The River Road National Forest Scenic Byway is one of a growing number of scenic byways established since 1988 for the enjoyment of touring motorists and all who love natural beauty. It is a 22-mile, two-lane, paved highway along 4.3 miles of M-65 and 17.7 miles of a country road known as River Road, roughly paralleling the south bank of the famed AuSable River.
Here are a few of the attractions that can be found along this beautiful way…
Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center is located at the junction of Monument and River Roads. In 1992, a three-year reconstruction project was finished with a formal re-dedication. The nine-foot bronze statue has become a landmark in Michigan. The Visitor Center houses a sales outlet for the Eastern National Forest Interpretive Association, which sell various nature and history-related literature, wildlife prints and other mementos of your visit to the area. There are picnic tables and grills provided free of charge, and many outdoor exhibits explain the process of cutting logs and getting them to the mills. The theme of the center is early-days logging, but there are also slide shows going on from time to time as well as one of the best vistas on Cooke Pond. A stairway takes visitors to the river’s edge. The center is mostly barrier free.
Eagle’s Nest Overlook is one of the most famous overlooks in the Huron National Forest is at Eagle’s Nest. The Nest is just west of the visitor center and has been used by a pair of bald eagle’s since 1985. Rare is the summer day one can’t see eagles soaring over Cooke Pond. The view into the nest is better if you remember to bring binoculars of at least six power.
Iargo Springs lies adjacent to River Road and has been used continuously since pre-settlement times as a drinking source. Tradition has it that government surveyors named the site in the 1840s, having gotten the name from the local Indians who used the location for tribal powwows. The Indians believed the springs held mystical powers. Europeans have visited the springs since the early 1900s. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a trail to the springs and a rustic campground at the top of the bluff where the parking lot is now. The Forest Service plans to redevelop this side, restoring the atmosphere it once had.