Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation
  • LocationMI
  • Length22 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Huron-Manistee National Forests
Statewide Byway Partners
Downloadable Michigan Byways Map
Pure Michigan
This fishing area at Whirlpool River Access is one of three located along River Road. These fishing piers offer easy access to the water for those travelers that don't want to negotiate steep banks or don't have a boat to get out onto the water.
Public domain Photo

Overview

Explore all the AuSable River Valley has to offer by travelling along the River Road Scenic Byway. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Huron National Forest, visitors will enjoy panoramic views from high bluffs, spectacular fall colors, or quiet winter splendor and can partake in hiking, canoeing, birdwatching, snowmobiling, or skiing depending on the season.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

The 22-mile River Road Scenic Byway extends westward from Lake Huron to the inland lands of the Huron-Manistee National Forests, paralleling the historic Riviere aux Sable (River of Sand). The Au Sable River is a major waterway, with six hydroelectric dams providing power and water recreation. Travelers enjoy lush forests and breath-taking vistas from high banks along the river. There are motorized trails for Off-road vehicles and snowmobiles, as well as quiet trail systems for hiking and cross-country skiing. Several boat landings provide easy access for canoeing, kayaking, fishing and pleasure boating. Camping enthusiasts can choose from the modern facilities, more primitive camping at Rollways or Monument Campgrounds or a remote campsite along the Au Sable River shoreline. The byway officially begins at Westgate Overlook, which has exceptional views of scenery and wildlife.

Next to the Rollways Picnic Area, the Westgate Welcome Center introduces visitors to the River Road Scenic Byway. Visitors will enjoy visiting the viewing deck, overlooking Loud Dam Pond, with interpretive signing, including a detailed map of the area. They can also partake in a short hike to the picnic area, which will allow the visitor to reach the Au Sable River via a hillside trail. Visitors should also be sure to check out Thompson’s landing, a small river access in a quiet area of the river. Continuing along the byway near M-65, visitors will encounter two dams, the Loud Dam and the Five Channels Dam. The Loud Dam is a great site for fishing and was the third hydroelectric dam built on the Au Sable River, built in 1913, by Consumers Energy and is named for Edward Loud, who explored sites along the Au Sable for building hydroelectric plants. The Five Channels Dam was built in 1912, and the workers camp here is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

About 18 miles west of Oscoda, visitors can explore the Iargo Springs Interpretive Site, which has a long history of recreational use, starting before white settlers came to the region. In the 1920s and 1930s, the springs attracted visitors from the bluff. Today the site is an outdoor education area where visitors are treated to displays explaining history, geology, and plant and animal life of the area. Continuing along River Road, visitors will discover the Canoer’s Memorial, which was erected to honor canoers who have participated in the Au Sable River Canoe Race, which is held each year. There is a spectacular panoramic view of Cooke Dam Pond. The Au Sable River Canoe Marathon was the idea of two men, Harold Brubaker and Frank Davis. They conceived the idea in 1947 as an aid to tourism. The first race took place in September of 1947 in canoes made of wood and canvas. There were 46 teams entered; 15 teams finished the race. Allen Carr and Delbert Case of Grayling finished first with a time of 21 hours and 40 minutes. Visitors should also be sure to visit the Lumberman's Monument and Visitor Center, Monument Campground. A14-foot bronze statue of three lumbermen highlights Michigan’s logging history, which was significant for the development of the Michigan economy in the 1800s. The statue depicting a “River Rat”, a surveyor and a sawyer was first conceived by R.G. Schreck, former Supervisor of the Huron National Forest. Robert Aitken of New York City was contracted to cast the statue, at a cost of $50,000. The completed monument was dedicated on July 16, 1932. The visitor center is a log cabin built in 1982. The building is 16’ by 60’ and was built from a kit by the Forest Service and local volunteers at the same time the outdoor displays, landscaped grounds, picnic areas and paved parking lots were added. Interpretive programs are given often during the summer months.

As visitors reach Oscoda and the end of the scenic byway, they should be sure to capitalize on water recreation activities and beautiful scenery by visiting the Cooke Dam Hydroelectric Plant, Foote Pond Overlook, Foote Dam, and the Whirlpool River Access.

Driving Directions

Visitors will begin the byway about 7 miles northeast of Hale, Michigan at the intersection of M-65 and Rollways Road. Visitors will continue until they reach River Road, which they will follow until they reach Oscoda, Michigan. The road will follow along the AuSable River and is filled with beautiful natural scenery.

Points of Interest

  • Westgate Overlook

    At the Westgate Overlook, visitors can enjoy exceptional views of scenery and wildlife and explore the Westgate Welcome Center, which introduces visitors to the River Road Scenic Byway.

  • Iargo Springs Interpretive Site

    The Iargo Springs Interpretive site is an outdoor education area where visitors are treated to displays explaining history, geology, and plant and animal life of the area.

  • Lumberman's Monument and Visitor Center

    The Lumberman’s Monument and Visitor Center honors Michigan’s logging history, which aws significant for the development of the Michigan economy in the 1800s through a 14 foot statue and outdoor displays.

Itinerary

  • Explore the River Road

    Begin at Westgate Overlook, which has exceptional views of scenery and wildlife, and continue to the Rollways Picnic Area. Next to the Rollways Picnic Area, the Westgate Welcome Center introduces visitors to the River Road Scenic Byway. Visit the viewing deck, overlooking Loud Dam Pond, with interpretive signing, including a detailed map of the area, and take a short hike to the picnic area, which will allow the visitor to reach the Au Sable River via a hillside trail.

    Continuing along the byway near M-65, spot two dams, the Loud Dam and the Five Channels Dam. The Loud Dam is a great site for fishing, and the Five Channels Dam was built in 1912, and the workers camp here is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Then, drive to the Iargo Springs Interpretive Site, an outdoor education area where you are treated to displays explaining history, geology, and plant and animal life of the area. Continuing along River Road, visitors will discover the Canoer’s Memorial, which was erected to honor canoers who have participated in the Au Sable River Canoe Race, which is held each year. There is a spectacular panoramic view of Cooke Dam Pond. Be sure to visit the Lumberman's Monument and Visitor Center, Monument Campground.

    As you reach Oscoda and the end of the scenic byway, be sure to capitalize on water recreation activities and beautiful scenery by visiting the Cooke Dam Hydroelectric Plant, Foote Pond Overlook, Foote Dam, and the Whirlpool River Access.

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