Tag Archives: Port Austin

A Vanished Company Town – New River Michigan


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All signs of this once thriving town have been erased by time and nature. It was located about a mile from Huron City and eight miles from Port Austin. From initial land grants in 1845 to J. Spikerman and Walter Hume this fishing village developed quickly. A sawmill was built in 1853 over New River Creek so sawdust was carried out into the lake. (Note…this contrasts to operations at Port Crescent which used sawdust and lumbering waste as a source of fuel) This ventured ended in failure in 1865. A grist mill came in 1856. By 1858 industrialists Howe & Clark employed up to 100 men and built docks for shipment of lumber.

In the creek at New River, fish were so plentiful that it was a common practice for early settlers to catch them in the Spring in huge nets. Often a year’s worth of fish could be put away in barrels and cured. Sturgeon was common and frequently caught.


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By 1870, Cooper, Creevy and Noble came and operated mills, established two salt wells; one was 1040 feet deep and the other was 1003 feet deep. These wells produced on an average of 150 barrels of salt a day. The salt was shipped to Detroit, Toledo and St. Louis. Near the mouth of the New River Creek there are still the foundation pilings driven in the ground where the salt blocks were located.


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The company owned almost the whole village. They owned the cooper shop and made their own barrels for transporting salt, the houses in which the workers lived, their own lumber mills, and blacksmith shop. The company built and maintained a boarding house. This town had a long dock where steamers regularly stopped for freight and passengers.

The salt block was discontinued in 1886 due to economic downturn of the late 1800’s, the low price of salt and the increasing costs of fuel, (likely coal as lumbering operations waned). Per Mr. James Kilpratrick a state Geologist who visited in 1937, New River had the finest grade of salt found in Michigan. One of the final acts of New River took place in 1895 at the Michigan Supreme Court. The case Noble vs. Thompson involved the debts and mortgage and taxes of the salt block at New River.

Today all that remains of New River is the cemetery.

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A Dozen Must See Thumb Sites


We encountered many folks who have come up to the Upper Thumb for their entire lives but never have seen these interesting sites. How many have you been to?  Check these out and let us know if you have a “must-see” from the tip of the Thumb.


1_turnipTurnip Rock – Is a small geological formation in Michigan. It is a limestone stack located in Lake Huron, in shallow water a few meters offshore, near the rock called the Thumbnail which is the extreme tip of Pointe Aux Barques, a small peninsula in Pointe Aux Barques Township which in turn is the extreme tip of The Thumb.

Turnip Rock has been severely undercut by wave action,so that its top has a significantly larger cross-section than its base. Its consequent unusual form, reminiscent of a turnip, has made it an attraction for viewing by canoe and kayak. It’s only accessible from the water as it’s privately owned and not open to the public. Port Austin, the nearest large community, is the usual base for kayaking trips to Turnip Rock.


The Arc – A dilapidated barn from the late 1800s, carefully taken apart piece by piece, has IMG_0475[1]been rebuilt by Detroit artist Scott Hocking as a huge wooden ark.

Originally conceived as an “Emergency Ark,” the project plays into the Hocking’s fascination with mythic forms and structures from the ancient world.

“Many of Scott’s projects are in hidden spaces, where you can’t necessarily see them,” one enthusiast noted. “But this is enormous — and so visible. I drove in from the east, and could see right away the great presence it will have in that landscape.”


1_caseville_breakwallCaseville Break Wall – Its one of the few break walls anywhere that encourages you to walk out and take a look at the bay up close. You can fish, walk and catch a cool breeze on this 1/4 mile sprig of concrete and stone out into Saginaw Bay.

Watch the boats come in and out in the early morning and late afternoon. However ifs its stormy be prepared to get wet.


Charity Island – Also called Big Charity Island, is the largest island in Saginaw Bay, in the1_charity Island Michigan waters of Lake Huron. The island is 222 acres in area and has about 3 miles  shoreline. The island was named by lake mariners for its location, placed ‘through the charity of God’ at the entrance to Saginaw Bay midway between the city of Au Gres, Michigan and “The Thumb”.

Geologically, the island contains pockets of chert that are believed to have been quarried by Native Americans. Offshore, the gravel reefs to the south creates a shallow-water channel separating Charity Island from its smaller neighbor, Little Charity Island. The area between the two islands is a favorite spot for fishing. On the northeast end of the island, a small bay is lined with limestone bedrock, offering good holding ground as a place to anchor during storms. The harbor of refuge is accessible by small boat, though access is controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The island also contains an 11-acre  pond, literally a ‘lake within a lake’, fed by springs.


1_portaustinPort Austin LighthouseIs a lighthouse off the shore of Lake Huron, about 2.5 miles north of Port Austin, Huron County Michigan sitting on a rocky reef,  which is just north of the tip of the Thumb and a real hazard to navigation. The light was first lit in 1878, and its pier was modified in 1899. It is still operational and is automated. The foundation materials are a pier, and the tower is constructed of yellow brick, with buff markings. It is an octagonal, 60-foot tall tower, with an attached keeper house. In 1985 the lens was replaced by a 12-volt solar-powered Tideland Signal 300 mm acrylic optic, which eliminated the need to maintain the submarine cable


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Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse – The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse ranks among the oldest lighthouses in Michigan. It is an active lighthouse maintained by the US Coast Guard remotely, located in Lighthouse County Park on Lake Huron near Port Hope, Michigan in Huron County. “Pointe aux Barques” means ‘Point of Little Boats’, a descriptor of the shallow shoals and reefs that lurk beneath these waves, presenting a hazard to boats as they round Michigan’s Thumb.


