VIDEO: Exploring the Big South Branch Pere Marquette River

November 11, 2022

VIDEO: Exploring the Big South Branch Pere Marquette River

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

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The Manistee National Forest offers thousands of acres and hundreds of trails to explore. Earlier in the week, my friend Mike and I took advantage of a sunny day and drove the side-by-side to Indian Trail Road in Mason County’s Eden Township. I wanted to see if I could access the Big South Branch Pere Marquette River from that area. 

The Big South Branch begins in the Manistee National Forest south of West 10 Mile Road in Newaygo County’s Beaver Township, northeast of the Village of Hesperia. Its southern upriver point is fed initially by Winnepesaug Creek which is fed by Bear Creek and Tank Creek. It winds its way up western Newaygo County and crosses into the northeastern corner of Oceana County before meeting up with Ruby Creek at the Mason-Oceana counties line at Washington Road near Oceana County’s North 188th Avenue and Mason County’s South Porter Road. The branch then makes its way north through Mason County, widening as it meets up with Carr Creek in Logan Township. It then turns west until it comes close to the intersection of Hawley and Indian Trails roads in Eden Township. There, it turns north and eventually northwest. This is the area that I explored as the subject matter of this article. The Big South Branch finally meets up with the main branch of the Pere Marquette River about a mile west of Indian Bridge on South Reek Road or a half mile east of Custer Bridge on Custer Road. The Pere Marquette then continues as one river west about 14 miles to Pere Marquette Lake and then Lake Michigan at Ludington. 

I had been studying the maps and saw that there must be access to the Big South Branch from Indian Trails Road. This led us to MNF road 6342. This section of road also includes 6341 and 6343. From the tracks, this is a frequently traveled road. We even came across a local resident walking out in this area. 

Eventually we made our way to a bank that is about 100 feet above the river. This was the perfect place to grill some brats and fly the drone. 

One of my goals as a photographer/artist is to create images and tell stories of the unexpected. What we normally expect are photographs of the autumn foliage or the green leaves of late spring and summer. But, there is beauty in our natural resources during every season. Since the scene was mostly grey, however, I made the choice to convert the images to black and white. My photography career began processing black and white film and printing pictures in the darkroom. The entire tone of an image changes when the color is removed. 

As long as the weather cooperates, I plan on going back again after firearm deer hunting season in December and explore roads 6341 and 6343. I also plan to photograph and write more about the Pere Marquette River and its branches and tributaries in the future. 


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