The AuSable River

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The Au Sable River in Michigan runs approximately 129 miles through the northern Lower Peninsula, through the towns of Grayling and Mio, and enters Lake Huron at Oscoda. It is considered one of the best brown trout fisheries east of the Rockies and has been designated a blue ribbon trout stream by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In French, au sable literally means "with sand."

#1 - Mio Dam
Construction of the Mio Hydro-electric took place from 1914-16. It has a capacity of 4,900 kilowatts and is the company's furthest upstream (west) hydro on the Au Sable River. Named after the nearby city, Mio was the first hydroelectric plant to use a conduit or under-sluice spillway. Before this, all dams had included a massive above-ground concrete spillway that typically included a system of gates to pass excess flows. The under-sluice spillway was built into the powerhouse foundation and eliminated the need for the above-ground structure. The under-sluice spillway was invented and patented by William W. Tefft, a Consumers civil engineer and vice president. Tefft's innovation reduced tailwater erosion during spill operation, increased the plant's power production and reduced construction expense. It was refined and used at subsequent Consumers' projects at Alcona Hydro on the Au Sable River, at Hodenpyl Hydro on the Manistee River and at Hardy Hydro on the Muskegon River.
Coordinants: 44.661077, -84.131739
#2 - Alcona Dam
Capable of producing 8,000 kilowatts, the hydro was originally named for a nearby road called Bamfield. Work began on Bamfield Dam in 1917, but the project stalled due to unstable sand and World War I. Construction resumed in 1923, and Alcona Hydro, named after the county where it is located, began commercial operation in 1924. The drop in elevation is approximately 30ft, depending on the time of year.
Coordinants: 44.561909, -83.804418
#3 - Loud Dam
Capable of producing 4,000 kilowatts, the hydro was completed in 1913. It is named for Edward Loud, who had done extensive lumber business along the Au Sable and bought up most of the cut over Au Sable lands between 1900-06, then later partnered with company founder William Foote and others to build the Au Sable hydros.
Coordinants: 44.463459, -83.721741
#4 - Five Channels Dam
Capable of producing 6,000 kilowatts, the hydro was completed in 1912. This hydro is named for the nearby location on the Au Sable River where there were once five distinct river channels. The site of the workers' camp built to support construction of the dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 2002. It is an early American example of incorporating worker safety and health provisions into construction site living, drawing heavily on lessons learned in the building of the Panama Canal.
Coordinants: 44.455165, -83.676455
#5 - Iargo Springs
This site features several viewing decks and a boardwalk path through the natural springs. The natural springs can be accessed from the road by stairs leading down to the AuSable River. Man-made barriers pool the springs and create small waterfalls that the ice cold spring water runs down. The wooden boardwalk stretches over 1,000 feet as it winds through the natural springs. Viewing is best in the spring or just after rainfall.
Coordinants: 44.441063, -83.676186
#6 - Lumberman's Monument
This huge bronze memorial to Michigan's lumbering era sits on a high bluff overlooking the sparkling waters of the Au Sable River since 1932. Interpretive signs and exhibits tell the story of moving logs from the forests to the mills. Children enjoy climbing the log jam and using the crosscut saw.
Coordinants: 44.435713, -83.624611
#7 - Cooke Dam
This dam began generating electricity in December 1911, with an original capacity of 9,000 kilowatts, making it the first of the six Au Sable River hydros. Cooke is named for banker Andrew Cooke, who helped secure financing for the project. Cooke Hydro was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 2, 1996. The honor recognizes the hydro's transmission of 140,000 volts, 125 miles to Flint, establishing a world record. Innovations included three-legged windmill-like towers that supported the transmission line and advances in insulator design. Cooke Hydro is also part of the River Road Scenic Byway and listed in the National Scenic Byways Program.
Coordinants: 44.472669, -83.571677
#8 - Scenic Lookout
This spot is is a local favorite. The view is beautiful, the water is great for swimming, and the hill just makes everything more fun. It is accessible by boat and car, but space fills up quickly on hot summer days. Because the spot is so popular, the sand is constantly being churned by people, and is always soft. It was featured in the 2011 Official Michigan Tour Guide.
Coordinants: 44.452171, -83.517356
#9 - Foote Pond Dam
This hydro-electric dam was completed in 1918 and generates a current of 9,000 kilowatts. It is located 9 miles upstream from Lake Huron and is named for William A. Foote, the founder of Consumers Power, which later became Consumers Energy. In 1896, Foote took a side trip from Kalamazoo to Allegan, where he conceived the idea of a hydroelectric plant along the Kalamazoo River. In Foote's mind, that plant and others would power the industrial centers throughout the state.
Coordinants: 44.435335, -83.440604
#10 - AuSable River Park
The AuSable River Park is a popular destination during the summer. It features a long stretch of Lake Huron shoreline, a boat slip, and facilities.
Coordinants: 44.403799, -83.321993

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