Tag Archives: Port Austin

Port Austin Butterfly House and Gardens

A Nursery for Butterflies

Port Austin Butterfly House

The Butterfly House and Gardens give you a chance to see various Michigan species of butterflies up close and personal. The 30×50 netted house and surrounding gardens are beautifully landscaped and many of the plants are identified.

The butterflies are grown and collected in the late spring and raised for the summer season. They are set free to migrate south as the season changes to fall. Visitors can stroll through the inside enclosure to view the butterflies or the surrounding gardens. There are places to sit and quietly view the amazingly entertaining creatures. 


A Garden of Ideas for Your House or Cottage

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If you’re a gardener, the Butterfly House and Gardens offer a chance to see which plants are suitable to draw the butterflies into your own garden or yard. In 2017, bees were purchased and the hives were visible nearby. 


Strong Community Support

Port Austin Butterfly House and Gardens

The Port Austin Lions Club adopted the effort to bring the butterfly house to the city. It was completed in 2017 as part of the Lions Club 100-year Anniversary Centennial Project.  Also chipping in with financial help and support was the Huron County Community Foundation, the Village Downtown Development Authority, United Way and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative. 


Future Plans for Tower Park

Port Austin Butterfly House and Gardens
Port Austin’s Tower Park

The Butterfly Garden Project was completed by the local community to utilize a seldom visited park in Port Austin and transform it into a visitor destination. There are future plans for landscaped pollinator and gardens to be established and grow food in the park for donations to local charities and food banks. In 2017, senior landscape architecture students from Michigan State University presented a park and streetscaping plan for the village. The Port Austin city council will consider incorporating those ideas into a master plan for the water tower park.

The Butterfly House and Gardens are located next to the large water tower at the corner of Madison & Adams Street and offer plenty of parking. 


Related Stories to the Port Austin Butterfly House


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How Art, a Farm Market, and Kayaking Saved Port Austin

Drive from any point south of Michigan’s Thumb north to its tip and you will encounter small towns and villages hanging on by a thread. Vacant storefronts, abandoned shops, and remnants of roadside stands abound in the formerly robust four corner rural villages that were common in Michigan at the turn of last century. (Make that from 1800-1900) These small towns were social and economic hubs in the days before the car and paved roads. Stories of travel in the historical fiction murder mystery The Thumb Pointed Fingers noted took a solid day or two to get from Bad Axe to Detroit via the railroad. The area’s remoteness made it sensible for each village or town to have several stores, hotels, and diners.

Today these small towns are struggling to survive. Caseville Cheeseburger Festival offers merchants a chance to make their year profitable in a single week. Thousands of tourists descend for a burger and a beer while wearing a grass skirt and having a good time. Indeed, summer festivals in the Thumb celebrate beans, polka, sugar, potatoes, fish sandwiches, and chicken wings. Each of these small rural towns is looking for ways to draw folks in and keep their local businesses going.


Port Austin – Not an Event but a Destination

Port Austin Farmers MarketThe town at the tip of the Thumb has taken a different approach; offer the town has a destination for the entire summer season. It was the 4th of July weekend in 2005 that the Port Austin Farmers Market debuted with just over 50 vendors. Now with over a dozen years in operation, Port Austin claims to host one of the largest outdoor markets in Michigan. Today permanent vendor booths have been built and the market operates each Saturday for six months of the year with over 150 vendors participating. The Farmers Market offers one of the best examples of farm-to-table opportunities anywhere with fresh produce, fruits, meats, and fish along with baked and gourmet canned goods. It was the vision and early leadership of John and Lisa Pridnia who, along with many others had the energy and forethought to get the Port Austin farmers market to the success that it has become today.


A Lawyer Makes a Float Plan for Port Austin 

Pointe Aux Barques Paddle

Operating outside the fringe of the Port Austin Farmers Market was the paddler crowd. In 2007 Chris Boyle, a local attorney, founded Port Austin Kayak. (Affectionately called “PAK”)  He invited paddlers to join him in 2008 to a summer of weekend paddles circumventing the entire Thumb shoreline on the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail along its 25 access points.  In 2012 Boyle worked with Michigan State University faculty and students to create a concept of a  “third place”;  an informal gathering spot outside home and work to share and express ideas. As a further outcome, Boyle and his wife came up with the concept of C.R.E.A.T.E., which stands for Community, Recreation, Environment, Arts, Tourism and Entertainment. A moniker which has seemed to take on a life of its own in this coastal community. 


