“The name selected for a boat may not seem like an important thing. But, considering the strong feelings many of us have for our boats; the fact that we put so much work, and sweat and money into them; the fact they are a big part of our memories of so many good times, with family, with friends; the fact that sometimes our very lives are in the safekeeping of our boat; most of us feel that selecting the right name for our boat is important.”- The Frugal Mariner
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
- 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.
I’m a recreational sailer. I’ve been sailing on Saginaw Bay since I was a little kid. We started off sailing Snarks and Sunfish. In the early 1970’s my dad took advantage of a marketing campaign by Kool cigarettes where we could purchase a Snark with the white and green KOOL logo on the sail. We still have this old boat and manage to bring her our to play with from time to time. One of the things that irks me is the lack of movie entertainment that revolves around my favorate pass time. I’ve managed to collect a few examples here.
Wind (1992) – Will Parker, played by Matthew Modine, loses the Americas Cup, the worlds biggest sailing prize, to the Australians and decides to form his own syndicate to win it back. Matthew Modine as Will Parker, Jennifer Grey as Kate Bass and Cliff Robertson as Morgan Weld
All is Lost (2013) – What happens when a single handed sailer hits a shipping container in the Pacific damaging his boat only to be followed by a storm. Robert Redford plays an unnamed character who must face is mortaility and use his wits to survive.
Dead Calm (1989) – A wacked out murderer comes aboard and tries to seduce a young woman after leaving her husband to die on a sinking ship whose crew he’s just slaughtered. Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane.
- A Kool Little Sailboat (thumbwind.com)
Michigan’s Port Crescent State Park is one of the wildest and largest parks on Saginaw Bay. From its beaches you don’t see a single cottage or sign of civilization. These shots where taken in 2003. We fired up an old computer and found many cools shots we will post in the times ahead. Enjoy.
Many folks are amazed to learn that this vast park was once a thriving lumber town. Much of the campgrounds was build on the site of the village of Port Crescent.
In the mid 1800’s much of Michigan was wilderness. While many settlements were established on the shore, there was few government maps and almost no official documentation of water depth and shore topology. Local knowledge from “fisherman and coastals” was depended on. By the 1840’s the US Army was tasked with conducting the first accurate survey of Lake Huron from the St Mary’s River to the St Clair.
In 1857, Captain George Meade relieved Lt. Col. James Kearney on the Lakes Survey mission of the Great Lakes. Meade had already established a successful assignments of building lighthouses and mapping the shoals and reefs of the Florida Keys. It’s shallow reefs have ravaged shipping since the Spanish plied the Caribbean in the 1500’s.
George Meade came to Michigan in 1857 to make the first survey of Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. As a civil engineer of the US Army he “leveled the base line” The method was to use a series of triangulated line-of-site towers that based on angle could be accurately measured from point to point.
17 Story Towers Loomed Over Saginaw Bay
The line-of-sight signaling towers erected on Charity Island, Oak Point, Sand Point, Tawas Point, Point Au Barques, Forestville and others assisted in the survey measurement. These towers measured from 82 to 169 feet above the water level and were considered the highest artificial structures ever made for triangulation measurement in the United States. Measurement was done a survey instrument called a theodolite capturing the flashing mirror of a distant tower.
Sand Point Considered the Center of the Lake Huron
Captain Meade needed a Prime Meridian point. He established a this at a base camp on located on Sand Point. The jut of land extended out into Saginaw Bay offering large line of site vantage point. Meade cleared an area and placed a marker while surveying to denoting the new Prime Meridian line for Saginaw Bay and all of Lake Huron. From the United States Land Survey Station, Sand Point, Saginaw Bay all “geodetic positions of all points of triangulation” were calculated. There is record of Latitude and Longitude observations and calculations made from Sand Point from July 2 through October 9th 1857. They calculated the longitude position of Sand Point Station Latitude at 43° 54’ 39” 79 N , Longitude 5h, 33m 22s.976 west of Greenwich at (conputed at 83° 20’ 44” .64 ) [ Note that the original longitude convention was added. Page 1266 “Message of the President of the United States Communicated to the Two Houses of Congress”, 1858]
Completion of the survey of Lake Huron and extension of the surveys of Lake Michigan down to Grand and Little Traverse Bays were done under his command. Prior to Captain Meade’s command, Great Lakes’ water level readings were taken locally with temporary gauges; a uniform plane of reference had not been established. In 1858, based on his recommendation, instrumentation was set in place for the tabulation of records across the basin. In 1860, the first detailed report of Great Lakes was published.
Civil War Interrupts Progress
In 1861 when the war was declared between the North and the South Washington sent notice calling Captain Meade into active service as a brigadier general. The orders were delivered to Detroit as Meade was making preparations to return to Washington DC to take over a new Topographic group authorized by Congress. Local lore tells that notice of his assignment was delivered to the Sand Point Station from Port Austin as there was no Post Office in Caseville. Before he left the Great Lakes for the war he urged Congress to fund further survey work on Lake Michigan and Superior noting that economic growth and safety of the waterways could be achieved. General Meade won the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 which is considered the turning point of the war.