Points of Pride and Forest Facts

What makes the Hiawatha National Forest special? The Hiawatha National Forest lies adjacent to three of the Great Lakes -- Lakes Michigan, Superior, and Huron.  That's why we say that the Hiawatha is your "Great Lakes National Forest."  This unique proximity to the Lakes makes us who we are.  It gives us ...

  • a variety of unique habitats for wildlife and plant species;
  • bountiful "lake effect" snowfall, resulting in outstanding winter recreation opportunities;
  • spectacular scenic beauty including Great Lakes beaches & cliffs, Great Lakes islands, inland lakes, and seasonally, brilliant autumn colors.
  • "Lighthouse" as our middle name!  The Hiawatha has the distinction of being the only National Forest with 6 lighthouses, four of which are fully federal owned.

In addition to these unique "niche" related qualities, we are proud of the many projects and programs managed by the Hiawatha.  For instance:

  • The Hiawatha supports a native seed greenhouse and seed program that is growing and expanding to help meet the needs of the Forest to provide native seed for habitat and restorative projects on the Forest.
  • The Forest has excellent working relationships with the public, congressionals, industry, and businesses. Our employees are active in local schools and communities.  And our service ethic has fostered healthy relationships that assist our ability to deal with issues and changes on the Forest.
  • The Hiawatha offers an array of summer interpretive programs for visitors and local residents.
  • The Hiawatha works closely with local communities and volunteer fire departments to reduce fire hazards along the wildland/urban interface.
  • Our ecosystem management activities help support local economies in many ways.
  • The Hiawatha works collaboratively with other Federal and State agencies to provide an efficient fire management program.
  • The Forest is implementing over $11 million of Economic Stimulus (ARRA) projects.
  • Our Kids in the Woods program partners with the Delta YMCA to help local kids re-connect with nature.

These are just a few examples of programs, projects and work ethics that exemplify the Hiawatha's role in the community, the agency, and the ecosystem.  We hope you'll get to know us, and that when you do you'll agree:  The Hiawatha is a pretty special place!

Forest Facts: A Quick Overview

The Hiawatha National Forest is located in the central and eastern parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Size: about 1 million acres

Topography: Elevations range from about 680 feet. to  The landscape is largely the result of glaciation, and includes sandstone and limestone geology.

Major rivers: Confined by the size and shape of the Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Hiawatha's rivers are relatively short yet ecologically rich.  Lying in the watersheds of Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron,  the Hiawatha includes five National Wild & Scenic Rivers, including the Carp, Indian, Sturgeon, Tahquamenon, and Whitefish.

Ecosystems and Species: Northern hardwood and mixed forest types are common on the Hiawatha National Forest. Tree species include sugar maple, red maple, American Beech, white pine, red pine, northern white cedar, eastern larch/tamarack, and balsam fir.  Jackpine savannahs are also common in some areas.  Much of the Hiawatha is covered in wetlands, and as a result there are many wetland plants.

Spring wildflowers bloom in May and June. 

The Forest contains habitat for northwoods species like whitetail deer, gray wolf, and lynx. Kirtland's warbler, an endangered species, relies on young jackpine stands for its nesting grounds, and piping plover nest along our pebbly Great Lakes beaches.  Trout are native to coldwater streams, and our inland lakes support strong, diverse fisheries.  

More Indepth Information

The Hiawatha is geographically tucked between three of the Great Lakes, within the central to eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Rolling hills forested with northern hardwoods, white pine and hemlock, flat land covered by red pine, jack pine and aspen, and large open and tree covered wetlands form the 879,000 acres of the Hiawatha.

Approximately 775 miles of rivers and streams on the Forest empty into the Great Lakes. Seventy seven miles of National Forest shoreline lie along Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. Nearly 46 percent of the Hiawatha is wetland, the most distinctive of which is associated with sand dune areas created by a prehistoric glacial lake. Within the Forest are 413 lakes.

Varying landforms, combined with the influence of the Great Lakes, create many different weather zones. Summer temperatures are typically in the 70 degree range near the Great Lakes shorelines, while inland from the lakes' moderating influence they reach 10 to 15 degrees higher. Average snowfall varies from 54 inches on the Michigan and Huron lakeshore, to 240 inches on the Lake Superior shore. Weather is as varied in the spring and fall as the colors of blooming flowers and autumn leaves.

