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Sylvania Wilderness, Watersmeet

Wildlife Area · Nature / Park
Sylvania Wilderness is an 18327acre protected area located a few miles west of Watersmeet Township, Michigan. Sylvania is located entirely within the bounds of the Ottawa National Forest, and is currently being managed as a wilderness area as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by the U.S. Forest Service.
Within its borders lie 34 lakes set against a backdrop of old-growth forests. It represents one of only a handful of such areas left in the Midwest.
Little is known of the area prior to the late 1800s, other than the area was frequently used by clans of Ojibwa Native Americans, as evidenced by the few scattered artifacts that have been found there. In 1895, a Wisconsin lumberman by the name of A.D. Johnston purchased 80acre of land at the south end of Clark Lake with the intent to cut the large pines located there. Upon seeing the land for himself, he was so taken by the rugged beauty of it that he changed his mind and decided to preserve it. He soon invited friends, many of whom were equally impressed and so moved to purchase adjacent lands, and after some time the Sylvania Club was formed, with fishing, hunting, and hiking being the main focus. The owners built lodges and cabins on the larger lakes, and the area became an exclusive resort for a small number of affluent and influential guests. Ownership changed hands over the years, and finally the entire area was purchased by the United States Forest Service in 1967, which promptly removed all buildings and began managing it as a special recreation area. In 1987, it was designated as a federal wilderness when the Michigan Wilderness Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by Ronald Reagan.
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Sylvania Wilderness reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
11 reviews
  • Visited the Sylvania Wilderness and Ottawa National Forest on my first trip to the Western UP. Wow, what an experience. I did a solo kayak trip on the Ontonagon River that was arranged by Sylvania.....  more »
  • The quietest wilderness I've ever experienced (except for the calls of the Loons, which I loved). The waters are calm and clear. We saw bald eagles, loons, chipmunks, and deer. The Old Growth forest.....  more »
  • We stayed in the largest cabin at Sylvania Wilderness Cabins and it is beautiful inside, and the lake(s) are beautiful. Great area to go - but there are some things you should know about. No Cell...  more »
  • No noise. No jet skis, no wake boats with blaring radios, reasonable entrance fee of a whopping $5! Beautiful old growth forests. Good fishing. Wildlife all over. Beautiful place with crystal clear waters. Nice beach and changing station on North end of Clark Lake. Lots of loons and eagles.
  • It's the only game in town but it's still a good game. We had a fairly complicated schedule with people coming and going at different times but Bob and crew were able to make it right, exerting extra effort. You could pretty much show up with nothing but money and this group could provide everything needed to keep you safe and comfortable.
  • Great smallie fishing and campsites are convenient and well cared for. Try to aim for a solo site or book both site 1 & 2 together for a bigger party, since the sister-sites are close to each other. Oh, and prepare for mosquitoes.
  • Like boundary Waters but closer. From Chicago area you can make an early start, get to Sylvania outfitters by 1, be on the water shortly thereafter. Bob & Eli get your canoes staged to the put in ahead of time so no delay. Great catch and release fishing. Squeezing the barbs on your hooks required but I'm doing it everywhere now because it doesn't hurt the fish.
  • Sylvania Wilderness is a great place to backpack in, especially if you wanted to hike in an old growth forest with a heavy tree canopy that blocks the sunlight from reaching the ground. The campsite I stayed in was directly accessible for canoeists from the lake, but not the trail for hikers, so a little navigating off trail was necessary to get to it. While hiking along one of the lakes, a young deer about 30 feet away from the trail walked along with me for 100 feet or more before turning off to head deeper in the forest.

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