Lumberman's Monument-Oscoda, Michigan
If you are looking for an enjoyable place to encounter nature and history while visiting the northeast part of the lower peninsula, then Lumberman's Monument in Oscoda, Michigan will surely satisfy.
Lumberman's Monument is part of the U.S. Forest Service and is located in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Located a quick jaunt (about a fifteen minute drive) from downtown Oscoda, Lumberman's Monument is located at 5401 Monument Road, just off River Road.
You will first enter the gate and discover ample parking with spaces in a lot to your left or to your right. We have been at various times of day and different seasons and we have rarely had any difficulty finding parking to the right, which is closest to the visitor center. Around the 4th of July and through mid-August it gets busy on the weekends, but generally you will encounter no difficulty parking. However, if you are starting your trip to Lumberman's Monument with a picnic beneath the majestic pine trees and are seeking some space for your children to stretch their legs and run a bit, then parking to the left as you drive in will likely offer more space. It is a reasonable walk to the visitor's center, so either way you will be fine.
The visitor's center at Lumberman's Monument is small and contains primarily a gift shop, rest rooms, and a ranger's desk. The ranger's are extremely helpful and informative, but unless you have specific questions, or are seeking campground reservations, I would save a trip to the inside of the visitor's center for last and allow the children to enjoy the gift shop after you have enjoyed the other areas of the monument area.
Outside the visitor's center, check the whiteboard to see if any ranger talks are available during your time. These ranger talks usually are 30-60 minutes in length and are often geared for children aged 5-12. We attended one on proper camp safety, especially learning how the rangers work to prevent forest fires and how they fight the fires when they occur. It was engaging and interesting and definitely developed a greater appreciation for what the rangers in the Forest Service do.
There is a paved walkway outside the ranger station with information kiosks and displays providing information on the role that lumber played in Michigan's History. Needless to say, our growth and development through the 19th and early 20th century, especially in Northern Michigan was dependent upon the amazing efforts of the lumberman who primarily lumbered the White Pine.
There is often a brief video showing in the pavillion behind the ranger station-it is worth spending the time watching to get a better sense of what it would have been like to have been a lumberman over a 100 years ago.
Then, proceed on to the large pile of concrete logs set in a timber fall to demonstrate the size and massive scale of these trees.
Continue on for several yards and get a photo of the namesake sculpture- The Lumberman's Monument- a tribute to all of those who toiled with their bodies and souls to earn a living for their family and to build our country. It is a great photo opportunity!
Then spend some time standing along the rails and looking out over the Au Sable River, widening here, almost to a lake, yet still serpentine-sliding along the sandy earth. It is a great view and careful observers scan the skies for a wide variety of birds.
If you are up the challenge of descending hundreds of steps to the river below you will be rewarded at the bottom by a replica cooking boat. We often enjoyed playing down here, early mornings, before the crowds descend- cooking up the meals with real "lumberjack" names- your kids will enjoy reading what the lumberjacks called eggs and bacon.
From this lower vantage point you will appreciate the difficulty in getting the logs down to the river and imagine the almost incomprehensible site of this part of the Au Sable River being "log-jammed."
A word of warning- going back up is not as much fun, but there are platforms for you to rest. If you just take your time and are in reasonably good health, you should be fine.
There are several short hiking loops to the dunes and through the forest that are worth spending time on, as each view helps you appreciate the natural wonder of northern Michigan and the amazing efforts of the lumberman who worked so hard to build our great state.
A quick tour of Lumberman's Monument could be accomplished in approximately one hour. But for our Michigan Family Travellers, each return trip adds a deeper appreciation for our state's history and heritage.
Be sure to extend your travels in this region to include a trip to Iargo Springs- a natural spring system that flows into the Au Sable. Also, there are several towns nearby for ice cream, coffee, and the like- Oscoda, East Tawas, Glennie, and the Victorian Cafe in Hale are all worth a stop if you have time.
Family Questions for Discussion
1. During what time period was this area primarily logged?
2. Where did the lumberman live while they were logging?
3. How heavy was a typical "log"?
4. How did they transport the logs from this area and where did they go?
5. There are the same number of steps descending to the river as ascending-what natural factor makes ascending more strenuous?
6. What are the names for eggs and pancakes that the lumberman used?