Clinton River

For hundreds of years, native Americans going north on the Saginaw Trail would camp over night beside the Clinton River before making the crossing the next day (near the intersection of Saginaw Street and Water Street today). The French and Native Americans called the river Nottawasippi. Nottawa being Algonquin for enemy or snake and sippi meaning river, perhaps referring to the Iroquois who lived east toward Lake St. Clair. The British referred to it as the Huron River of the St. Clair. In 1824, the Michigan Territorial Council renamed it the Clinton River to avoid confusion with another Huron River in southeast Michigan in honor of New York governor DeWitt Clinton.

clintonriverdowntown1872 - CopyPontiac owes much of its early success to the Clinton River. Mills along the river produced timber, flour and millenary. The abundance of local timber and mills made Pontiac a national leader in the manufacture of carriages. At the end of the 19th Century, these carriage manufacturers began building automobiles, trucks and buses. This picture (click to enlarge) is an 1872 map of downtown Pontiac showing the Clinton River winding through downtown. Mill and Water Streets make a lot more sense in this picture.

If you were coming into Pontiac on a canoe from the east in 1890, this would have been your view. The Clinton Mills on the right were powered by steam and water power. The Clinton Mills produced mittens, jackets, socks and sweaters.

panoclintoncompleteToday, little is seen of the Clinton River downtown. It runs through underground pipes before it reaches downtown and re-emerges just east of town.

However, there are many places where it is still visible.

The Clinton River enters Pontiac on the west side as it leaves Sylvan Lake and goes under Telegraph Road. Price Dam is just before Orchard Lake Road and creates Dawson Mill Pond. Pontiac's Beaudette Municipal Park runs along the southern portion of the pond.

The Clinton River then winds its way for almost two miles where it enters Crystal Lake, which is formed from the Wallace Holland Dam on its northeast side.

From there, the river heads toward downtown Pontiac where it goes underground near the corner of Orchard Lake Rd. and Bagley.

In large pipes, the Clinton River goes under the southbound Woodward Loop, heads north just past Mill St, goes east on just the other side of Huron St. and reappears on the other side of the northbound Woodward Loop.

After a short run through an open concrete channel, the Clinton River continues its natural run all the way to Mount Clemens and Lake St. Clair.