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Bay City To Tawas, Michigan


Tawas, Michigan

May 28, 2022

Saturday - moving day. I didn’t move far but I had fun along the way!

I spent midday hanging out by the Siginaw River in Bay City. Then I headed north along Lake Huron. Up until Au Gres the highway was inland. Between Au Gres and Tawas, US 23 runs close enough to Lake Huron that you can see it. There are many houses on the lake — working folks kind of lake houses. Nothing fancy. Given that it is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, there were lots of folks out.

I stopped in Au Gres and walked it’s beadwork on Lake Huron:

I tried to visit a town named Alabaster ; unfortunately there was a fire and the road was blocked off by the police.

Here is the story of Alabaster:

Alabaster is a historic mining complex along the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan. It consists of an open-pit gypsum mine and the remains of processing buildings, shops, offices, houses, and outbuildings. It also contains an abandoned railroad and the remains of an elevated marine tramway that spans 1½ miles into Saginaw Bay.


Alabaster, named after a fine-textured variety of gypsum 10 discovered off the shore of Lake Huron in 1837 by Douglas Houghton, 2 developed after prospectors began searching for sources of gypsum in the region and came across deposits 18- to 23-feet thick on-land. 7 The deposits came to the attention of George B. Smith, whose father, Benjamin F. Smith, owned a gypsum mill in Detroit. George Smith acquired land in remote Iosco County and opened a gypsum mine in 1862. 1 After George Smith died, the majority share of the land was acquired by Benjamin Smith.

Alabaster’s first post office opened on March 14, 1864, with Benjamin Smith serving as the town’s first postmaster.

By 1891, the gypsum mine was operated by Western Plaster Works. A fire in that year destroyed the majority of the mining structures, but operations were soon rebuilt in time to supply material for the main buildings at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. 2 The buildings at the Exposition were clad with marble-like walls and earned the exposition the title “White City.” It greatly expanded gypsum sales.

The company name was changed to the Alabaster Company in 1898, 3 8 and the mine was incorporated into the U.S. Gypsum Corporation (USG) in 1901, 2 8 quickly becoming the largest gypsum mine in the state and one of the largest in the nation. 7 Housing for workers was constructed by USG circa 1910.

A 6,350-foot elevated marine tramway was constructed between the gypsum mine into the Saginaw Bay to serve awaiting freighters. The tramway was built with 6,450 feet of 1¾-inch steel cable and 14,000 feet of ¾-inch cable and carried 72 two-ton buckets of gypsum. 10 The tramway was the longest over-water bucket tramway in the world. 5 The conveyor system represented a compromise between a major dredging operation to allow freighters to transport gypsum out of Alabaster and barging the material to freighters in deep water. 10 The ships took gypsum from Alabaster to East Chicago, Indiana or Detroit for manufacture into various gypsum products.

In later years, a secondary dock and load-out facility was constructed approximately 3½ miles north of the processing plant and tramway which was closer to newer open mine pits. It was connected to a dock that fed out into Lake Huron and to the railroad. The elevated marine tramway was dismantled circa 1999 after being disused for a number of years.


On June 30, 1904, the Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company (E&M) was incorporated to provide 28 miles of railroad service and docks at Alabaster from the Detroit & Mackinac Railway (D&M) at Alabaster Junction and from the Michigan Central Railroad at Standish. 9 The 4¼-mile E&M mainline, between the D&M and Alabaster, opened in 1906. 9 The E&M was leased for ten years to the D&M on June 29, 1907, and was sold to the D&M in January 1949.

The Wikipedia article on Tawas:

Tawas City is a city along Lake Huron in the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,827 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Iosco County.[4] History

Tawas City was founded in 1854 as the first city to be located on the shores of Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron north of Bay City, Michigan. Tawas City was designated as the county seat of Iosco County, and the first post office was established Jan. 6, 1856, with James O. Whittemore appointed postmaster.

Since Tawas City's founding, the community's economy has been a major factor influencing land use and development patterns. The rich natural resource base of the area: forest lands, Lake Huron and wildlife, combined with the protection offered by Tawas Bay, inspired the founding of the city and provided resources to support a lumber industry. The shoreline, as the transition zone between land and water, became the focus of the community, with the city developing in a linear fashion along the bayshore. Tawas Bay continues to serve as a harbor of refuge, used by large freighters to escape severe storms on Lake Huron.

Statements that “Tawas” is derived from the word “Ottawas” and that the Ottawa Indians once inhabited this region are false. The local Indians had made camps along the shore of the bay and near the mouth of the river. They were a band from the Saginaw, Michigan tribe of Chippewa(also known as Ojibwa). Their leader was Chief O-ta-was. As he had his camp on the shores of the bay, it was known as O-ta-was's Bay. Early map makers dropped in an extra “t"; later map makers dropped off the “s.” The name of the point dividing the bay from Lake Huron was known as Ottawa Point. Comparatively recent spelling and pronunciation for the name of these Chippewa gradually evolved to Tawas.

The Whittemores named the community they founded as Tawas City. Eight years later, the lumbering firm of Smith, Van Valkenburg and Company built a mill on the bay shore a mile or so east of the Whittemore mill and holding. When a community developed around this latter mill, the cluster of homes was, by common consent, named East Tawas. For many years, residents of both towns and the surrounding farming community often referred to Tawas City as “old town” and to East Tawas as “east town.”


2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 1,827 people, 723 households, and 441 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,062.2 inhabitants per square mile (410.1/km2). There were 977 housing units at an average density of 568.0 per square mile (219.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.9% White, 0.7% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.4% of the population.

There were 723 households, of which 23.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.0% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.79.

The median age in the city was 47.4 years. 17.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.3% were from 25 to 44; 28.6% were from 45 to 64; and 24.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.1% male and 52.9% female.


The city is on Tawas Bay, and Tawas Point State Park is located in nearby Baldwin Township. Both are considered to be an especially good locale for birding. and are listed as Important bird areas. It is said to be the most important "migrant trap" in the Saginaw Bay area. A fairly complete list of migratory birds that frequent the area is available.. In more recent years Tawas Point has been a top kite-boarding destination.

Other photos/videos from my drive:

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