There are two separate portions of the Hiawatha. The eastern portion stretches north from the town of St. Ignace, which lies along Lakes Michigan and Huron, to the shore of Lake Superior west of the city of Sault Ste. Marie. The western portion of the Hiawatha extends from the towns of Rapid River and Manistique, along Lake Michigan, to the town of Munising on the Lake Superior shore. The majority of the lands within the Hiawatha boundaries are federally owned lands. Small parcels of privately owned lands do occur throughout the Forest. It is recommended that permission be obtained prior to any entrance on private land. Although private lands are generally signed, a good map will help visitors determine ownership. 

For data regarding the land and features about the Hiawatha and other US Forest Service areas, visit this site.

A Brief Administrative History of Hiawatha National Forest

A Brief Administrative History of the Hiawatha National Forest

By the 1930's much of the Upper Peninsula was devoid of timber. Most of the area's pine had been cut in the late 19th century and much of the hardwood was cut during the first decades of the 20th century. Major fires swept over much of the cutover land, especially through the extremely flammable pine slash. In some areas, logging and subsequent burning damaged the soil and natural reforestation was not occurring. Many loggers let their cutover land revert to the Government for back taxes.

A number of Congressional Acts were passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which were designed to avert future timber shortages through large scale reforestation and scientific forestry. These acts were also intended to provide for enhanced wildlife populations, soil and water protection, and recreational opportunities on forested lands. It was these acts that ultimately permitted the establishment of the Hiawathain 1931.

The Hiawatha currently is within the Eastern Region (Region 9) of the National Forest System. The Region itself was initially established in 1928 as the "Lake States Region" and included only those National Forests within Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Hiawatha includes two units in Michigan's Upper Peninsula which initially existed as separate National Forests. In an executive order dated February 9, 1962 all lands within the Marquette National Forest (East Unit) were transferred and made part of the Hiawatha (West Unit).

The East unit had a long history as an independent entity. In central Chippewa County there were large barren sandy areas of public domain lands that had never been claimed or homesteaded. On June 17, 1908 this land was temporarily withdrawn from sale and on February 10, 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the establishment of the Marquette National Forest. This Forest was initially under the supervision of the Regional Office in Denver, Colorado (Region 2). In 1913 the Regional Office recommended that the Marquette National Forest and the Huron National Forest should be handled as one administrative unit. On July 1, 1918 the Marquette National Forest land was transferred to the Huron, and together they became the Michigan National Forest.

The passage of the Clarke-McNary Act in 1924 allowed additional National Forest lands to be acquired by purchase and in 1925 a 307,500 acre Marquette Purchase Unit was established in Chippewa County to guide this acquisition. An expansion was approved by the National Forest Reservation Commission in 1935 and involved an area of 49,500 acres in Chippewa and Mackinac Counties. On February 12, 1931 President Hoover re-established the Marquette National Forest. The Hiawatha National Forest (West Unit) had a somewhat less complicated history. Under the 1924 Clarke-McNary Act, the National Forest Reservation Commission established a purchase unit in Alger, Schoolcraft, and Delta Counties, Michigan in 1928. Much of this area was denuded, burned, and abandoned timberland. By January 16, 1931 enough land had been purchased within this unit to warrant the establishment of a new National Forest and on this date President Hoover proclaimed the Hiawatha.

The early foresters found budgets and manpower small in comparison with the potential projects facing them, and as the cutover devastation reached its climax in the 1930's, the Great Depression swept through the area. Although a federal response to the problems of the cutover in Northern Michigan had already been initiated, the Depression accelerated this response. The establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 as part of Roosevelt's "New Deal" profoundly influenced the newly created Hiawatha and Marquette National Forests. The establishment of the CCC actually stimulated an increase in purchases for the National Forests because President Roosevelt wanted "plenty of land" for CCC work projects. Many forest products companies were more than willing to sell land during the depression. The Bay de Noquet Company attempted to remain financially secure by selling nearly 100,000 acres to the United States for the newly created Hiawatha. Potential work projects on all the newly acquired lands, such as tree planting, blister rust control, fire suppression, road and trail construction, and campground construction were labor intensive, and this labor was forthcoming through the CCC. The Forest Service had acquired both the land base and the manpower to begin rehabilitating the cutover in order to provide a variety of resources.

Over the decades, both the Hiawatha's landscape and the Forest Service mission evolved. The pines planted by the CCC became a valuble supply of timber. Additional land acquisitions resulted in the protection of many miles of Great Lakes shoreline. Several abandoned lighthouses were transferred from the Coast Guard and became important tourist attractions. Grand Island was acquired from the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company and became a National Recreation Area. Wilderness areas and Wild and Scenic River areas were established. The harvest of forest products continues in parts of the Hiawatha in accordance with new forestry practices that emphasize the creation and maintenance of healthy ecosystems. As we move into the 21st century, the work started in the 1930s to protect resources and meet the country's changing needs continues.