Water for the facility is pumped from the East Branch of the Maple River and from a groundwater well. It is then distributed throughout the experimental area by PVC pipes and valves. After use in the facility, water is collected and discharged back to the river.
Various sizes of artificial stream channels may be used, from 13-cm.-wide vinyl gutters to wooden channels 30 cm. wide. These channels allow manipulation of water temperature and water chemistry, substrates, groups of organisms, and other experimental conditions.
The experimental area is designed for easy access and observation of the channels, and even video analysis where necessary.
An 8.5 m x 7 m laboratory building stands next to the concrete pads holding the artificial streams. This on-site building enables immediate preparation and analysis of samples and solutions for manipulations, instrument space for monitoring conditions in the experimental streams, equipment maintenance and repair, and storage. An overhead door on one side of the building facilitates movement of large equipment.
The East Branch of the Maple River is a typical boreal stream and the closest big stream to the UMBS campus. Its source is an alkaline glacial lake (Douglas Lake) and it eventually empties into another glacial lake (Burt Lake). The mix of ground and surface water supplies to the Maple River make it a hydrologically interesting system to study. The specific site chosen provides excellent access to pools, riffles, and runs and has a diverse assemblage of substrate types. Finally, from its source at Douglas Lake to well downstream of the lab site, the Maple River is entirely on UMBS property and subject to minimal human disturbance.