Located in Newaygo and Mecosta counties, the area around Consumers Energy’s three hydros along the Muskegon River is packed with recreational opportunities as well as being rich in Michigan history.
The 227-mile river moves east to west from its headwaters near Houghton to Muskegon Lake and then Lake Michigan. Along an 18-mile stretch of the river, the company owns and operates Rogers Hydro, Hardy Hydro and Croton Hydro, which together can generate about 45,500 kilowatts and serve a community of nearly 23,000.
Croton and Hardy hydros are included with Cooke Hydro and the worker’s camp at Five Channels Hydro on the Au Sable River in the National Register of Historic Places.
How it Works
Capable of producing about 6,750 kilowatts, it is the oldest hydro still operated by Consumers Energy. It was completed in 1906. However, the powerhouse was destroyed by fire in 1921. It was rebuilt and returned to service in 1922.
With a generating capacity of 30,000 kilowatts, Hardy is the largest electricity producing hydro on the river. Construction was completed in 1931, making it the last hydro to be built by the company.
It is named for George E. Hardy, a financial partner with Anton Hodenpyl. Together, they oversaw the holding company (Commonwealth and Southern) that Consumers was part of from 1910 through the 1920s. Hardy was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 1, 1997. The plant is honored for its impressive Spanish Colonial architecture.
Hardy’s five large community parks make it a recreation destination for thousands each summer. They include the Newaygo State Park , the Newaygo County Sandy Beach Park, Big Prairie Township Ox Bow and Big Bend Parks, and the Mecosta County Brower Park.
Capable of producing 8,850 kilowatts, two units began operating in 1907. Croton became the first facility in the world to transmit electricity at more than 110,000 volts and prompted a visit from Dr. Charles Steinmetz, the “wizard” of General Electric, who conducted electrical tests on the transmission line in 1908. Two more generating units were added in 1915.
Croton was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 16, 1979.
Hardy Hydro reservoir offers excellent fishing and one of the company’s best nature trails. The three-mile unpaved path parallels the Muskegon River and contains 26 different trees with identification plaques. The trail area is home to wild turkeys, grouse and bald eagles as well as beaver, mink and otter.
The nearly 4,000 acre Hardy Hydro pond features five major parks that offer some 2,000 campsites, as well as the marina and boat launching facilities that are available in numerous locations on the pond.
Croton Hydro has new pedestrian and biking trails that are a perfect way to escape the daily hustle and bustle all while enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors. At Croton Hydro, salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, brown trout, walleye, bass, perch and other pan fish await anglers. In the Rogers Hydro reservoir, northern pike congregate.
Boat launches and rentals, campgrounds, picnic sites, hiking trails and swimming areas are located around all three sites.
Wildlife habitat efforts on the Muskegon River were first certified in 1999 by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
Specific areas of the Hardy and Croton lands also were identified as suitable habitat for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. About the size of a postage stamp, the Karner Blue is a special focus of Consumers Energy’s wildlife management at its Muskegon River hydro projects.
The butterfly takes its name from a town in New York state and was once common in much of southern Michigan’s native prairie habitat. The tiny butterfly is identified by orange spots that line the underside of both males and females. These are visible when the wings are folded.
As part of its Wildlife Habitat Council certification, the company has also installed and monitors 72 bluebird boxes, 36 wood duck structures, two osprey platforms and five American kestrel boxes on project lands.