Iosco County’s natural resources provide the perfect place to experience natural splendors. Here, you can escape from the noise and chaos of the world and enjoy natures playground. As a vacation community, Iosco County continues to have a valuable blend of year ‘round and summer residents, all of whom gather for the community’s grand events, Perchville, Hale Winterfest, Red, White & Blue Festival, the Iosco County Fair, the famed AuSable River Canoe Marathon, the Gagaguon Pow Wow, Oktoberfest and the many arts and craft shows.
Whether it’s for a day, a weekend retreat or a lifetime, you’re invited to get away from the fast-pace. Spend some time watching the clouds roll. Come and Play!
Oscoda AuSable Chamber of Commerce
Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce
Tawas Bay Tourist and Convention Bureau
Oscoda Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
Hale Area Association
About Iosco County
Iosco County is located in the heart of Lake Huron’s “Sunrise Side”. The county is made up of the municipalities of Hale, Whittemore, Oscoda, Tawas City and East Tawas. Though Iosco County is mostly rural, its community still offers small-town living balanced with 21st century amenities.
Iosco County has an interesting history. Its name means “water of light” in the Chippewa tongue. An early Chippewa chief, Chief O-Ta-Was, was known for fishing the water in what we know as Iosco County. The cities of Tawas City and East Tawas were named for him as well as Tawas Bay, the largest bay on Lake Huron. French traders gave us the name of the AuSable River. In French, “au sable” means “all sand”.
In 1840, the county was originally formed as Kanotin County, was renamed Iosco in 1843 and organized in 1857. According to the US Census Bureau, Iosco County has a total area of 1,891 square miles of which 549 square miles of it is land and 1,342 square miles of it (70.96%) is water. Iosco County is considered to be part of northern Michigan.
Much of Iosco County’s heritage points to the importance of its greatest natural resource: water.
Most of the county’s early inhabitants, including French fur traders and fishermen, were drawn to the riverbanks. French fur traders and fishermen. The first settlement made in the county was at the mouth of the AuSable River in 1849, to which the valuable fisheries attracted attention at a very early date. The only means of reaching this area was by ship. Most of the fish were shipped to Boston, New York and Chicago.
In the 1850’s, the US government saw the need to build a lighthouse. One was built on Tawas Point and placed in operation in 1852 to light the entrance to the largest natural harbor on the Great Lakes.
The close of the Civil War in 1865 opened the way for establishing the new frontiers. The discovery of large tracts of virgin pine was responsible for Iosco County’s growth at that time. With a limited supply of trees in the prairie states, the need for wood was huge and the Michigan forest provided it. Lumber cut near the AuSable River was floated out to Lake Huron and then shipped at first by boat and then in 1867, by rail when the Detroit and Mackinaw Railroad put a station in East Tawas.
On the banks of the mighty AuSable stands the Lumberman’s Monument erected in 1932. It is a memorial to those pioneers, the timber cruiser, the sawyer and the river men who felled the mighty pine trees to build the cities and supply lumber for the treeless prairies.
Gypsum, the mineral with a thousand uses, is found in great abundance in Iosco County. It has contributed to the growth and economy of the area for more than one hundred years. Gypsum’s suitability for economical mass production and its insulating qualities has made it indispensable to the building industry. In 1902 US Gypsum Company acquired the quarry in Alabaster and are the continuing owners to the present day.
During World War II Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda brought thousands of military personnel and their families to the area and provided many civilian jobs as well. After the closing of the base, several industries were brought in and a special community developed utilizing the remodeled base housing. There are still buildings being revitalized. The Park Library is now located on Base as well as the Community Theater, Alpena Community College classes, a Senior Housing facility and some medical facilities.
The county’s history is kept alive by local historical societies, who have established museums and help publish historical accounts of each community’s formative years. We invite you to experience Iosco County’s yesterdays at the AuSable-Oscoda Historical Museum, the Iosco County Historical Museum, the Yankee Air Force Museum and Lumberman’s Monument.
The tourist industry was unheard of in those early days, while today it is a multi-million dollar business for the area.
During your stay, be sure to enjoy some of our northern hospitality by staying in one of our hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns. Our local accommodations are committed to great service and comfort. You are sure to find a place that will meet your needs.
For the true outdoor lover, there are more than a dozen hotels and motels and bed and breakfast inns, you are sure to find a place that meets your needs. And, for the true outdoor lover, there are a number of local campgrounds operated by Federal, State and local governments and by private operators which offer overnight camping. Sites ranging from “rustic” to fully equipped are usually available.
Iosco County is easily accessible by US 23 which parallels the county’s shoreline. M-55 crosses the county from east to west. Interstate 75 is convenient 45 minute drive away.
What to Do
Iosco County is your source for year ‘round outdoor fun
Iosco County is overflowing with space to play in the great outdoors. As the months pass, the natural landscape takes on a new outlook, from springtime flowers to the fully-blossomed trees of summer to the colorful landscape of fall and the white blanket of winter.
Spring and fall offer opportunities for outdoor recreation ranging from hiking, fishing and birding to colorful foliage tours. Hunting season attracts firearm and bow hunters from all over the state.
During the summer months, the waters around the county sparkle in their various forms and sizes. Iosco County water resources comprise more than 40 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 260 miles of rivers and stream and nearly 12,000 acres of lakes and ponds.
The waters are magnets for sunbathers, swimmers, boaters, and those who fish. The area offers multiple pristine public beaches. Public boat launches and parking are available all around. The lakes and rivers provide ample space and a diversity of conditions to accommodate all types of boating, canoeing, and kayaking
Residents and visitors have access to more than 134,000 acres of national wildlife refuge, state forest, parks and recreation areas. There’s plenty of room for hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing and getting away from it all.
From the award winning Scottish-style links, to challenging championship golf, to picturesque courses near the water, Iosco County has golf to suite every taste and every level of play.
The county’s 25 public parks offer a variety of activities for the whole family from playgrounds, walking trails, tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, soccer fields and picnic/event facilities.
When the brisk northern wind arrives, the area is capable of supporting many types of recreational activities such a cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice-fishing. There are over 94 miles of snowmobile trails in the Huron National Forest with multiple access sites in Oscoda Township, Hale and Sand Lake. Iosco County is the cross-country ski capital of Michigan, featuring 56 kilometers of groomed cross country trails at the Corsair Trails System, the largest groomed trail network in the state.
US23, Sunrise Side Coastal Highway is part of the Heritage Route from Mackinaw City to Standish. It is nearly 200 miles of an excellent roadway system that takes travelers by spectacular scenic view of Lake Huron and an astounding array of large public forest, park and recreational properties. The River Road National Forest Scenic Byway parallels the AuSable River where bald eagles soar over Cooke Dam, one of four hydroelectric generating plants visible along the byway. Much of northern Lake Huron shoreline is free and accessible to residents and visitors alike.
Regardless of the season, Iosco County’s pristine water and natural landscape welcome you.
If you prefer to shop, we are your destination for specialty shopping. You’ll find many of bargains, original items and antiques in many of our quaint shops.
One of our hidden treasures is the number of arts and crafts studios in the area. Here you will find just about anything handmade, including pottery, jewelry, paintings, ceramics, furniture, wood workings, and much more. Many celebrations and events are held throughout the year to celebrate and showcase these local treasures
The county is also home to a vibrant cultural scene of music, dance and theater.