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Old 09-03-2019, 01:19 PM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
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Planning a weekend camping to Tawas and maybe Port Austin. We were planning to bring our canoe. I had hoped to launch at Port Austin (or someplace closer) and canoe to turnip rock on a calm day. However the only information I can find is for kayaking. Is it practical to canoe to turnip rock or do you need sea kayaks only? Everything I see, the trip is mostly shallow, near shore, and glass-like water. OTOH the kayak rentals do not allow tandem kayaks to go to turnip rock, only singles. Not clear why that is. It is not that far.

Obviously a storm can come up and force you to turn around. Of course that is true of canoe or kayak.

Alternately are there other worthwhile places to canoe near Tawas?

This is a spend no money trip so, renting sea kayaks is probably not practical. If there are not some awesome canoe accessible places, we will probably leave he canoe home. It is heavy and impacts MPG quite a bit.

Any other suggestions for amazing things to see/do near Tawas? Never been there
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Old 09-04-2019, 12:46 PM
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Well, if you're going up to the Tawas area, hands down the best place to canoe is on the AuSable River. The only problem with taking a canoe is drop off and pick up. It's kind of difficult to arrange that without some assistance. If you decide to rent, there are a couple of canoe liveries in Oscoda--with usual canoe trips going from Foote Dam down to Oscoda.

For a nice day trip, my preference is more upstream. Near the Rollways area, north of Hale, there is a place where I have rented canoes: https://www.rollwayresort.com
Going from Alcona Dam downstream to the canoe livery is a very nice stretch of the river. You end up just getting into the backwater area of the next dam. You can also do shorter stretches of the river in that section, depending on how long you intend to be on the water.

Depending on your preferences, Tawas Lake might also be worthy of consideration. There's a DNR boat launch there, so you could take your canoe there. It's a very shallow lake and it's more of a marsh. If you're into wild rice, it's the best remaining place in the state with wild rice. It's a good sized lake. You could probably check it out on Google maps.

Even if you don't end up canoeing, make sure to check out the Scenic River Byway along the AuSable River. A couple of the best places to stop are at Lumberman's Monument and Iargo Springs (which is a bit east of where M-65 crosses the river). https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf...a/?recid=18990 Both have stairs leading down to the river (actually backwaters at both sites), but be prepared for a nice walk back up. They both have around 300 steps so it's not for everyone, but it's worth it IMO.

At the bottom of the stairs at Lumberman's Monument, they have a mock-up of an old floating lumbering camp. If you only do one, though, my recommendation would be to hike down to Iargo Springs. That is perhaps my favorite spot along the AuSable River.

I've canoed the length of the AuSable from Grayling to Oscoda a couple of times, and I've canoed several stretches a few times. It's clearly one of the better rivers to canoe in Michigan, and I have canoed many of them.

If in Tawas, you might as well also go out to Tawas Point State Park. The scaled down light house at Milliken State Park in Detroit is based upon the Tawas Point Light House. I didn't go out to the point this year, but I understand that the high water levels have taken away much of the beach areas, but it's probably getting too cold to swim anyway. Tawas Point is one of the top birding locations in the state, if you're into that.

I'm not sure what type of "camping" that you're doing. There aren't really many good rustic camping options close to Tawas, but there's probably openings at the more crowded sites since it's after Labor Day. If you'd be into hiking over a mile into a secluded National Forest lake spot an hour or so north of Tawas, I could let you know about that.

EDIT: You could also consider primitive camping along the AuSable River. No permit is required after Sept. 10. I've camped on islands in the backwater near Lumberman's Monument.

Last edited by jackmichigan; 09-04-2019 at 12:56 PM..
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:08 PM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
27,337 posts, read 64,872,807 times
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Thank you.

We are car camping although we can handle 4x4 access roads. Just looking for a pleasant place to stay in a tent for a few days with some nice areas to explore. We have been to Saginaw and bay city, but otherwise never int he thumb area. Never on lake Huron that I can remember. We are not spending money right now, so renting sea kayaks is not int he cards.

