Cheboygan County River Turns Red, Preparing for Treatment of Sea Lamprey

A Northern Michigan river has been changing colors, but no need to fear.

It’s actually good for the the waterway.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been out since Tuesday preparing to put a pesticide in the river that kills the sea lamprey larvae.

They’re doing it all along the Sturgeon River in Cheboygan County near Wolverine and Indian River.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik have more details on the changing river color and the importance of the treatment.

"The river, we noticed that it had a pink-ish, red-ish tint to it, so it was an off color, almost like a red Koolaid color that was kind of flowing on through," Sturgeon River Paddle Sports owner Jamie Jacklitch said.

The red color over the past two days is actually the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service getting ready to treat the Sturgeon River to get rid of sea lamprey

"Each adult sea lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime out in the Great Lakes," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish biologist Dan McGarry said. "We try to save the commercial fishery and sport fishing in the Great Lakes by doing this."

While the color might look alarming at first, it’s actually just a vegetable dye that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses to determine how quickly water is moving from point to point.

"When we actually run the treatment, we will be able to add chemical at certain points so we know exactly when to be there," McGarry said. 

A local rental shop, Sturgeon River Paddle Sports, had to explain the bizarre color to their customers and let them know it was safe.

"Normally, it’s crystal clear and you can see everything and I noticed when we went to the river to put some rafters in that it did have the tint," Jacklitch said. "I explained to them that normally the river does not look like that."

The river will also be a yellow or green color on Monday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does the treatment, which is also safe for people.