Caseville Harbor During A Michigan Fall

The Fall in Michigan always seems incredibly short. Sometimes boats are still in the water as November rolls in. Will we the last one out of the water? It is kind of lonely to be one of the last ones out of your slip in the Fall in Caseville harbor. However, Caseville Harbor is one of the great places to stop and visit, especially if your driving on a fall color tour along M-25.

Caseville Harbor During a Michigan Fall

Mariners Cove Marina - Caseville Harbor in the Fall

Last year we were one of the diehards with ice beginning to form a weekend or two after we got our sailboat out and winterized for the season. This year with the schedule tight we decided to get on the hard at the end of September.

A lonely slip at seasons end. - Caseville Harbor in the Fall
A lonely slip

It was tough. It symbolically ended the opportunity to get out on Saginaw Bay and we knew that the summer was really over.

A Sailboat gets lifted out of the water - Caseville Harbor in the Fall
Taking a Good Old Boat out for the season

Here is Caseville Harbor the last weekend in September 2014. Fall in Michigan is the most under-appreciated and utilized times of the year. School is back in session and everyone is back to work. It’s almost like New Years’.

These images are from five years ago. The old fish house from the early 1900s, that used to sit on the canal to unload fish from the Bay Port Fish Company when the lake was low has been torn down.

Bay Port Fish Co. Ice House - Caseville Harbor in the Fall
The Old Bay Port Fish Co. Ice-house in 2014

When Labor Day passes folks have a new mindset. Yet the days are typically warm well into mid-October and the low sun casts long shadows even in mid-day.

A pontoon boats makes her way out in the late summer - Caseville Harbor in the Fall
One last run on warm September day.

Everyone looks for the current fall colors in Michigan. Yet the best color in Michigan’s Thumb typically starts in mid-October.

Fish nets on the Argo - Caseville Harbor in the Fall
Nets on Deck for Whitefish

Bay Port Fish Company typically gets there trap nets ready for one last run of whitefish.

Bay Port Fish Company Boat Named Argo - Caseville Harbor in the Fall
Caseville Harbor in the Fall The Bay Port Fish Company Boat Argo

Whitefish come back close to shore and we see net buoys a few hundred yards from the beach.

Huron Yacht Club - Caseville Harbor in the Fall

The sailors at the Huron County Yacht Club are days away from taking out their boats. Its a group effort and everyone participates stepping the masts and swinging the sailboats to their cradles for the winter.

Beach Toys all Stored during the  	current fall colors in Michigan
Beach toys racked for the season

More Reading for Caseville Harbor in the Fall in Michigan’s Thumb

  • Michigan’s Thumb in Late Summer – My favorite time to be in Michigan’s Thumb. The Caseville Cheeseburger Festival has long since past. The Labor Day weekend has come and gone. Things are quieter. I can now cross M-25 over the beach in silence and without fear. What a great season.
  • Find Treasure at Port Austin Farm Market – A beautiful Saturday morning at the Port Austin Farmers Market. One of the largest farmers markets outside of Detroit. It’s pure fun. Great produce, unique crafts and artisans, and fun shopping among many vendors.
  • In 2012 Lake Levels Dropped, Will It Happen Again? – It’s great to step back and take a look at the recent past. Five years ago the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging, boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation, and lake shipping was facing hard times.
  • Haunted and Spooky Sites to Visit in Michigan’s Thumb – Michigan’s Upper Thumb is full of colorful history—from the boomtowns of the 1800s lumber era to the resorts and vacation homes of today. The area has long been acknowledged as an active paranormal region and has been the subject of books, film, and television.
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Cruising Michigan’s Great Lakes

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and thousands of miles of rivers and streams, Michigan offers ample opportunity to traverse the state over the water – no matter the size or speed of your vessel.

While designated water trails are a relatively recent development, use of Michigan’s waterways for transportation isn’t new.

Historical Significance of Our Waterways

Grand Haven State Park
Gorgeous summer day at Grand Haven State Park – Michigan Department of Natural Resources

“Our harbor system along the Great Lakes is the first water trail system we’ve had in this state,” said Jordan Byelich, waterways development program manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “In fact, going back hundreds of years, the Great Lakes served Native Americans and Europeans as a water trail system.”

Native Americans first used Michigan’s waterways for sustenance and trade, early European settlers used them to transport goods and timber, and water resources were the foundation of Michigan’s earliest manufacturing and shipping industries.

By the 1800’s shipping lines were well established on the Great Lakes as the primary mode of transportation. The concept of going up north for the long weekend was born by the ability for workers in Detroit and Chicago to luxuriously cruise north to Michigan’s resort areas. They could spend the weekend with family staying for the summer and return overnight by Monday morning.

These waterways also had a significant impact nationally.

