Clinton River (Michigan)

River Basin Characteristics

Clinton River watershed

The Clinton River is located just north of Detroit, MI, and flows 80 miles from its headwaters to Lake St. Clair near the city of Mt. Clemens. The total watershed area encompasses 760 square miles and includes portions of Oakland and Macomb counties and small areas of Lapeer and St. Clair counties.

Inflatable weir near to the flow diversion in the Lower Clinton River

The basin has two distinct topographic regions; the upper region has more relief and steeper channels and the lower region has flatter topography and channel slopes. Land use within the watershed also varies drastically: the northern region is primarily rural, the middle region consists of rapidly-developing suburbs, and the southern portion is primarily urban. More than 1.6 million people in 56 municipalities inhabit the watershed. Stormwater runoff is a critical source of water quality degradation within the watershed, along with rapid urban expansion and loss of wildlife habitat.

 Modeling Approach

Clinton River watershed modeling system

The primary objective of the Tributary Modeling project for the Clinton River was to estimate the amount of sediment entering the system for various land use scenarios. The model also determines the streamflow and sediment load throughout the river and predicts scour and deposition zones. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was used to simulate runoff and sediment transport through the entire watershed. More detailed models using Gridded Surface/Subsurface Hydrologic Analysis (GSSHA) were developed for three subwatersheds: Paint Creek and Galloway Creek in Oakland County and the Middle Branch of the Clinton River in Macomb County to look at the effects of small-scale BMPs. The Environment Fluid Dynamic Code (EFDC) model was used to investigate the complex hydrodynamics and sediment deposition patterns in the lower reaches of the Clinton River.

Use and Applications

3D modeling gives watershed managers and ecologists a visual medium in which to view and track sedimentation patterns at the confluence of the Clinton River and its spillway. Macomb and Oakland counties will also use the model to better manage erosion and sedimentation issues associated with urban development.

Project Partners

For More Information:


James P. Selegean, P.E., Ph.D.
Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
Office: (313) 226-6791
Fax: (313) 226-2398