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Au Sable River

Angler working the Au Sable river
The Au Sable River in Michigan runs approximately 140 miles (225 km) through the northern Lower Peninsula, through the towns of Grayling and Mio, and enters Lake Huron at Oscoda. It is considered one of the best brown trout fisheries east of the Rocky Mountains. In French, au sable literally means "with sand." A 1795 map calls it the Beauais River.

The main branch of the river is formed near the border between Crawford County and Oscoda County where several branches come together. The north branch headwaters arise in southeast Otsego County and flow south through Crawford County to merge with the main branch of the river. The middle branch headwaters arise in southwest Ostego County and flow south through Crawford County and Grayling. The south branch headwaters arise in northeast Roscommon County and flow west through the town of Roscommon and then north and east to merge with the Middle Branch in Crawford County. The main branch then flows mostly east through Oscoda County, then south and east through Alcona County and Iosco County. The river's watershed also drains portions of Montmorency County and Ogemaw County.

Most of the main branch of the Au Sable flows through or adjacent to the Huron National Forest. Twenty three miles (37 km) of the river, from the Mio Pond downstream to the Alcona Pond, was designated as a National Wild and Scenic River on October 4, 1984. The watershed provides habitat for bald eagles and the endangered Kirtland's warbler. Five percent of the land in the watershed is National Forest and 29% is state forest.

The Au Sable is a designated trout stream and many canoe liveries exist along the river, which offer canoe trips from a few hours to as long as a week. The river was originally a grayling fishery with brook trout being released in the 1880s. By 1908 the grayling were gone although they were reintroduced in 1987. Brown trout is the current main catch. The Lumberman's Monument, in honor of the lumberjacks that first populated the area, is located on the river about fifteen miles (24 km) west of Oscoda. Lumbering along the river began in the 1860s and was finished by the 1910s.

The Au Sable River is also the site of a yearly 120 mile (190 km) pro-am canoe race, the Au Sable Canoe Marathon, which begins at 9:00 p.m. and runs through the night into the next day. Winning times have ranged from 14 to 21 hours. The race was first run in 1947.

There are six hydro-electric power plants in the Au Sable River basin, with a total installed capacity of 41 MW and an average annual energy output of 500 GJ. The six reservoirs were constructed between 1911 and 1924.

The Au Sable has about 350 miles (560 km) of tributary streams including the Pine River.
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