIT’S HIDDEN RIVER, about our five-day, 27-mile odyssey on the Rouge. It’s being published by Wayne State University Press early next year.

Since our trip, the old meander, called an “oxbow,” has been reconnected to the main course of the river. You could now take a canoe, and maybe even a motorboat, from the main part of the river into Greenfield Village.

That’s where I maybe was a bit premature. See, I have this motorboat, a 16.5-foot Crestliner Fish Hawk with 60 hp outboard motor. No more battling headwinds from a heavy-laden canoe. I can take people up the Rouge in my new boat. And what better destination than Fair Lane manor, where we could dock and have lunch at the Pool Restaurant?

It’s actually a scenario imagined in the Rouge Gateway Partnership master plan for the Rouge — tourists arrive by water taxi at these neat places.

So I called Gary Rodgers, manager of the Henry Ford Estate. Gary helped Pat and me plan for our portage at the mansion on June 6-7, 2005. After struggling against 30 mph gusts all day, we pulled the canoe out below the dam at Fair Lane on June 6 and upstream of the dam we launched another canoe, a shorter one, the following day. At Fair Lane, they told us if we got there in time on Monday, June 6, we could tie up the canoe and order box lunches from the restaurant.

So I’m thinking, why not do the same thing with my new boat? Cruise the nine miles from Zug Island to Fair Lane, tie up the boat and have lunch at the Pool Restaurant.

Not to be. I heard from Gary Rodgers, and the news is not good for hungry river navigators.

“I’ve seen people come up the Rouge fishing, very seldom, but there is no place to tie up at the Estate,” Gary said in a voice mail. “We don’t have the facilities. In the future, we hope to have that, but it’s probably quite a few years off.”


But wait — all is not lost. The oxbow leading to Greenfield Village is open now. I’ll give The Henry Ford a call, see if I can tie my boat up and have lunch at the Village.

Stay tuned…

Contact me at joelthurtell(at)

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