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Birding Iosco-Ogemaw County: Hotspots near Oscoda & Tawas Point


(A) Lost Lake Nature Sanctuary ★

Adjacent to Rifle Creek Recreation Area, Lost Lake Nature Sanctuary protects 80 acres of swamp and forest. The preserve does not have any clearly marked trails, making a compass and map necessary components for a visit. To access the lake, walk west for a half-mile (30 minutes) from the parking area on Sensabaugh Road. Look for Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls, both of which nest in the area.

Directions: Click here


(B) Rifle River Recreation Area ★★

Rifle River Recreation Area is a large, 4440-acre wilderness located within the borders of the Au Sable State Forest. The nature preserve features 14 miles of hiking trails, which explore a large forest dotted with numerous lakes. The best way to view the lakes is to paddle a canoe or kayak to a secluded spot, bringing visitors closer to the wildlife (motor boats are not permitted). Pied-billed Grebes and Purple Martins nest next to open water every year.

There is an observation tower overlooking Grebe Lake, giving visitors a good place to set up a spotting scope. Birders may wish to stay at the campground so they can enjoy some of the other activities and amenities available at Rifle River Recreation Area. Close by, Rifle River and Devoe Lake are two other hotspots that are popular with local birders.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone: (989) 473-2258
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here


(C) Westgate Overlook & Welcome Center ★

The Westgate Scenic Overlook & Welcome Center features two viewing decks positioned above Loud Pond, which is a part of the Au Sable River. The area hosts nesting Trumpeter Swans and has spectacular fall colors on display in early October.

Directions: Click here

Trumpeter SwanTrumpeter Swan


(D) Lumberman’s Monument,

Canoer’s Memorial, and Iargo Springs ★★

Besides providing birders with natural riparian areas to explore, Lumberman’s Monument, Canoer’s Memorial, and Iargo Springs each tell a little bit about Michigan’s history. The sites are popular tourist destinations because of the area’s natural beauty. The 14-ft tall Lumberman’s Monument is especially scenic—the statue stands high above the Au Sable River. The other attraction of historical prominence—Canoer’s Memorial—is the place where Marathon canoe racing began in 1940.

The area is well-known to birders for hosting many nesting species of woodland birds. Vireos, Scarlet Tanagers, and Indigo Buntings can be seen hunting for bugs during the springtime and early summer. Many other birds fly through during migration. On Cooke Pond at Canoer’s Memorial, look for Trumpeter Swan nests in the brush nearby. From this location, visitors can access the Highbanks Hiking and Ski Trail.

Iargo Springs is a set of natural springs located only a few miles away from Lumberman’s Monument. There are steep stairs leading down to the springs, located next to the Au Sable River. Keep an eye open for ducks during the early springtime, when nearby lakes have not melted yet.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(E) Cooke Dam ★

Located within Huron National Forest, Cooke Dam halts the flow of the Au Sable River, creating several large ponds—Foote Dam Pond on the east and the much larger Cooke Dam Pond to the west. The ponds are a good place to search for waterfowl and eagles. Also keep an eye out for Horned Grebes.

Directions: Click here

Horned GrebeHorned Grebe


(F) Au Sable River Lower Landing ★

Covered by pines, the Au Sable River Lower Landing can only be accessed from a dirt two-track. A part of Huron National Forest, the river regularly floods during the springtime. The overflow helps to maintain the water level in the nearby wetlands.

In February and January, birders visiting the Au Sable River may find Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and several other kinds of ducks. From the position of the GPS points, drive east a little further on Bissonette Road, and there will be a dirt two-track leading south to a flooding area (44.4766, -83.5502).

Directions: Click here


(G) Foote Dam Pond Campground ★

Foote Dam Pond Campground provides birders with a good spot to scan the pond for Bufflehead and other duck species. The Au Sable River flows through the pond before disappearing into the picturesque Huron National Forest.

Directions: Click here


(H) Clark's Marsh Wildlife Area ★★

Located next to the Au Sable River, Clark’s Marsh Wildlife Area is a swampy area containing several ponds. The preserve has neat, grassy trails for guests to walk on, where several kinds of rare wildflowers grow in the meadows nearby.

