Lansing’s Brenke Fish Ladder


The survival of many fish species depends on migrations up and down rivers. Among fish such as salmon, shad, and sturgeon, downstream migration is a feature of early life stages, while upstream migration is a feature of adult fish. River obstructions such as dams, culverts, and waterfalls have the potential to slow or stop fish migration. Indeed, these impediments to fish migration are often implicated in the decline of certain fish stocks.

A fish ladder, also known as a fishway, provides a detour route for migrating fish past a particular obstruction on the river. Designs vary depending on the obstruction, river flow, and species of fish affected, but the general principle is the same for all fish ladders: the ladder contains a series of ascending pools that are reached by swimming against a stream of water. Fish leap through the cascade of rushing water, rest in a pool, and then repeat the process until they are out of the ladder.

The Brenke Fish Ladder was built in 1981 to help fish swimming up the Grand River pass the dam without injury. The fish ladder is a peaceful place to visit along the river and you can always catch fishermen along the riverside of the ladder catching catfish, carp, sunfish, and other smaller species of fish that inhabit the Grand River. The ladder is located within Lansing’s eclectic Old Town district and offers impressive views of the city and Grand River.

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