It’s July in Michigan: A roasting sun hangs high over the Huron River while lazy, college students stretch out on the rowing docks. They sip on Oberons and blow up inner tubes. The river is murky, but it still glistens in the sunlight and is a temperature that is just perfect enough for a swim. Ann Arbor wouldn’t be Ann Arbor without this place.

Located two miles from the Diag are the well-known docks of the Huron River. Home to the University’s and many Ann Arbor high-school rowing teams, the docks are a vital place for these students. Surrounding this spot on the river are parks like Bandemer Park, Longshore Park and Beckey Park. Here, people can access hiking trails, kayak rentals, bike paths, disc golf and serene woods.

But what makes the Huron River special is not just the array of activities that it produces, but rather the magic of the river itself. Flowing over 40 miles, dressed with trees and roads along its edges, the river invites those who are tied to the city to escape. This lure is what led me to rely on the river in order to get some peace of mind.

I started going to the docks as a break from my summer job, for it served as a place to tan, swim and catch up with friends. But as summer turned into fall and long, breezy days turned into brisk nights with tough deadlines, the magic of the river and summer faded.

One night in the fall, a close friend of mine from the summertime needed a private place to vent. We both lived with many housemates, so we decided to take my car to the river to retreat from the hustle and bustle of a college town. We sat on the docks, with hats and scarves on, and we poured our frustrations into the moonlit river. It was here where I realized how easy this place was, how non-judgemental it is. It’s natural emptiness and simplicity allowed for me and my friend to release all that we had bottled up.

The river, although not immensely clean, holds an emotional enchantment that I’ve been lucky enough to feel and understand. It’s a place where romantic nights watching the stars happen and where tiresome runs occur. Capable of seeing the city lights and skyline from the docks, the Huron provides a vantage point that makes one feel pure isolation: a tranquil getaway just close enough to home and far enough away to gain some perspective.

I’ve begun to bring more friends to the river when they are emotionally distraught. As someone who studies and feels serenity through nature, I hope to show others the power that is held in the Huron River and its encompassing woods. I hope to show them that by merely taking a step back from the crowded city –– by literally seeing it from afar –– it can put their mind into a better state of understanding: hopefully, one of peace and relaxation.

Whenever I need to meditate on an idea or seek solitude to listen to an album, I drive down to the river. I watch the push and pull of the waves along the shoreline and listen to the silence that looms over the park. No matter if I run, walk, swim, drive or sit down there, I feel a natural sense of freedom that the city just doesn’t serve.

Although there are a number of special, nature-based places that Ann Arbor provides (like the Arb or the Botanical Gardens), it’s the Huron that calls me from the city, drawing me into its groundedness and vastness, it’s easiness and comfort. The Huron serves as a nucleus of community, collecting Michigan’s natural, minuscule wonders and the people who make up this town. Without that river, my mind would be suffocated, my emotions would be drowning and the decisions I’ve made would still be unclear.

But the moment I sit on those docks under the stars, sipping on an Oberon and laughing with a good friend, I know that somewhere in this constricting city I’ve found a place to call home.

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