- 22 miles (35 km)
- 1 hour to drive or 2 days to enjoy the entire Byway.
Leave behind fast-paced urban living and discover the surprises nature has to offer "up north" when you travel Michigan's River Road Scenic Byway. Take in panoramic views from high sand bluffs as you follow the Au Sable ("River of Sand") through 22 miles of white pine forests. Once a westward link for Native Americans and French Fur traders, the Au Sable gives River Road its name and has shaped the history of the communities that call its banks home.
Still a major waterway today, the river offers countless recreational opportunities. Reserve a ride on the only restored paddlewheel riverboat of its kind in northern Michigan, the Au Sable River Queen. In spring and summer, have a seat and dangle your feet over the side of a public access pier, or paddle a canoe beneath branches overhanging the banks. With its spectacular fall colors and quiet winter splendor, River Road can be explored in any season.
If the past is your passion, you can experience the history of River Road firsthand at the Lumberman's Monument Visitor Center. A 14-foot bronze statue, exhibits and hands-on displays tell the stories of the lumberjacks who worked the woods and rode the rivers. Test your skill with a crosscut saw, climb through a logjam, or board a wanigan. Lumberman's Monument's knowledgeable staff can answer your questions or help you plan your day's adventures.
After the perfect picture? River Road's combination of open water and forested land offers you plenty of postcard possibilities. The Byway's broad vistas overlook the diverse landscape of the Au Sable River Valley and the Huron National Forest. Enjoy the view from high above the water at Foote Pond Overlook or experience a rush of "butterflies" in your stomach by stepping onto the high viewing deck at Iargo Springs. Perched over the bluff 200 feet above the river, this view is one you are sure to remember.
With thousands of acres of river, forests and tree-lined lakes, River Road is where the wild things are. Besides providing power to surrounding communities, six hydroelectric dams along the Au Sable have created reservoirs that are home to a variety of fish. In addition to keeping fishermen happy, the abundance of fish has aided the recovery of the bald eagle along this part of the Au Sable River. Take an early morning or evening hike along the river and watch for these stately birds, as well as beaver, otter, and great blue heron.
So whether you want to step back in time, get the perfect shot, or enjoy the wonders of nature away from the city, start your adventure on River Road Scenic Byway and discover a marvelous landscape that will bring you back "up north" year after year.