Park Address: 750 Longshore Drive, Ann Arbor MI 48105
Hours and Rules
Open 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for park regulations and rules. Always refer to posted park signage in the park. Smoking is prohibited and dogs must be on leash. "Do not Eat Fish" from the Huron River Advisory issued by the State of Michigan.
Park & Nature Area Overview
Argo Park & Nature Area is a 22-acre linear park on the east side of the Huron River (see the Ann Arbor Parks and Nature Area map for location context). The Argo Canoe Livery is a busy spot drawing crowds looking to rent canoes, kayaks, and rafts to paddle down the Huron River. Open from May - October, visit Argo Park Canoe Livery for more information or to make a trip reservation. Restrooms, shelter, public boat launch, fishing pier and the Argo dam are all near the Argo Livery. The Argo Cascades, a series of nine small rapids, rock chutes and pools serving as a bypass channel to connect Argo Pond to the Huron River are a popular attraction. With Argo Pond the central feature between Bandemer Park and Argo Nature Area, the Argo Pond walk highlights both parks in a 2.2 mile loop. The Border-to-Border trail crosses from Bandemer Park at the Argo Dam providing a trail connection to downstream parks such as Riverside, Fuller Park and Gallup Park. While the Allen Creek Berm Tunnel now provides a path connection from the Border-2-Border trail and Argo Park to Wheeler Park and downtown Ann Arbor. View the 90 second video that showcases this project and its grand opening in 2020.
Argo Nature Area offers a variety of splendors for visitors. From the peaceful views of the river to the calls of migrating birds, from a woodland trail to the shoreline boardwalk for hiking or running, from the view of the city skyline at night to the stars reflecting off the pond, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Argo. The unpaved trail runs the length of the park along the river and travels through two types of woods -- in the southern half you’ll find more basswood and willow, in the northern half you’ll see black oak and shagbark hickory plus more spring wildflowers. The entire trail offers beautiful views of Argo Pond & Huron River and provides connections to Bandemer for a wonderful loop trail of a little more than 2 miles around Argo Pond. Read 2001 Park Focus: Argo Nature Area by Gillian Harris or 2011 Park Focus: Argo Nature Area by Tina Roselle for Natural Area Preservation insights and projects related to Argo Nature Area.
Click here to view the printable brochure for Bandemer and Argo Parks
Access and Parking
Argo is a busy park so be sure to review parking options and plan ahead.
To gain access to the Argo Nature Area trails, there are several entrances available along the park property:
- The southern entrance next to the boat launch in the gravel parking lot.
- The entrance near the intersection of Argo Drive and Longshore Drive.
- An entrance off of Longshore Drive. between Amherst Avenue and Barton Drive.
- The northern entrance ties into the Barton boardwalk that runs parallel with Barton Drive.
- Also, don't forget about the new Allen Creek Berm Tunnel that provides a path connection from downtown (at Wheeler Park) that travels under the railroad line to join the B2B at the Argo Dam.
Public Transportation: There are AATA bus stops on Pontiac Trail near Argo Nature Area. Traveling southbound the (Pontiac & Bowen) stop is a 7-minute walk. Traveling northbound the (Pontiac Trail & Bowen) stop is an 8-minute walk. Additionally, there are also AATA bus stops on Broadway Street. Traveling eastbound the (Broadway & Wall) stop is an 8-minute walk. Traveling westbound the (Broadway & Swift) stop is a 9-minute walk. Check out The Ride Guide for more details.
There are ongoing and limitless opportunities for volunteering and getting engaged with the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit. GIVE 365 and the seasonal Adopt-a-Park Program offer volunteer opportunities ranging from a 90 minute commitment, to a more long term, ongoing role. Natural Area Preservation also has volunteer opportunities that support their mission to protect and restore Ann Arbor's natural areas and to foster an environmental ethic among its citizens. If you are feeling the tug to volunteer or give some time, reach out or explore the websites above to see what’s upcoming or how to get involved.
Report a Problem - A2 Fix It
To report any maintenance issues or other problem during your park visit, please report through A2Fix It. When reporting an issue in a park please include location details. There is a details and description section near the end of the request process to help you provide this. In addition, users can utilize the pin (website) or X (mobile app) feature to provide specific location information inside the park. Finally, please consider including a wide angle photo or include background landmarks, which helps staff find and fix the problem.
Gifts and Donations
Information on donating to the parks and the Guide to Giving can be found here. Alternatively if you have a special project or park improvement idea that you want to donate your time and energy toward, a great place to start is through Adopt-a-Park and the proposing a special park project guide. For information on donating a tree through Adopt-a-Park, the tree donation guide can help you get started.
Erected in 1898, the first ‘livery’ on the Huron River in Ann Arbor was the U of M Boat house. Despite the name, it was a private enterprise. Built by Paul G Tessmer
, the boat house was located on the North Main Street edge of Argo Pond. Tessmer had 160 canoes, all of them built by himself, and 40 rowboats for rent.
