Au Sable Scenic River

A river otter
A river otter on the Au Sable

The full Au Sable River is 138 miles long, from the merging of Bradford and Kolke Creeks to the outlet at Lake Huron. The Au Sable Scenic River is that 23-mile section of the river's main stem between the Mio Pond Project and the Alcona Pond Project. The 65-mile section of river from Alcona Dam upstream to the town of Grayling is unrestricted for canoes and kayaks. Then the stretch between Alcona Dam and Loud Pond and the stretch below Foote Dam are narrow and offer good floats for canoes and kayaks.

This area of Michigan was almost stripped bare of vegetation between 1880 and 1910 by the logging companies. Once all the trees were gone, they turned their energies to building dams, generating electricity and regulating waterflows to reduce the erosion caused by all the trees being gone. Today there are six hydroelectric dams along the river. Much of the river flows through Huron-Manistee National Forest but camping along the river in the forest is restricted to designated sites and fees are required at some campgrounds.

The Au Sable is well-known for its water quality, scenery, coldwater fishery, recreational opportunities and areas of cultural and historical significance. Some folks think the Au Sable is the best brown trout fishery east of the Rockies. And some folks think the Au Sable is the best flyfishing stream in the Midwest. Everyone seems to agree the Au Sable is one of the finest rivers for canoeing and kayaking in the Midwest. The 120-mile Au Sable River Canoe Marathon has been happening since 1947. Racers start out at 9 pm and run all night. Winning times have varied from 14 to 21 hours. The marathon happens every year over the last full weekend in July.

The lower 23 miles of the Au Sable are paralleled by the River Road, a National Scenic Byway. That stretch if the river is also home to the Au Sable River Queen, the only paddlewheel river boat operating in northern Michigan.

Canoers on the Au Sable River
Canoeing the Au Sable

Photos are in the public domain