There is a high proportion of public and quasi-public land in the basin--state forests, national forests, and Consumers Energy Company. In addition, a number of state, federal, local government and private recreation facilities and areas are available and adequately developed for public use. There are 15 public campground facilities and 25 public access sites available along the Au Sable. Overnight and access facilities are well located and developed to meet public needs. Several overnight facilities have been upgraded during the past few years to better protect the sites, screen them from the river, and improve site quality. All the above facilities have been provided by state or local governments. Recreation opportunities are diverse and year-around activity in the river basin is increasing. More leisure time and increased interest in snowmobiling and cross-country skiing have opened the winter seasons to more recreationists. More and better winter sport facilities and equipment have also encouraged people to enjoy the winter out-of-doors.
- Trout Fishing Museum at Lovells
- North Branch of Au Sable River at Lovells
- Sturgeon Point Lighthouse at Harrisville
- Goat's Beard
- Big Wheel at Hartwick PInes State Park in Grayling
- Canoer's Memorial
- Alcona Pond Canoe Race
- Access Site at McMasters Bridge
- Au Sable River Queen at Oscoda
- Access Site below Mio Dam
- Fishing Access Site at Camp Ten Bridge
- Fly-in at Wurtsmith Air Museum in Oscoda
- Foote Pond Scenic Overlook
- Lumbermen's Monument
- Ripening Wild Rice on Alcona Pond
- Tawas Point Lighthouse at East Tawas
- View of Au Sable River from Canoer's Memorial
- View of Au Sable River from Lumbermen's Monument
- Wanigan (Floating Cook Shack) at Lumbermen's Monument
- Boardwalk at Iargo Springs
- Iargo Springs
- Dawson's Restaurant & Coca-Cola Museum in Grayling
- View of Au Sable River from Au Sable Highbanks
- View of Au Sable River from Loud's Rest Stop
Au Sable River fishing has attracted anglers since the very late 1800's. Today the river is rated as one of the most productive trout streams in the United States. The Michigan Grayling captured the attention of early anglers, but brown trout were introduced long before the Grayling disappeared. Brown, brook and rainbow trout are responsible for the river's reputation today.
Trout fishing develops in early spring and extends throughout the summer. It offers outstanding fishing opportunities and attracts anglers from throughout the mid-western United States. The Michigan recreation plan indicates fishing participation in the eight county region at 103,000 days annually with use projected to increase. A significant portion of the increased fishing use may be for anadramous fish in the rivers and Lake Huron. The anadramous fishery has developed in the lower Au Sable during the past 10 years. Fish migration upstream is restricted by Foote Dam. However, the program has been highly successful and attracts vast numbers of anglers during the spring and fall seasons.
Area liveries estimate a significant decrease in canoe rental traffic, as compared to the 1971 level. The only increasing segments of canoe traffic are private canoes, those that have been purchased by scout, religious, or fraternal organizations and "you-haul" canoes rented in other areas and brought into the area by the users. Canoe use is concentrated in the Grayling to Stephan's Bridge and South Branch sections. The Foote Dam to Oscoda section receives very light canoe use and the Alcona to Loud Pond section and North Branch have no measurable canoe use.
Mio, Alcona, Loud, 5-Channels, Cooke, and Foote Ponds are Consumers Energy Company reservoirs and are available for public recreation use. The six reservoirs provide 6,625 acres of water for warm water fishing, boating, canoeing, and swimming. In addition, there are six camp-picnic sites available along the shorelines and public access sites to each reservoir.
In the fall, deer, ruffed grouse, and rabbit hunting are the primary recreational pursuits in the basin. Waterfowl are also hunted but to a lesser degree.
Skiing and snowmobiling have increased significantly during recent years. The eight county area has 11 ski areas, or 17 percent of the state's downhill ski runs. The Michigan Tourist Council reports skiing increased from 65,000 to 350,000 skiers during the 1954-1970 period. A large percentage of the increase is attributed to cross-country skiing. Although a large percentage of the snowmobiles are registered in the downstate urban areas, the heavy use occurs in the north country. The availability of heavy snow cover, public lands, and developed trails are the main attractions.
The Au Sable River corridor is a well known, outstanding, scenic resource in the river basin and Midwest. It rates very high when compared with other rivers in the region. Its major scenic attractions are relatively undeveloped shorelines, high quality water, diverse vegetation, and sinuous course. Scenic qualities of the river basin may be typical of the north one half of Lower Michigan. The rural landscape is heavily forested and broken by occasional small farms, towns, swamps, lakes, and streams. This is also an area of extensive jack pine sand plains without physiographic or vegetative variety. It lacks vistas and variety afforded by broken topography. Scenery rated typical within the basin would be considered outstanding in other areas of the Midwest.