Two Simple Kayak Trails Have Sparked a New Interest in Port Austin 

Turnip Rock Kayak

Today the PAK offers novice and experienced kayakers the opportunity to explore some of the most scenic sea kayaking trails in lower Michigan. From the harbor, a few miles along the beach is all that separates one from a site deemed by CNN as the “Most Unique Rock Formation in America”, Turnip Rock,  which lays a few miles east. While a gentle paddle to the west reveals the accessible and climbable Broken Rocks formations along the shore. This enterprise has offered 1000’s an opportunity to see a beautiful bit of Michigan and offer Port Austin as an entry point for the experience.


An Old Barn Offers a Blank Canvas

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It was a simple idea. Paint a large mural on the side of a very weathered barn. Husband and wife visual artists Steve and Dorota Coy came to such a barn in the Upper Thumb in 2013 and changed the direction of Port Austin’s art scene. Their company, Hygienic Dress League works in the community combining business and art with its uses the platform of street art and public art to create their own marketing campaign and bring art to the masses. Their public interventions have surfaced in over nineteen different cities in nine countries spanning across three continents. With the painting of a pigeon on one side of the barn and a version of American Gothic in gas masks on the other, the barn has taken on new life. (However, the work has faded over the past 5 years) Its one of the 10 destination barns for viewing. 


Barn to Ark in Port Austin

Emergency-Ark-Barn-ArtIn June 2015 artist Scott Hocking came to Port Austin at the encouragement of former Port Austin native Jim Boyle to start a series of 10 projects around Port Austin. Finding an 1800’s barn south of Oak Beach, he transformed the structure into a larger than life form entitled “Emergency Ark”. The looming work denotes sanctuary and safety and took five months to construct. This represented another destination piece from a local project called 10 barns in 10 years. An effort to create works of art on barns that art and sculpture enthusiasts can travel about Huron country to view. 


The Community Expands Beyond Port Austin

White Church Gallery

Efforts to make Port Austin a unique and welcoming destination seem to be paying off. The Detroit News ran an article over the 2018 Labor Day weekend that noted that Port Austin has become an “Artistic Beacon” of the region This series of investments by the Upper Thumb community, such as the nearby  White Church Gallery,  looks to have paid off with more visitors trekking up M-53 for a day trip or for a beachfront cottage for the entire summer. 


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Tips For a Day at Cheeseburger in Caseville

The 20th annual Cheeseburger in Caseville is a chance to experience a bit of Key West atmosphere, Jimmy Buffet music and indulge in cheeseburgers in paradise. In prior years, officials placed estimates were that over 100,000 people visited the area during its 10 day festival. It’s a family friendly event during the day but offers a bit of craziness that true Parrot Heads appreciate in the evening hours. Here are some hints provided by those who frequent the event each year.


Be Prepared for Cheeseburger in Caseville

Cheeseburger in Caseville

This includes having your own water, a rain jacket and comfortable walking shoes. Fill a small backpack with snacks, sunscreen and even a change of clothes. Double on this point if your bringing kids!!


Gas Up Before You Arrive at Cheeseburger in Caseville

If your getting here on fumes,  gas up in Elkton, Kinde, Bay Port, Port Austin or Bad Axe. The main street in Caseville gets busy and packed. You will feel better knowing you can get out without waiting an hour in line for a few gallons of gas.Cheeseburger in Caseville


Use the Shuttle Lot at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Cheeseburger-in-CasevilleSet Up a Base Camp – Park your car and plan on walking around. Park a few blocks away from Main so you can get easy in and out. Parking is crazy in the Caseville County Park or near Main Street. Do not park on someone’s lawn.


No Open Alcohol on the Street at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Cheeseburger in Caseville
Cheeseburger Fun

Do Not Drink on the Street – This is not New Orleans Mardi Gras. Open alcohol containers are a no-no. You will see the un-informed with a open beer walking down the street. They are a target for a ticket. Drink in designated areas.


Luck Favors the Informed at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Cheeseburger in CasevilleBe Informed of Events – Grab a free Event Calendar from Caseville Chamber of Commerce. There are also several Smartphone apps available. Tune in to WLEW – FM at 102.1 on your drive in for weather and local updates. 


The Wednesday Evening Parade is the Top Event at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Cheeseburger in CasevilleSet up For the Parade of Tropical Fools Early – This is the highlight of the whole festival. By late morning on Wednesday you should claim a spot for your clan with chairs and ribbon. Be cool about it. There will be up to 50,000 friends with you.


First Saturday? Head for the Fire Station at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Caseville Firehouse During Cheeseburger Fest

Support Your Local Firefighters – The Caseville Fire Department only offers its famous Firehouse Burgers on the first Saturday. Its for a great cause and they are delicious.


Plenty of Facilities at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Cheeseburger in Caseville

Use the Porta Pottys – Guys and Gals, public urination will get you arrested. Fortunately there are hundreds of portable toilets.


Cheeseburger in Caseville

Relax and Have Fun – Make a new friend, help a senior citizen, take crazy pictures and post. It’s Key North and the best part of the summer.


