The growth of the logging industry changed how people interacted with the Grand River. The installation of the river’s first dams in 1847 marked a turning point: previously the front yard of the community, the river soon became the backyard for industry.
By 1880, the Grand River, now used for moving logs and large boats and producing power, had become contaminated by logging waste, mixed oil and gas, and human and industrial waste.
For nearly the next 100 years, the Grand River was used as a sewer for the city and its industries. In 1972, however, the federal Clean Water Act helped introduce limits on pollution and began to improve the conditions of the river with the help of the community.
You can still see reminders of the river’s former status as an eyesore: the façades of many older buildings facing the Grand River don’t have windows. Some tenants of the day viewed the Grand River as a nuisance and didn’t want to look at it; some even deposited their waste in the river.