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Tawas City, Michigan
Location of Tawas City, Michigan
Location of Tawas City, Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
County Iosco
 • Total 2.13 sq mi (5.51 km2)
 • Land 1.70 sq mi (4.40 km2)
 • Water 0.43 sq mi (1.11 km2)
591 ft (180 m)
 • Total 1,827
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,049.44/sq mi (405.12/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 989
FIPS code 26-78140
GNIS feature ID 1614605

Tawas City is a city along Lake Huron in the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,827 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Iosco County. The city is adjacent to Tawas Township but is administratively autonomous.


Tawas City was founded in 1854 as the first city to be located on the shores of Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron north of Bay City. Tawas City was established as the county seat of Iosco County, and the first post office was established Jan. 6, 1856, with James O. Whittemore appointed postmaster.

Since Tawas City’s founding, the community’s economy has been a major factor influencing land use and development patterns in the city. The rich natural resource base of the area (forest lands, Lake Huron and wildlife) combined with the protection offered by Tawas Bay provided the basis for the original founding of the city and caused the lumber industry to flourish. Tawas Bay continues to serve as a harbor of refuge that large freighters use to escape the adverse effects of storms on Lake Huron. The shoreline, as the transition zone between land and water, became the focus of the community, with the city developing in a linear fashion along the bayshore.

Statements made that “Tawas” is derived from the word “Ottawas” and that the Ottawa Indians once inhabited this region are false. The Indians, who in early days camped along the shore of Tawas Bay and near the mouth of Tawas River, were a tribe from the Saginaw band of Chippewas. Their leader was Chief O-ta-was. What we know as Tawas Bay was in reality O-ta-was’ Bay, for on its shore the old chief had his camp. Early map makers dropped in an extra “t,” as can be easily verified; later map makers dropped off the “s,” for the name of the point of land that divided the bay from Lake Huron was known as Ottawa Point until comparatively recent spelling and pronunciation for the name of our earliest residents, have given us the name Tawas.

The Whittemores gave the name Tawas City to the town they founded in 1854. Eight years later, when the lumbering firm of Smith, Van Valkenburg and Company built a mill on the bay shore a mile or so east of the Whittemore mill and holding, and a community sprang up around this latter mill, the cluster of homes was, by common consent, named East Tawas. For many years, residents of both towns and the farming community surrounding them often referred to Tawas City as “old town” and to East Tawas as “east town.”


  • According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.14 square miles (5.54 km2), of which 1.72 square miles (4.45 km2) is land and 0.42 square miles (1.09 km2) is water.
  • It is considered to be part of Northern Michigan.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 712
1890 1,544 116.9%
1900 1,228 −20.5%
1910 1,061 −13.6%
1920 1,018 −4.1%
1930 1,034 1.6%
1940 1,075 4.0%
1950 1,441 34.0%
1960 1,810 25.6%
1970 1,666 −8.0%
1980 1,967 18.1%
1990 2,009 2.1%
2000 2,005 −0.2%
2010 1,827 −8.9%
2019 (est.) 1,783 −2.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 1,827 people, 723 households, and 441 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,062.2 inhabitants per square mile (410.1/km2). There were 977 housing units at an average density of 568.0 per square mile (219.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.9% White, 0.7% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.4% of the population.

There were 723 households, of which 23.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.0% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.79.

The median age in the city was 47.4 years. 17.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.3% were from 25 to 44; 28.6% were from 45 to 64; and 24.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.1% male and 52.9% female.


There is a bus company named Iosco County Transit.

Major highways

  • US 23 has been designated the Sunrise Side Coastal Highway, and runs along (or parallels) the Lake Huron shore.
  • M-55 is one of only three state highways that extend across Michigan's Lower Peninsula from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. Its eastern terminus is in Tawas City at the junction with US 23.


  • Indian Trails provides daily intercity bus service between St. Ignace and Bay City, Michigan. This route doubles as the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach service for the area.

Local attractions

Smelt run in 1973

The City is on Tawas Bay, and Tawas Point State Park is located in nearby Baldwin Township. Both are considered to be an especially good locale for birding. and are listed as Important bird areas. It is said to be the most important "migrant trap" in the Saginaw Bay area. A fairly complete list of migratory birds that frequent the area is available. In more recent years Tawas Point has been a top kite-boarding destination.


Tawas Area Schools is a local public school district. The public schools consist of Clara Bolen Elementary, Tawas Middle School, Tawas Junior High, and Tawas High School. Emanuel Lutheran School is a private parochial elementary school in Tawas City, serving approximately 70 students in grades K-8. It is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Tawas City para niños

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