What is a Watershed?
Purpose of Watershed Protection
Lake Huron Watersheds
The Au Gres – Rifle River Watershed drains approximately 1024 square miles (655,824 acres) of land directly to Lake Huron. The watershed includes Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco and Arenac counties.
The Au Gres River originates in the forests of eastern Ogemaw County and flows 45 miles in a generally southeasterly direction before reaching the City of Au Gres, where the river drains to northern Saginaw Bay. As the Au Gres flows into Iosco County and through Arenac County agricultural activities become more prevalent. The East Branch Au Gres historically joined the Au Gres but has been diverted east via the Whitney Drain to its outlet to Lake Huron at Singing Bridge road crossing.
Twelve miles of the East Branch Au Gres River, from the confluence of Hall Creek and Smith Creek to Whittemore Road, is designated a blue ribbon trout stream by the Michigan DNR. This stretch is characterized by excellent insect hatches, wild resident trout stocks, and water quality, making it a great spot to try some fly-casting. The lower East Branch Au Gres River historically joined the Au Gres River, but since the 1920s it has been diverted to Lake Huron via the Whitney Drain.
The Rifle River is identified as the highest quality tributary to Saginaw Bay, and is one of Michigan’s 16 Designated Natural Rivers. The main branch flows undammed for 60 miles, joined along the way by 140 miles of tributary streams. Recreational opportunities abound. The Rifle River Recreation Area, managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, lies within Au Sable State Forest and is a great place to paddle, fish, hunt, camp, bike, hike and view wildlife. This recreation area boasts 10 scenic lakes and 14 miles of pathways. In the winter snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular activities. Further downstream in the small city of Omer, the “sucker capital of Michigan”, anglers gather from near and far to line the banks of the Rifle each spring and fish a mighty run of spawning suckers. The Rifle River is one of the most heavily used streams in northern Michigan, making conservation both a high priority and a big challenge.
A number of small headwater streams originate in Huron National Forest and flow east before turning south, eventually flowing into Lake Tawas, which is the largest lake in the watershed at over 1,600 surface acres. Below the outlet of Lake Tawas, the Tawas River flows along the coast through East Tawas and Tawas City for three miles before draining into Lake Huron at Tawas Bay. At the river mouth, anglers enjoy fishing for yellow perch, salmon and steelhead. In Lake Tawas bluegill, northern pike, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are pursued. Much of the Tawas River Watershed is poorly drained, creating wetland areas that attract waterfowl and other wildlife. The Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area is a great spot to view wildlife, including many species of birds and mammals.