The Manistee River in the U.S. state of Michigan, runs approximately 232 miles through the northern Lower Peninsula, through the villages of Sharon, Smithville, Mesick, and enters Lake Michigan at Manistee. It is considered, like the nearby Au Sable River, to be one of the best trout fisheries east of the Rockies. The river rises in the sand hills in southeastern Antrim County, on the border with Otsego County, about six miles southeast of the town of Alba. These deep glacial sands provide it with a remarkably stable flow of clean cold water year round, making it a popular river for fishing as well as canoeing. Over the course of its length, it drops in elevation from around 1300 feet to 582 feet, with an average stream gradient of about 2.9 feet per mile.
The river’s name comes from the Ojibwa word Manistiqweita, meaning “Crooked River”. Historically, the upper river was renowned for its outstanding grayling fishery, among the finest in the world, as catches in excess of 1000 fish per weekend outing were commonly reported up until the 1880s, when extensive logging in the area ruined the habitat. Logging in the area commenced in earnest between 1880 and 1910, with peak production occurring in the 1890s. The rivers relatively large size, stable flows, and dearth of cataracts or other difficult passages made it ideal for the transportation of lumber. During this period huge numbers of white pine logs, some as large as six feet in diameter, were floated down the river to the port at Manistee and eventually on to the lumber markets of Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Chicago where the wood was used to build the cities and towns of the Midwestern United States. Some of these logs became trapped at various points on the river, and can be seen today along the river bottom, vestiges of a bygone era.