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Situated in the south-central portion of Crawford County, the City of Grayling, Michigan is the only city in the county, and its county seat.

The city is surrounded by Grayling Charter Township, the largest municipality in Michigan by land area, although it operates autonomously. The village of Roscommon is the only incorporated city or village within twenty miles of Grayling, although the unincorporated community of Frederic is about eight miles to the south. Grayling Army Airfield is adjacent to the city in the northwest. The chief route through the city is I-75, although M-72 and M-93 also enter the city.

Many of the landowners in Grayling and Crawford County are seasonal residents who travel south during the winter months. During the spring, summer, and fall months, people come to Grayling as the commercial center of an area that is rich in outdoor activities, with its surrounding rivers, streams, forests, and recreational trails, as much of Grayling Township is state and federal property. Hartwick Pines State Park, just north of the city along I-75, is the fifth-largest state park in Michigan. The Au Sable River flows through the center of the city, and the East Branch of the Au Sable River joins the main branch near the city's eastern border. Simpson Creek is in southern Grayling, just west of the Grayling Country Club.

Like many Michigan communities, Grayling was formed by the lumber industry and the railroad. Early settlers were drawn to the area for its pine timber and river access, but the railroad had a great deal to do with its development as a village and then a city.

The first European-American settler was Michael Shoat Hartwick, who build a log hotel on the west side of where the railroad later came through. The settlement that grew up around the hotel was known by other names before it became Grayling, including AuSable, Forest, and Milltown.

When the Saginaw & Jackson Railroad came through in 1874, they platted out forty acres on land that is now part of Grayling, naming it Crawford, and their station as Crawford Station. A post office was established on January 19 of that year, with John E. Corbet as postmaster. However, less than a month later, he was succeeded by Leonard M. Simmons, who became postmaster on February 2.

When the community was incorporated as a village in 1903, its name was changed to Grayling, which was a reference to the Arctic Grayling, a fish that was then plentiful in much of Northern Michigan, but which was eventually wiped out to a combination of overfishing and logging practices on the rivers. Beginning in the 1980s, the state has made attempts to reintroduce the Artic Grayling to Michigan lakes and streams, but the efforts have been unsuccessful.

An earlier attempt to reintroduce the Arctic Grayling to the Au Sable River system was conducted at the Grayling Fish Hatchery, which was founded in 1914 by Rasmus Hanson, with additional financial contributions from Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, and Thomas Edison. Hanson was a Danish immigrant who became one of the three largest lumber barons in North Michigan. He also held shipping and sugar company interests.

The Hatchery's efforts were unsuccessful, and the facilities were sold to the state in 1926, which continued to operate as a fish hatchery and tourist attraction until the mid-1960s. Now the property of Crawford County, it is operated as a privately-owned fish farm, although it is open to the public during the summer months.

Since 1947, Grayling has been the starting point of the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon, the largest non-stop canoe race in North America, running one hundred and twenty miles from Grayling to Oscoda. It may also be the oldest marathon canoe race in the United States. Since 1971, it has been held during the last full weekend in July, during the annual Au Sable River Festival, also held in Grayling.

Other attractions and events in Grayling include the Crawford County Historical Museum, housed in the restored railroad depot, and Wellington Farm Park, a 60-acre living history museum that depicts farm life during the Great Depression.

The city's population dropped by nearly twenty percent between 1920 and 1930, and by more than fifteen percent between 1970 and 1980. With a peak population of 2,450 in 1920, there were 1,884 people in Grayling at the time of the 2010 census.

The focus of this guide is on the City of Grayling, Michigan. Appropriate resources include websites representing the city itself, or any businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, and events within the city.


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