In 1914 the Edison Company, which had acquired the waterpower rights on Argo Pond, rebuilt the Argo Dam. The beach was a gift from Detroit Edison
which had bought the present Argo Dam in 1905 to generate electricity. In 1917, the company offered to develop the beach if the city would pay for its upkeep. The city accepted the offer, and Edison trucked in loads of sand and built a pier, three docks, and a beach house
. The city paid a nominal rent of $1 a year before eventually buying the facility in 1938 for $100. The docks were placed in increasingly deeper water—the first at four feet, the next at about eight feet, and the last at twelve feet. Swimmers had to pass proficiency tests to go out to the deeper docks. The last dock had a tall tower, about ten feet. When people wanted a break from swimming, the beach had a volleyball court, horseshoe courts, a slide, and a grassy place under a willow for picnics
The casino inside was famous for its collection of coin-operated orchestrions, melodeons, and other antique mechanical music boxes. In 1936, when Detroit Edison drained Argo Pond to repair the dam, the city took the opportunity to improve the beach, cleaning the river bottom of debris, deepening it, and bringing in clean sand. The next winter the city built an island dubbed "Clever's Folly" after alderman Arbie Clever, who had pushed for the beach improvements. Clever's Folly is now overgrown, and birds nest where local teens once sunbathed. The beach closed for good at the end of the 1948 season. The buildings at the beach were demolished four years later.
Ann Arbor News,1937 Ann Arbor News, 1938
At the end of the 50s, the business became Wirth's Canoe Livery, owned by Jack Wirth. In 1958, Jack earned the city's citation for heroism as a result of rescuing a 15 year old boy who fell from the train tracks into the Huron River. In 1964, a massive storm passed over Ann Arbor and heavily damaged Wirth's Livery. In 1970 the City of Ann Arbor bought the property from Jack and Barbara Wirth. In April, 1971 the Ann Arbor parks department constructed the Argo Park Canoe Livery, a bit upstream from this site.
The Argo Park Nature Area began to take shape in 1963, when the city made a massive river front purchase from Detroit Edison that reshaped and now defines Ann Arbor's waterfront. The city purchased Barton, Argo, Geddes and Superior dams from Edison for about $400,000, and slowly began to develop parks associated with those facilities. In the Argo area, that purchase included the pond, the dam, the land upstream of the dam along the river (including the hillside to the east of the pond between Longshore Drive and the river, which is now Argo Nature Area), the river below the dam (including what is now known as the Argo Cascades), and a little bit of land along the banks of the Huron.
Parks Department landscape architects Joe Ruppert and Tom Raynes designed the original proposed development plan for Argo Pond and surrounding area downstream. The cost of the development was estimated at $250,000, to come from the $3.5 million bond issue passed by voters on April 5th1971. At one time it was seriously proposed to fill in the raceway and make additional parkland there. But because the value of the raceway, both aesthetically and as a fishing site, was realized, another solution was sought.
In 2004, a state dam safety inspection for the Argo Dam found the earthen embankment (a structure considered part of the dam) was badly eroding, raising the prospect of a failure. The City needed to correct the issues identified by the state dam safety inspection. A vigorous community debate ensued over whether to repair Argo Dam or remove it. Finally the state, which regulates Argo Dam, ordered the city to improve the toe drains along the embankment to prevent its collapse.
Within a city-public task force working on the problem, a new idea emerged: replace the headrace with a free-flowing channel. Besides its obvious benefits for paddlers, this solution would mean most of the embankment would no longer be structurally part of the dam, removing it from state control. After months of discussion, the city and state signed a consent agreement in May 2010: the city could either fix the toe drains or replace the entire headrace with a channel of falling water.
In August 2010, the city requested proposals to design and build an "Argo headrace embankment reconstruction." The RFP specified that the project "must create a passage that is able to be traversed by novice paddlers." The Parks Advisory Commission and the City Council approved a design, by Gary Lacy of Recreational Engineering and Planning of Boulder, Colorado--the nation's foremost in-stream designer. Construction was performed by TSP Environmental of Livonia, while local firm Beckett/Raeder was the team's landscape architect. The design called for a series of pools connected by three long necks taking paddlers on a gradual twelve-foot descent over the 1,500 feet from the Argo Dam to the Huron River.
The Argo Cascades, were completed spring of 2012. It provides a wild, wet ride through nine narrow drops that take paddlers from Argo Pond down to the main river stem just upstream of the Broadway Bridge. In 2013, the Argo Cascades were designated a "Frontline Park" by City Parks Alliance. The Argo Cascades also received the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association Park Design Award of the year in 2013.
Updated April 2021. Email [email protected] for incorrect/outdated information.