Surveying the Muskegon River for Invasive Species

Emma Costantino, Outreach Coordinator
North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area


Protecting a watershed involves monitoring for invasive species – both in and out of the water. Invasive plants can take over riparian areas, just as they do in any other place. They crowd out native vegetation, disrupt fish and wildlife habitat, and cause numerous other problems. For example, invasive Phragmites forms dense stands near the water that are difficult to move through and lowers the water table. This is why it is important to identify invasive plants and stop them from spreading.

In 2019, the North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (NCCISMA) partnered with the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly and received a grant to address invasive species in the Muskegon River Watershed. The funding for this project is through the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (MISGP). An important component of this grant is preserving and maintain the riparian areas along the Muskegon River.

During the summer of 2019, two NCCISMA employees kayaked the northern half of the Muskegon River, surveying for invasive plants. The paddled from headwaters near Houghton Lake all the way down to Hardy Dam, keeping an eye out for any invasive species growing near the shore.

When they found species that NCCISMA considers high priority, NCCISMA reached out to the owners of those properties and offered to survey the remainder of their property for free. Last summer, NCCISMA surveyed eleven of these properties. They found several high priority species including Phragmites, Japanese knotweed, buckthorn, garlic mustard, and bristly locust. These are all species that are found to some extent in NCCISMA’s coverage area, but NCCISMA believes can still be controlled.

Controlling invasive species along the Muskegon River is an ongoing effort. To help residents achieve effective control, NCCISMA staff is creating management plans with instructions on how to remove the invasive species. In addition, property owners can hire NCCISMA’s strike team to treat certain invasive plants. NCCISMA hopes that more people will become aware of the invasive plants growing near the Muskegon River and become involved in preserving its riparian areas.

For more information about NCCISMA, visit To learn more about this grant and the other work NCCISMA does in the region, contact the Program Coordinator by calling 231-429-5072, or email

NCCISMA staff surveying the Muskegon River by kayak

Surveying the shoreline by kayak

Terrestrial survey near Big Rapids