Port Austin Farmer’s Market – One of that states largest on-going farmer’s market in Michigan. Every Saturday farmers, local artists and craftsman offer a unique blend of  local Wagon Rides at Port Austin Market.flare for each weekend. Be ready to walk as parking is at a premium in this small town. Enjoy a early Bloody Mary at the” Bank”and proceed to get your weekend stock of fresh corn, vegetables,  local fruit and an amazing assortment of local craftsmen offering clothing, rugs, collectibles to  to furniture. The market is open each Saturday though mid-October.

 


Octagonal Barn – The Thumb Octagon Barn is an historic and unique barn located outside 1_octGagetown, Michigan. It was built in 1924 by local businessman James Purdy. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources bought the property from the bank in 1991 to be incorporated into the adjacent Gagetown State Game Area. The farm buildings including the octagon barn had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of demolition. Local citizens banded together and organized the first Octagon Barn Festival in 1994 to raise funds to repair the barn. The Friends of the Thumb Octagon Barn was formed that year.

After the barn, historic farmhouse, garage and electric power plant were restored, other buildings were moved or built on the old Purdy farm. Moved to the site were a one-room schoolhouse and grain elevator. New construction included a schoolhouse museum, a large multipurpose building, a covered bridge and a sawmill. A blacksmith shop is planned.


1_petroSanilac Petroglyphs – The Sanilac Petroglyphs historic site is located near Cass City. Take M-53 to Bay City-Forestville Road and proceed east to Germania Road. Head south one-half mile on Germania; the site is on the west side of the road. The carvings, known as petroglyphs, were discovered by residents after a fire swept through the area in 1881 and revealed rocks bearing the designs. Because they are made in relatively friable sandstone, geologists have been able to determine that the carvings were made 300 to 1,000 years ago, dating back to the Late Woodland Period. The Bow Man, believed to represent a hunter, is the most well-known of the Sanilac Petroglyphs, rock carvings etched into a sandstone outcrop.


Sand Point – The Sand Point Nature Preserve is one of the most critical protected coastal 1_sand pontlands in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, and probably one of the most important in the Great Lakes. Through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act the Saginaw Bay Herpetological Survey found Sand Point Nature Preserve to be the most biologically diverse site along the Saginaw Bay shoreline.

 


Bay Port – This is one of the Upper Thumb’s tiniest lake shore Bayport Fish Companyvillages but it overflows with history and sites unique only to Michigan. Home of the Bay Port Fish Company, operates between spring and fall, depending upon the weather and has four boats: the Osprey, the Argo, the Patsy, and the Sunflower. You can see the Osprey and the Argo tied up in Caseville harbor at the fish house just south of the break wall. Fresh, smoked, and frozen fish can be bought from the retail store in Bay Port. They also can be found at several Farmers Markets in Michigan. Look for booths at the Port Austin Farmer’s Market, Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, and the Eastern Market in Detroit.


Huron Co Nature CenterHuron County Nature Center – Located midway between Caseville and Port Austin the wilderness arboretum offers over 120 acres of woods, dunes, marsh connected by a intensive trail system. This offers a glimpse of the upper thumb has it appeared 100 years ago. Alternating sand dune ridges, (now with mature growth), and wide areas of pine, oak, fern and huckleberry.

There is no charge to visit and walk the trails. Donations are welcomed.


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“All Hands On Deck”


The term “All Hands On Deck” is used to indicate (the need for) the immediate involvement or efforts of all the members of a party, or of a large number of people, especially in an emergency. The rapid and determental changes proposed by the current Administration against the ongoing funding to restore the Great Lakes have alarmed the entire region. There is a grass roots effort now underway to generate awareness and action that we can clearly see other people are concerned and share the value of keeping and restoring the Great Lakes for generations to come. 

great-lakes-spaceThe Great Lakes –Superior, Huron, Michigan, St. Clair, Ontario and Erie – make up the largest body of fresh water on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet. 40 Million people get their drinking water from the Great Lakes.

But the Great Lakes are being threatened. Some of the threats are: Invasive species like carp and zebra mussels, radioactive waste to be dumped in Lake Huron, sewage overflows in Erie and other head waterways, pipelines that leak, water bottling companies with unlimited access to our water, manufacturing waste run off, funding cut backs of the NOAA that monitors changes in the Great Lakes and Coast Guard cuts that maintain the safety of all who enjoy our Great waters.

In early March, Kimberly Simon of Charlevoix, Michigan was meditating after hearing about proposed budget cuts to the GLRI (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) and envisioned an “All Hands On Deck” event where people would join hands all around the Great Lakes. Currently there are over 50 events planned in five states and in Canada. More than 1,400 people have joined the All Hands On Deck discussion group on Facebook.

