Oscoda - West Branch - Tawas City

This Michigan Sunrise Side fall color tour includes a scenic drive along Lake Huron, unspoiled wilderness and recreation areas, abundant wildlife, and the River Road Scenic Byway along the beautiful Au Sable River.

Best enjoyed: Late September to Mid-October
Approximate Length: 190 miles

Before departing Oscoda visit Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area, a 5,000 acre wetland project managed to optimize nesting potential for ducks, geese and other birds. Two osprey platforms and a blue heron rookery may be observed here.

Driving along Lake Huron, depart Oscoda south on US-23 to Tawas City. While in the Tawas area, tour the Tawas Point Lighthouse and visit Tawas Point State Park, the "Cape Cod of the Midwest." Tawas Point is a stop over point for hundreds of species of migratory birds, and it is a favorite spot for many bird watchers from all over the midwest.

Continue south on US-23 through Au Gres to M-65. Turn right on M-65 heading north to M-55. Turn left and head east on M-55 to West Branch. If you want to do a little shopping, stop by the Tanger Outlet Center and buy direct from such outlet stores as Eddie Bauer, Gap, Liz Claiborne, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Reebok.

Take Tawas Rd. west out of West Branch to County Rd. 600 & F97 (St. Helen Road). Follow this through the town of St. Helen to County Rd. F28. Turn right heading east to Rose City. For the ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts, Ogemaw Sport and Trail Center offers miles of trails and hill climbs, an excellent MotoCross track and a kiddie track.

Follow M-33 north out of Rose City to Heath Rd. Turn right to Lupton. The Rifle River Recreation Area is a wilderness region located within the AuSable State Forest and provides a variety of recreational opportunities including wildlife viewing, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking and fishing. Continue east on Heath Rd. to South Branch. Just south of South Branch, take Wickert Road east to M-65.
 
Take a left on M-65 to the River Road Scenic Byway which branches off to the east and parallels the south bank of the Au Sable River back to Oscoda. The Byway offers panoramic views of the river, its forested banks and wooded islands. There are several suggested stops including:
·         Iargo Springs 
·         Eagles' Nest Overlook
·         Lumberman's Monument 

If you have extra time, an alternative route back to Oscoda is to continue north on M-65 to F-30 in Glennie. Head east on F-30 to Greenbush and then head south on Cedar Lake Road back to Oscoda.

Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area
Huron-Manistee National Forests
Old US-23 & Tuttle Marsh Road
Oscoda, MI 48750
Phone: (989) 739-0728
Tuttle Marsh is a 5,000 acre wetland project consisting of over 3-1/2 miles of level ditch network and a 2-1/2 mile low-head dam with water level control structures. 35 earthen nesting islands have been constructed. Site includes a 380 acre impoundment area, open water and marsh and wildlife viewing areas. Deer, fox, coyote, muskrat, beaver, otter, weasel and a large variety of bird species.
 
Tawas Point Lighthouse
686 Tawas Beach Road
East Tawas, MI 48730
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (989) 362-5041
In operation since 1876, Tawas Point Lighthouse is a fascinating attraction for maritime buffs. Tawas Point is a destination for birdwatchers; it also offers spectacular views of sunrises over Lake Huron and sunsets over Tawas Bay. Tour times are 12-6 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day, excluding Tuesdays. The lightkeeper quarters is available for your dream destination. You must be at least 18 years old and agree to lead lighthouse tours and take on other duties during your stay. Training is provided on-site upon arrival.
 
Tawas Point State Park
686 Tawas Beach Road
East Tawas, MI 48730
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (989) 362-5041
http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=195&type=SPTR
http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=194&type=SPTR
http://www.midnrreservations.com/SearchPark.aspx?ParkID=62
http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10365_36576-308731--,00.html
Tawas Point has been referred to as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest." The campground is located on Tawas Bay where the water is shallow and warm for swimming. In the park is the Tawas Point Lighthouse which serves as the sole representative of a true Victorian-era style station on the Great Lakes. Pet friendly shoreline.
 
Outlets at West Branch
2990 Cook Road
West Branch, MI 48661
Phone: (989) 345-2594
Features brand name manufacturers with an average of 40% off retail prices. Provides friendly service, free parking, a children's play area, and a travel information center. There is easy access off I-75 between Detroit and Mackinaw/Traverse City areas at Exit 212.
 
Ogemaw Sport & Trail Center
2374 Lentz Road
Rose City, MI 48654
Phone: (989) 685-2999
Offers complete dirt bike, atv, utv and camping facilities. An awesome constantly maintained motocross track. Tons of Hill Climbs and miles of trails. Direct access to State land. Camping, volleyball, horseshoes, running water, electrical, and hot showers. Day riders welcome also.
 
Rifle River Recreation Area
2550 E. Rose City Road
Lupton, MI 48635-0098
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (989) 473-2258
http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=219&type=SPTR
http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=218&type=SPTR
http://www.midnrreservations.com/
Over 4,000 acres with streams and ten scenic lakes. A modern 75 site partially shaded and mostly grassy campground features a swimming beach, playground and boat launch. Three rustic campgrounds with 99 campsites. Rustic trailside cabins. Observation tower, picnicking, fishing, ice fishing, boating, canoeing, hunting or trapping, wildlife viewing and sports areas. 14 miles of pathways meandering throughout the park offering hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Snowmobiling is available at the nearby AuSable River Scenic Byway.
 
River Road National Scenic Byway
M-65 and Rollways Road
Oscoda, MI 48750
Toll Free: (180) 082-6263
TTY: (711)-711
Phone: (989) 739-0728
The twenty-two mile River Road National Scenic Byway extends westward from Lake Huron into the Huron-Manistee National Forests. It parallels the historic Riviere aux Sable (River of Sand). Byway travelers will find abundant recreation opportunities, from motorized trails for off-road vehicles and snowmobiles to quiet trails for hiking and cross-country skiing. Camping, fishing and boating facilities are accessible from the byway. For a more relaxed experience, visitors will enjoy the lush forest and breathtaking vistas from the many scenic overlooks along the route.
 
Iargo Springs Interpretive Site
River Road Scenic Byway
Oscoda Township, MI 48750
Toll Free: (180) 082-6263
TTY: (711)-711
Phone: (989) 739-0728
Provides a spectacular panoramic view of the AuSable River. Site includes large natural springs and is on the banks of the AuSable River, two of the springs have dams. Varied flora includes riparian wildflowers and old growth hardwood. Observation deck, stairway to spring area, boardwalk and some interpretive signs. Highbanks Trailhead.
 
Lumberman's Monument Visitor Center
5401 Monument Road
Huron-Manistee National Forests
Oscoda, MI 48750
Toll Free: (800) 821-6263
TTY: (711)-711
Phone: (989) 362-8961
Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center interprets the area’s colorful lumbering past. The 14-foot Lumberman’s Monument stands on a high bank with the Au Sable River providing a scenic backdrop. Learn about the industry that helped develop northern Michigan and the men who cut the timber that helped build a nation. Climb through a log jam, use a peavey, cut a wooden cookie with a cross-cut saw, and learn about the life of a lumberjack through video and displays. Hike the stairway down to the wanigan, a loggers floating kitchen, or take the short trail to the dune observation deck. Enjoy a Kid’s Day program or take a guided nature hike on the Forest Discovery Trail. Looking for a longer hike? Try the Highbanks River Trail. Camping is available at the Monument Campground, located near the visitor center.