History of the Watershed
The drainage basin called the Mill Creek watershed withstood two centuries of urbanization and is poised for a comeback. The Mill Creek drew settlers over 200 years ago looking for rich, fertile farmland and water power to support industry, ultimately building Cincinnati into a prosperous industrial powerhouse. Once an unspoiled natural resource, the Mill Creek’s clear, clean water, and thick riparian forests provided food, water, and timber for early settlers. The Mill Creek valley floor was a perfect transportation corridor where industry began to grow and build a thriving economy. The Mill Creek is a unique urban stream that has withstood the abuse of the historic slaughterhouses, breweries, mills, and sewage. This stream gave abundantly to our region and industry at the time certainly took advantage of that: the Mill Creek was a convenient dump for industrial and agricultural waste. And while permits and regulations have made significant improvements to water quality, the Mill Creek still suffers from combined sewer overflows, non-point source pollution, litter and trash, and other urban refuse.
Today about 450,000 residents live within the watershed’s boundaries along with companies like Procter & Gamble, General Electric, and General Mills. Recent studies show that water quality in the Mill Creek has improved dramatically. On average, it even surpasses the water quality of the Little Miami River! The diversity of fish and macro-invertebrate species such as crayfish, caddisflies, and mayflies in the stream has more than doubled in the last twenty years. Ospreys, herons, ducks, beaver, and many other long-missing species of birds and mammals have returned to its shores.
Another species has returned to the Mill Creek in recent years – people!
Because of the efforts of the Watershed Council along with other partner groups and agencies, it is now possible to hike and bike on the banks of the stream, as well as to canoe and fish in the stream itself.