From Bay City, I-75 cuts across the northeastern part of the state until it bisects the North Country near Grayling. Several clean, clear, and immensely popular rivers—most notably, the Au Sable and the Manistee—corkscrew their way through the region, making Grayling the hub of one of the Lower Peninsula’s leading recreational areas.
First classified in 1884, the grayling once was the only game fish to inhabit the upper Au Sable system. Related to trout and salmon and characterized by a long, wavy dorsal fin, grayling were considered both a fine sporting fish and a delicious eating fish—a fatal combination. The thrill of landing one drew the attention of sportsmen near and far, who came by railroad to Grayling, soon a bustling center of fishing trips.
With no regulations at the time, anglers snatched grayling from area rivers by the thousands. The wanton fishing, combined with the declining water quality caused by riverbank erosion from logging, put a quick end to the species. Grayling were rare in Grayling by 1900 and extinct by 1930.
Alas, the town’s namesake fish may be gone, but we’ve learned a few lessons about protecting species and their habitat along the way. Today, Grayling offers some of the finest trout fishing in the Midwest—even the nation—and is a key destination for anglers, canoeists, hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiing enthusiasts, and snowmobilers.
While Greyhound (800/231-2222, www.greyhound.com ) provides bus service to Grayling, most visitors come via car, motorcycle, or RV. Given that the town sits at the junction of I-75 and M-72, it’s easy to reach whether you’re headed from Bay City to the south, Traverse City to the west, or Mackinaw City  to the north.