I did not realize the Au sable was right there. We have done a few overnight canoe/kayak trips on the Ausable, but further up. I would have to look at a map to figure out where. Some sort of wilderness area. We had a canoe rental place drive our truck to us at the take out point.

I was hoping to take the canoe out to turnip rock, but it looks like that might be stupid. Maybe not worth the hassle of bringing the canoe. It is big and heavy.

We were planning to camp at the Tawas point campground if we to choose Tawas. Not sure though, it looks a little developed. We prefer more remote camping.
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Old 09-04-2019, 06:20 PM
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Yes, the Tawas Point Campground is a bit on the developed side. I camped there once several years ago but I don't really do much camping in the area because I have a cottage near Tawas.

If you're open to something more inland, there is a National Forest campground at Lumberman's Monument along the AuSable River. (Like Lumberman's Monument, it's on a high bluff area above the river.) As much as I've been to Lumberman's Monument, I've never been in the campground since they moved it from it's location of many years ago. That would likely offer a bit more seclusion but, as I said, I've never been in the actual campground itself. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf...a/?recid=18836

There is also a National Forest Campground at Round Lake, in the Sand Lake area. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hmnf...a/?recid=18840 It has some nice wooded sites near the lake. Water levels are high this year so, if canoeing, you can likely canoe from Round Lake into adjacent Indian Lake. The Round Lake Campground is a bit tricky to get to, but I know the area well so I can find it easily. Both Indian and Round Lakes have lots of cottages around them, but one side of Indian Lake is mostly natural.

Since it's after Labor Day, I would think that any of these sites might be okay. Being closer to Tawas does have it's advantages--it all depends on what you plan to do and go see. My preference is the more remote, the better--which you're not going to find really close to Tawas.

Last edited by jackmichigan; 09-04-2019 at 06:50 PM..
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:15 PM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
27,337 posts, read 64,872,807 times
Reputation: 32399
Thanks for your help

We stayed at Lumberman's Monument. Great place, campsites are well spread out and it is very clean. The big sand dune chute is very fun and great for swimming at the bottom. Sunsets and star gazing are phenomenal. We spent a lot of time driving the forest fire road trails. Truck has some new badges of honor and we got stuck twice,but it was really fun. We kayaked a little on the lake/pond behind Cooke dam. It was fun, not awesome, but still fun. We should have brought the canoe. Since we had two people and a dog and only one kayak, it kind of dampened the fun. The pond is pretty, but not a blast like the upper parts of the Ausable are.

Lake Huron was a tempest. Large waves spaced only a second or two apart. There was no way to go out in anything but a power boat really. We watched a guy trying a paddle board, but he did not last long. It was fun throwing sticks for the dog to fetch. The waves frightened her at first, but she figured them out eventually.

A couple of notes for those considering this. It was cold at night. High 30s. Not comfortable in a tent, no matter what you do. Even the dog was cold. Days were absolutely beautiful. Warm enough to swim in the late morning - early afternoon. Very few bugs this time of year.

The campground has pit toilets but they were very clean and well kept. No odor.

While there were some nicer campsites we saw, lumberman's has the advantage of the monument right there. WE spent some time on the sand dunes every day, and explored the displays, history videos, trails. The big field is a great place to look at the stars, and the sunset is incredible from the dune or from the overlook deck.

For supplies - Tawas is only about 20 minutes up the road.

We visited the Tawas Point State Park and looked over the campground. It looked absolutely awful. Cramped, crowded and ugly. Just a sea of RVs parked a few feet apart. The park itself was Meh. A nice beach on the lake side and some tiny beaches for dogs on the bay side. Lighthouse is neat, but nothing special. We enjoyed exploring East Tawas (A street and a a half) more than we liked the State park. It was not awful, just not worth the price of admission. The park on the lake in Oscota was a lot nicer.

Never made it to the thumb since kayaking on the lake was obviously out of the question, even if we rented sea Kayaks.
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