Famous for hosting one of the most productive Bald Eagle nests in Huron National Forest, Clark’s Marsh is an excellent birding hotspot, with nearly 100 species recorded. During the springtime, warblers are an especially frequent visitors.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

(I) Eagle Run X-Country Ski Trail ★★

Following the Au Sable River, Eagle Run X-Country Ski Trail offers birders a scenic introduction to some of northern Lower Peninsula’s most pristine forests. A favorite destination for kayakers and canoeists, the river is famous for its wild beauty. There is a loop trail which provides birders with a place to search for many kinds of nesting passerines. Some of the different kinds of warbler species that live near the river include Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, and Cape May.

Directions: Click here

Chestnut-sided WarblerChestnut-sided Warbler


(J) Three Mile Beach Park ★

Pristine areas of undeveloped Lake Huron shoreline can be hard to find, but luckily for nature lovers, Three Mile Beach Park was created to protect such a precious commodity. The sanctuary attracts mostly waterfowl, but migrating warblers and sparrows can also be found. The pine trees next to the parking lot are an ideal place to search for passerines.

The park has a number of amenities available—restrooms, picnic tables, and grills all combine to help visitors to enjoy their time at Three Mile Beach Park.

Directions: Click here


(K) AuSable River Breakwall ★

The AuSable River Breakwall shelters a channel of water as it flows into Lake Huron. There is a large parking area, beach, and marina nearby. The shoreline near the pier is a good place to search for rare sandpipers and gulls.

Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Little GullLittle Gull


(L) Frinks Pond Sanctuary ★

Located next to Lake Huron, Frinks Pond Sanctuary features swales, swamp habitat and wooded dunes. Marsh Wrens nest in the sanctuary every year.

Directions: Click here


(M) Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area ★★

A favorite stop for birders driving home from Tawas Point State Park, Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area is a good place to search for wetland bird species. The wildlife area features a 400-acre water impoundment, creating an excellent place to see ducks, herons, and cranes. There are no restrooms or other facilities available.

While Tuttle Marsh has no “official” hiking trails, the DNR encourages visitors to use the dikes instead. Walking along the gravel paths will provide visitors with excellent views of the surrounding swamp. Look for man-made nesting platforms, in which Ospreys nest every spring.

Birders driving from Tawas Point should head for the south entrance. There is a parking area near the center of the marsh (44.3622, -83.4695) which is an excellent place for hiking. In May, Sora and Pied-billed Grebes can frequently be heard calling from the parking lot.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone: (989) 739-0728
GPS for South Entrance: (44.3526, -83.4812)
GPS for North Entrance: (44.3954, -83.4321" target="_blank">Click here



(N) Jerry's Marina ★

Jerry's Marina is a large boat docking facility located on the edge of Tawas Bay. The marina is a good spot to quickly search for ducks and sandpipers before proceeding to Tawas Point State Park.

Directions: Click here


(O) Tawas Point State Park ★★★

One of the best birding hotspots in the Midwest, Tawas Point State Park’s incredible warbler migration leads many birders to draw direct comparisons with Point Pelee. Around the 3rd weekend in May, hundreds of warblers and songbirds fly across Saginaw Bay and arrive at the point. While its “out-of-the-way” location may deter some birders, most visitors will enjoy the lack of crowds and compacted nature of the park. The smaller size makes it easier to find areas buzzing with avian activity. 24 species of warblers have been seen at Tawas Point in one day.

Part of the area’s attractiveness to birders is because of its scrubby terrain. The trees of Tawas Point State Park are short and scrubby, making birding more enjoyable. Instead of craning their necks to look overhead, visitors can enjoy pleasant, eye-level views of warblers in the trees directly in front of them. The hotspot is also an excellent place to look for sandpipers. Every year, naturalists recorded sightings of Black-bellied Plovers and Piping Plovers. Greater Black-backed Gulls and Caspian Terns can usually be spotted resting off in the shallow waters of the bay.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone: (989) 362-5041
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here


(P) Gateway Park ★

Originally dedicated in 1982, Gateway Park was created to preserve the land around the mouth of the Trinity River. The park is a good spot to search for gulls and waterfowl on Tawas Bay. At the playground, there are several large, concrete animals that children will enjoy playing on.

Directions: Click here