On October 20th 1881 construction of Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin Railroad began at Caseville to bring rail service to the Thumb area. Just before construction began a huge fire devastated the thumb area. The result was that the former lumbering area was now ripe for agricultural development. The fire opened up the land to farming.
Caseville’s first railroad engines were delivered by the ship C.R. Dumford from Cleveland. The track out of Caseville was laid out about a mile before heavy snow stopped the work. Francis Crawford financed the railway project and the rails were shipped in from Cleveland.
On one shipment from Cleveland the ship ran aground on the rocky shoals near Oak Point. During the salvage operation, 23 rails slipped into Saginaw Bay and were lost. It’s assumed that those rails are still at the bottom of the lake today.
We tend to focus on the here and now. However its great to step back and take a look at the recent past. Five years ago the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging, boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation and lake shipping was facing hard times. There was serious concern on how far it would go and what would happen next. Some credit the winter of 2014 with turning things around. With the lakes frozen over evaporation was minimized and the levels rebounded. Here is a post from September 2012.
I got a voice mail early Monday morning from Hoy’s Saginaw Bay Marina in Caseville, “Mike, the wind was really blowing last night and we would like to get your sailboat out. It’s bouncing on the bottom.” It was the last week in September and we usually try to squeeze one or two of the last day-sails in early October. However I had been monitoring the Michigan–Huron lake levels an knew that we had a good chance of seeing a record low last seen in 1964. With a four foot draft we had already settled in the thick muck in our slip in August. I imagined our Catalina 27 hung fast and listing in the shallows. I called back, and Pete told me that they were looking to get all the sailboats out. I told him to go ahead and pull her out. I would see him on the weekend.
Pulling into the marina Melissa and I were shocked to see the boat yard full of boats on hard dock in late September. Over the week the Hoy’s crew managed to get all of the big Trawlers out and most of the “Sticks”. (Sailboats) When we rolled in, there were two boats idling in what was left of the narrow channel waiting to be hauled out. We took a walk up toward the break wall of Caseville harbor and noticed the inner most red can channel buoy hard aground just outside the Huron Yacht Club. This is the mark where I drop our speed in order to not make a wake as we enter the inner harbor. We took shots around the break wall and back just outside the HYC which you can see here.
The Official Account
The US Army Corps of Engineers noted that Lake Michigan-Huron is 12 inches lower than its level of a year ago. Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are down 14, 15, and 10 inches, respectively, lower than their levels of a year ago. Over the next month, Lake Superior is forecast to drop another 1 inch from its current level, while Lake Michigan-Huron is expected to fall another 2 inches. The Corps noted that as of now Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron are below chart datum. They are in record low territory. At this point we are wondering if we will be able to get “Trillium” back into the water next Spring.
It’s finally here. My favorite time to be in the Upper Thumb. Cheeseburger Festival has long since past. The long upcoming Labor Day weekend will soon slip by. Things are quieter. I can now cross M-25 without fear. What a season. To many folks this was a less than ideal summer. It was cool, it was rainy, and Saginaw Bay seemed too stirred up every weekend to fish.
However now it’s time for football on Friday evenings on WLEW, chili on the stove, and it’s finally cool enough for a sweatshirt. I don’t expect the leaves to fall until later in September, but I am seeing a hit of color on my maple trees. The crickets are in full chirp mode during the overnight. A sure sign of a waning summer.
It’s going to get more quiet, more serine. Soon the boats will be coming out at the marina, the trailers parked all summer at the campgrounds will be leaving or wrapped up and winterized. Cottages will be closed. Garden’s are turned over.
However for now I look forward to the iconic Indian summer. A sting of unusually warm days after a snap of chilly ones. It sometimes hits during late September, but I’ve seen it come later. The long shadow of a bright sun and crisp fall air. It’s an ideal time to be around at the tip of the Thumb.
The final weekend. It always comes fast. To some the final weekend is deemed the best. More vendor’s, top acts, the Cheeseburger grills are well seasoned and so is the staff. It’s also a bit sad. The waning hours signal the end of the summer. It’s only days away from the Labor Day weekend.
Friday’s highlights are the grand opening the Bay Wash Coin Laundry. Saturday go out to the beach and Row, Row, Row Your Cardboard Boat with Fireworks after the last show in the Amphitheater. Sunday is the car show down at the county beach. Be safe and enjoy one of the final weekends of the 2017 summer season.