Lansing, MI

It's Almost Time to Watch Salmon Climb the Brenke Fish Ladder in Lansing, Michigan

Tracy Stengel

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The Brenke Fish Ladder.Photo via the Brenke Fish Ladder Facebook page.

Have you ever seen a fish climb a ladder? If not, start planning a visit to Brenke Fish Ladder in Lansing, Michigan! September is the perfect time to see migratory fish make their way upstream the Grand River! 

Some species of fish need to journey up and down rivers to reproduce, but oftentimes urban areas have obstructions that make it difficult for fish to pass without injury.

In Lansing, the man-made powerful water flow from the dam on the Grand River became hazardous for salmon, shad, and sturgeon to make their yearly journey. In 1981, the Brenke Fish Ladder was built to make it easier for fish to travel upstream. It consists of many steps, large enough to allow pools of water to collect between each one.

In early fall, you can watch salmon and other fish jump from “step to step” or “rung to “rung” and watch them rest in the pools when they tire. Some fish can leap high in the air!

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The dam near the Brenke Fish Ladder.Photo via the Brenke Fish Ladder Facebook page.

You may wonder why some fish species like salmon and rainbow trout bother making all the effort. Why can’t they just breed downstream? Well, it’s hardwired into them. There is a certain smell to each body of water and when some fish become adults, their instinct drives them to go back to their birthplace. On the way, their bodies gear up for reproduction.

It’s also critical to the survival of the species to mate upstream. The waters are calmer, allowing embryos to grow properly. Incredibly, it takes 3 to 4 months for salmon eggs to hatch! If they were in rough water, it would be easy for them to drift away and be unprotected.

After all, a salmon dies after it spawns. While that is sad, it benefits its offspring. The decaying carcass of the mother is what the embryos feed off. As decomposition accelerates, the dead fish fills that area with fertilizer that will help the young fish grow and become strong.

Teaching children about salmon is a great way to begin a conversation about the circle of life. I can also prompt discussions about how to keep our Michigan waters clean and healthy for the next generations. Kids love learning about nature and animals and its fun for adults to brush up on their science knowledge and discover new things!

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River access from Brenke Fish Ladder.Photo via the Brenke Fish Ladder Facebook page.

The Brenke Fish Ladder is a great place to go on a nice autumn day with friends and family. Pack a picnic lunch and relax while taking in the beautiful view of the Grand River.

Brenke Fish Ladder is located at 216 E. Grand River Road, Lansing, Michigan. It isn’t far from a playground and is just a short stroll from Lansing’s historic Old Town Shopping District. While fishing isn’t allowed in the ladder area, there are plenty of spaces within walking distance you can cast a line into the Grand River.

If you’ve been to the Brenke Fish Ladder in Lansing, Michigan, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI
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