“The Great Lakes and a network of rivers opened the vast American heartland to a nation moving west. Inland waterways are a road map to much of the nation’s history,” explains a passage from the National Museum of American History’s online exhibition “On the Water: Stories from Maritime America.”

“They guided the travels of Native Americans, explorers from Europe, and streams of newcomers who established businesses, towns, and cities. … Inland waterways helped hold together the people and economy of the nation as it grew throughout the 1800s.”

Today, while still important for industrial transport, Michigan’s waters often host more leisurely travelers.

Michigan consistently ranks among the top three states in the nation for watercraft registrations and boat sales.

Recreational boating has an economic impact of more than $7 billion annually in Michigan, according to data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Cruising from Harbor to Harbor Along Michigan’s Shore

Cedar River State Harbor Dedication, June 2005 – Michigan Department of Natural Resources

As boating became a popular pastime, the state set out to provide safe public access to the Great Lakes and inland waters of Michigan.

In 1947, the state Legislature created the Michigan State Waterways Commission – a seven-member advisory board that works with the DNR on the use of dedicated funds, provided by boaters, for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of public harbors and boating access sites.

So began the state’s Great Lakes Harbors Program. The Waterways Commission was granted authority and supporting funds to create a marine “highway” along the 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.

From 1947 to 1964, the commission developed the majority of Michigan’s harbors of refuge, providing tens of thousands of boaters safe harbors and hospitality as they circumnavigate the state.

In 1966, the commission became part of Michigan’s Department of Conservation, the precursor to the DNR.

“Today, the number of safe harbors has grown as the Waterways Commission continues its mission to provide safe public access to the Great Lakes and inland waters of this state,” reads the Michigan Harbors Guide. “The program’s goal is to locate harbors so that no boater will ever be more than 15 shoreline miles from safety.”

Michigan Harbors Map
Michigan Harbors Map – Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Boaters have paid for much of this harbor network through taxes on marine fuel purchases and boat registration fees. Under the Waterways Grant-In-Aid Program, local units of government are given grant funds for construction of facilities. Federal funding also supports the development of harbor facilities.

“Of the over 80 public harbors, most are operated by our Grant-in-Aid partners,” said Linnae Dawson, DNR recreational harbor coordinator. “GIA harbors are owned and operated by a local unit of government but have received waterways funding in the past.”

Local communities are responsible for continuing operation and maintenance of harbor facilities. The state only considers assuming these responsibilities where local resources are unable to support them, so the DNR operates only 18 of Michigan’s harbor facilities.

Information about planning a day or overnight trip to one of Michigan’s 83 state-sponsored harbors is available on the DNR’s ‘Boating the Great Lakes’ page. Here boaters can find access to the digital harbor guide, including harbor locations, amenities, reservation information and more.

Michigan also has more than 1,300 public state and local boating access sites, both developed and undeveloped.

Paddle Michigan’s Water Trails

Kayak in the water
DNR biologist Nick Kalejs led a short kayak expedition on the Muskegon River through the Muskegon State Game Area as part of the DNR’s Wetland Wonders Challenge II, a program designed to foster appreciation for wetlands and Michigan managed waterfowl areas. Marie Kuehl.

While boating has long been a popular pursuit for Michiganders, participation in paddle sports like kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding has flourished in recent years.

In 2018, to offer paddling travelers more opportunities, the state first designated water trails – eight waterways totaling 540-plus miles that flow through more than a dozen counties.

A water trail is a designated route on a navigable waterway such as a lake, river, canal or bay, which is designed and managed to create a positive outdoor recreation experience for the user.

Paddleboarding Michigan's Waters
Paddlefest 2013, Aloha State Park. – Michigan Department of Natural Resources

They feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds.

“Water trails naturally are an increasing trend in Michigan and throughout the country, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “We are pleased to help advance these opportunities by recognizing model public water trails that set the standard for the future of Michigan’s water trails program.”

Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator, said that Michigan is in a great position to work with partners to create a statewide water trails program that complements Michigan’s broader trails system.

“Designating these rivers as official water trails shines an even brighter light on some incredible natural resources,” Yauk said. “We fully expect that offering – and expanding – water trail opportunities in Michigan will encourage more outdoor recreation and healthier lifestyles, and also serve as regional destinations that will give a boost to local economies.”

Whether it’s cruising the Great Lakes or paddling down a quiet stream, there are plenty of opportunities to explore Michigan while traveling by water.

If you’re planning a boating or paddling trip, please be aware that rising water levels on Michigan lakes, rivers and streams can present hazards for boaters, swimmers and others enjoying the outdoors. Find tips on keeping you safe in and around higher water levels, plus ideas for lessening the impacts to fish and wildlife, at more about boating at and about water trails at

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