Turnip Rock what to BringPlan B- Do Something Else – If you, or your kids have had enough Cheeseburger Fest and crowds, try something else. Here are a couple of fresh ideas. 


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Plan a Day of Michigan Kayaking the Upper Thumb

If the weather looks to keep Saginaw Bay calm and the winds low, consider a morning of paddling the waters of the Upper Thumb. The region offers some of the finest Michigan kayaking areas for both the novice and expert.  

Michigan Kayaking

Three Popular Michigan Kayaking Destinations

Turnip Rock Michigan KayakingTurnip Rock Trail – This paddle is 7 miles along the shoreline north of Port Austin. It has three unique features to explore. Turnip Rock has been called by CNN  one of the Most Amazing Rock Formations in America. Nearby Thumbnail Point is really considered the true tip of Michigan’s Thumb. If the area around Turnip Rock and Thumbnail Point are crowded then continue paddling a hundred yards further into the Sea Caves of Pointe Aux Barques. 

If you want to learn a bit more about this great paddle see Turnip Rock – Five Things to Know. 

Pointe Aux Barques Sea Cave Michigan Kayaking

Broken Rocks Trail This is a shorter water trail that extends south-west along the shore. The landmarks are Table Rock, Broken Rocks and Twin Sisters. This is an ideal paddle for families with children or novice kayakers. Table Rock is accessible to stop,  take a break, re-energize with a trail snack, take pictures and swim. The trail can be completed in about two hours. 

Pointe Aux Barques Paddle Michigan Kayaking

Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water TrailIf your in for a long multi-day paddle consider taking this well-marked route along the shore of the Thumb. At 103 miles it offers an excellent opportunity to see the rocky shores along Lake Huron to the tranquil waters of Wild Fowl Bay. There are 44  marked access points along the trail to start or end your quest. 

Use Safe Leave-No-Trace Principles on the Water

Leave the trail better then you found it. Pack it in, pack it out. Always wear a life jacket and watch the weather. If the wind picks up or waves come in its best to turn back and attempt another day


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Port Crescent – A Ghost Town in the Thumb

Port Cresent State Park Beach South

Port Crescent State Park is one of the largest state parks in southern Michigan.  Located at the tip of Michigan’s “thumb” along three miles of sandy shoreline of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, the park offers excellent fishing, canoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, birding, and hunting opportunities.  However, a little-known aspect of this park is that it sits on the location of a ghost town. 

What’s In a Name – Pinnebog Confusion

Walter Hume established a trading post and hotel near the mouth of the Pinnebog River in 1844. From these humble beginnings, the area took the name of Pinnebog, taking its name from the river of which it was located. However, a post office established some five miles upstream also took its name from the river. To avoid confusion the town changed its name to Port Crescent for the crescent-shaped harbor along which it was built. 


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Port Crescent – Industrial Powerhouse

Port Crescent had two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a cooperage which manufactured barrels for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory,  two breweries, several stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a depot and telegraph office, and a roller rink. Pinnebog employed hundreds of area residents.

By 1870 a 1,300 foot well struck brine.  This started a salt blockhouse operation where they extracted brine by evaporating the water to produce 65,000 barrels of salt annually. Port Crescent used the “slash” or leftover limbs, bark, and sawdust for fuel to boil the salt water. At one time this 17 block village boasted of a population of more than 500

Port Crescent prospered as a lumber town from about 1864 to 1881. One sawmill became so busy salvaging thousands of trees felled in one of the infamous fires experienced by the Midwest in 1871 that it added a 120-foot brick chimney to help power the plant. In 1881, another fire swept through the Thumb region, destroying the area’s timber resources.


Port Crescent Grist Mill
Port Crescent Grist Mill


The Town of Port Crescent Declines

When the timber in the Pinnebog River basin was gone, the town began to decline.  The lumber mills closed, as did the firewood-fueled salt plants. Workers dismantled some of the buildings and an 800-foot dock, moving them north to Oscoda, Michigan. Some Port Crescent residents moved their houses to nearby towns. By 1894, all of the buildings in Port Crescent were gone, leaving few traces of the town behind. Nathaniel Bennett Haskell, who owned the sawmill and salt plant on the west side of the river, began to export white sand which was used in the manufacture of glass. This continued until 1936.


Port Crescent State Park

Port Cresent State Park River Bank

After  World War II, the demand for public use areas along shoreline property stimulated interest for an additional state park in the Thumb. Twenty years later, the Michigan Department of Conservation acquired possession of 124 acres of fine woodland at this place for a new state park. Port Crescent State Park was officially established on September 6, 1959.

Today little remains of the former town. Foundations can be seen, in the Organization Area, where a structure stood. The lower 10 feet the old sawmill chimney is a prominent part of the park entrance.


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