 “The idea resonates with people across a very broad region because they all realize theimage Great Lakes are precious resources that are essential for our environment, our economies and our way of life,” Simon said. “Sites may differ by community but on beaches or boardwalks or any other places, the intention is the same; to bring people together in an expression of unified concern about something we all can agree on. We all want to take care for our Great Lakes.”

Simon said the goal of All Hands On Deck is to unite communities around the Great Lakes in a non-partisan way and demonstrate the need to base policies for regulating and researching water issues on science.

Thumb Sun RiseI personally live on an inland lake in Michigan but vacation every year on one of the Great Lakes. Nothing compares to the beauty and majesty of the Great Lakes and its beaches! I, along with my family and some friends, became involved with Kimberly’s efforts and will be Captains of events in Port Austin and Caseville. This is a nonpartisan event for all ages and we invite all to come to join us on the beach or join us in your boat on the water.

Information is available at www.allhandsondeckgreatlakes.org

I can be contacted at: PortAustinahod@outlook.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1164392330338398/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Or give me a call: 1-810-441-8378

The event is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on July 3. Sign in starts at 8 a.m. for those who wish to come early.

Denise Rowden


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Have we made the Great Lakes into a Plastic Soup?


This post was also published in 2012 and is the third most read environmental post on ThumbWind. To me this is development is disheartening but so evident with plastic debris commonly washing up on our beach. This is the fourth article in the Our Water, Our Life Series. 

The next time you brush your teeth or wash your face you may be contributing to adding plastic into the Great Lakes. The New York Times is reporting that micro-plastics are now identified as a serious threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem. As of now there is no way to stop the plastic contamination from products with micro-plastics from entering the watershed.

 The Great Lakes are now a Plastic Soup

microplastics great lakesIn a recent study was conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute headed by Dr. Sherri Mason SUNY College at Fredonia New York. Water samples in July 2012 were taken in the Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario and showed an average abundance was approximately 43,000 microplastic particles/km2. One sample taken downstream from two major cities in Lake Erie, contained over 466,000 particles/km2, greater than all other sample areas combined. Samples taken in Lake Huron just north of Port Austin, Michigan showed a microplastic contamination range between 10,000 and 20,000 microplastic particles/km2. This was the first study to analyze the impact of plastic contamination of the Great Lakes. The surprise is that concentrations of plastic contamination exceed data collected in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

 Detrimental Effect on Humans Unknown but Likely

Scientists are still working through the links of the chain leading back to humans; about 65 million pounds of fish are caught in the Great microplastic in fishLakes each year. Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said that the bits of plastic have a great capacity to attract persistent pollutants to their surface. “Plastics are not just acting as mimic food, but they can also cause physical damage to the organism,” she said. She has examined fish guts and found plastic fibers — possibly from the breakdown of synthetic fabrics through clothes washing — that are laden with the chemicals, and said she expected to find beads as well. The entire food chain in the Great Lakes region appear to be affected.

The plastic pollution problem may be even worse in the Great Lakes than in the oceans, Rios said. Her team found that the number of microparticles — which are more harmful to marine life because of their small size — was 24 percent higher in the Great Lakes than in samples they collected in the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

 Waste Treatment Plants Fall Short

microplastic4While many of the beads appear to enter the environment when storms cause many wastewater treatment plants to release raw sewage, it is increasingly clear that the beads slip through the processing plants as well, Dr. Mason said at a sewage treatment plant in North East, a town near Erie.

Studies are currently underway to assess the effectiveness of waste treatment plans in the Great Lakes region. Dr. Mason and several students are looking at the presence of these plastics and synthetic materials passing through waste water treatment plants. This would cover water that was flushed down toilets and passed through household drains. Currently Mason’s study is focused on treatment plants in upstate New York.

 Products to Avoid

Facial and body scrubs are the largest contributor to microplastic contamination. In a Hair_wash_with_shampoostudy conducted by 5 Gyres, a single tube of Neutrogena “Deep Clean” contained over 350,000 plastic particles. Microplastic particles and microbeads can be found in facial scrubs, shampoos & soaps, toothpaste, eyeliners, lip gloss, deodorant and sunblock sticks. These microparticles are made of Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon. PE and PP are the most common.

Some companies have promised a voluntary phase-out of plastic beads. Others have made no commitments.

Promises to phase-out:

  • Beiersdorf (no set date)
  • Colgate-Palmolive (by end of 2014)
  • Johnson & Johnson (by end of 2015)
  • L’Oreal (no set date)
  • Proctor & Gamble (by end of 2017)
  • Unilever (by end of 2015) (D)

 Citations

New York Times Scientists Turn Their Gaze Toward Tiny Threats to Great Lakes, December 14, 2013. By John Schwartz

Polluting plastic particles invade the Great Lakes, Reported by American Chemical Society, April 8, 2013, By Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, Ph.D

Microplastics in consumer products and in the marine environment, Position Paper – 2013, 5 Gyres Institute, Plastic Soup Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Plastic Free Seas, Clean Seas Coalition

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  • Wikipedia Commons, NOAA, Thumbwind