Au Sable River (Rivière aux Sables)


"Known to the early French explorers as the Rivière aux Sables (River of Sand), the Au Sable has played an important and colorful role in the history of Iosco County and Northern Michigan: This mighty stream was home to Michigan's Indians; it provided the raw materials for the region's fur industry; its mouth served as a haven for the Lake Huron fishing fleet; upon its bosom was carried millions of feet of pine logs during the lumbering era; its flow of water still serves as an important link in the production of the state's electrical power supply" (Neil Thornton, Along the Historic Riviere aux Sables.Tawas City: Printer's Devil Press, 1987).

The drive along the Au Sable River from Lake Huron into the Huron-Manistee National Forest provides not only beautiful and peaceful vistas (such as that of Foote Dam Pond, above) but also an introduction to Michigan's continuing effort to remember its past and preserve its present for its future.

The forests of huge pines that once covered the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula are now gone but the forests themselves have returned with the help of historians, conservationists, and increasingly environmentally responsible industry. Hydroelectric dams tamed the river in the early twentieth century and provided needed jobs and economic development to replace the lumber economy that had prevailed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The dams are still there but the lumbermen of old would not recognize the managed forests and comparatively slender trees.

My goal was to visit the Lumbermen's Monument but on the way I passed a sign that, in part at least, explained the surrounding forest:

COOPERATIVE FOREST PLANTATION
ESTABLISHED IN 1931 BY THE
FLINT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
IN COOPERATION WITH

HURON NATIONAL FOREST

And a little further on other signs directed me toward the Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area several miles down a gravel road.Take this short detour and then go on to Lumbermen's Monument.