Tag Archives: Port Austin

Michigan Roadside: Jenks Park


When I was growing up we would road trip all over the Great Lakes. Mom would pack a picnic basket and around noon Dad would pull off and have a break and a bite to eat. As poor college students we continued in this fashion. We would pack cold chicken, a salad, chips, some beer and pop and have a picnic feast. I realized that we have not tailgated while on a road trip in many years. It’s gotten too easy to find quick food at a carry out place.

Michigan led the nation with the development of roadside parks. In 1918 the Iron County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of land to establish Michigan’s first roadside park and picnic tables on US-2. This was quite likely America’s first such facility. 

This past weekend I was traveling up to the hardware in Port Austin and spied an official State of Michigan roadside park. I pulled into Jenks Park just outside Port Austin.  



It’s charming. Picnic tables and grills overlook commanding views of Saginaw Bay. It’s not a bathing beach so the water laps right up to un groomed sea grass and poplar trees that grow wild on the waterfront.  


 


There is bathroom facilities and an honest-to-God hand water pump.  


 


It’s worth a stop if only to take in the sites and think of times gone by. Jenks Park is one of four MDOT roadside parks in Huron County.  The others are:

  • Brown – South of Bay Port. It has an historical Marker for “The Great Fire of 1881.” A million acres were devastated in Sanilac and Huron counties. 
  • Thompson Scenic Turnout – Features 2 large grindstones and access to sandy beach on Saginaw Bay, picnic tables
    and benches.
  •  White Rock – Great views of Lake Huron and White Rock. Steps to beach, observation deck, walking trails connecting to non-motorized path on M-25. White Rock is a large, white, off-shore boulder used as a boundary marker to define the territory released by the Native American tribes of Michigan to the United States under the Treaty of Detroit in 1807. 

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A Look Back – 2012 Marina’s Scramble as Water Levels Dropped


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 MichiganHuron 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.

Caseville Harbor

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.


Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor
Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor

Caseville Harbor


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.


Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor
Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor

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Lighthouses of Michigan’s Upper Thumb


 

Port Austin Reef Lighthouse

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. However, the focal plain is 76 feet (23 m). It originally had a fourth-order Fresnel lens  by Henry Lepaute of Paris and installed in 1899. 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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Photo by Douglas Glancy via Flickr

Charity Island Light

The octagonal cast iron lantern displayed a fixed white Fourth Order Fresnel lens light which was constructed in 1857 with a 39-foot tower which provided a 13-nautical-mile range of visibility. The Charity Island Preservation Committee of the Arenac County Historical Society is restoring the tower. The original keeper’s house was razed, and a new restored private residence has been built in its place and on its foundation.It is being operated as a restaurant and a bed and breakfast.

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Photo by headclown8 via Flickr

Port Aux Barques Light

The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse ranks among the ten 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.

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Harbor Beach Lighthouse

The Harbor Beach Lighthouse is a “spark-plug lighthouse” located at the end of the north break-wall entrance to the harbor of refuge on Lake Huron.The break-wall and light were created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to protect the harbor of Harbor Beach, Michigan, which is the largest man-made freshwater harbor in the world. Harbor Beach is located on the eastern edge of the Thumb of Huron County, in the state of Michigan.

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Great Hints for a Day at Cheeseburger in Caseville


The 19th annual Cheeseburger in Caseville is well underway. While rain on Monday dampened some of the evening festivities the weather looks promising for the rest of the week. In years past, official estimates were that  over 100,000 people visited Caseville 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. Here are some hints provided by those who frequent the event each year.


Be Prepared – This includes having your own water, a rain jacket and comfortable walking shoes. Have a small Cheeseburger in Casevillebackpack with snacks, sunscreen and even a change of clothes. Double on this point if your bringing kids!!


Gas Up Before You Arrive – If your getting here on fumes gas up in Elkton, Kinde, Bay Port, Port Austin or Bad Axe. 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


Set 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 someones lawn.


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.

 


Be Informed of Events – Grab a free Event Calendar from Caseville Chamber of Commerce. There are also several Smartphone apps available.

 


Set up For the Parade of Tropical Fools Early – This is the highlight of the whole festival. By late morning on Wednesday Cheeseburger Paradeyou 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.

 


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.


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


Cheeseburger in Caseville

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


Plan B- Do Something Else – If you, or your kids have had enough #CheeseburgerFest and crowds, try something else. Our 13 Things to Do When Your Bored with Cheeseburger in Caseville. has several fresh ideas.