It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
~Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968
Michigan’s has 16 Wild & Scenic Rivers. One of these is the Au Sable River. The 23 mile stretch of the river from Mio downstream to the 401 Bridge is the portion that has the National Scenic River designation, considered to offer some of the best canoeing in Michigan. It’s also a blue ribbon trout stream with excellent brown trout fly fishing and holding walleye, pike and bass as well.
With all that going for it, I was surprised by the lack of quality information available online about this river. Sometimes, having to dive a little deeper pays off as it has this morning with Michigan’s Au Sable River: Today and Tomorrow by G. E. Hendrickson. The paper was prepared way back in 1966 for the Michigan Department of Conservation under Gov. George Romney’s administration in conjunction with the Geological Survey and the United States Department of the Interior.
Located in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, the Au Sable is known for its high water quality, scenery, recreational opportunities, coldwater fishery, and historic and cultural significance. It may just be the. If that were not enough reason to visit the river, the Au Sable is also one of the best canoeing rivers in the Midwest.
Two south-flowing rivers rise in the country north of Grayling. One, the Manistee, turns west to Lake Michigan; the other, the Au Sable, turns east to Lake Huron. Both are famous trout streams, but the Au Sable is perhaps enjoyed and cherished by more people than any other Michigan river. Cool clean flowing water, natural cover, and gravel spawning beds make it an outstanding trout stream. Its natural beauty attracts canoeists, campers, and cabin dwellers.
The upper Au Sable is a young river, as rivers go, having settled down to its present course after the glaciers retreated about 12,000 years ago. It was named by early French explorers, the name meaning “River of Sands.” Following close on the heels of the retreating ice, the earliest Indians moved into Michigan, and possibly into the Au Sable area. The Indians hunted for deer, bear, mastodons, giant beaver, caribou, and other wildlife. They also fished for many species. To the Indians the Au Sable was a source of food and drink and a highway for canoe travel. Early white traders and explorers used the river for the same purposes, while the lumbermen valued it chiefly for transporting logs.
You can read on for a lot more including the story of the extinction of the Au Sable river Grayling and Au Sable River drift boats.
More of Michigan’s Wild & Scenic Rivers on Michigan in Pictures.