Recreational Activities

Superior Wildlands Newspaper


Upon first glance of the Hiawatha National Forest (HNF), you'll see acres and acres of uninterrupted public land. Imagine a forest with abundant wildlife, miles of rivers and streams, and dozens of waterfalls. You'll see a forest that reaches the scenic shorelines and beaches of three amazing Great Lakes, and home to six historic lighthouses. Upon arrival to the forest, you will find protected and preserved historical structures, as well as historic and prehistoric Native American archaeological sites and artifacts.

You may catch sight of rare birds like bald eagles, Kirtland's warblers, and piping plovers. You may catch a glimpse or hear the distinctive calls of sandhill cranes or the common loon. If you're lucky, you may hear the howl of a timber wolf or perhaps the cry of a bobcat. You will find a forest that is home to rare plants like the Houghton's goldenrod, dwarf lake iris, pitcher's thistle and lakeside daisy. You will find clean lakes and streams, home to walleye, bass, trout, salmon, and other freshwater species.

The Hiawatha National Forest is located in Michigan's central and eastern Upper Peninsula. The lands were formed from massive glaciers that covered the area more than 10,000 years ago. When the glaciers receded, the left behind hundreds of lakes, acres of wetlands, and Lake Superior's dramatic sandstone cliffs. The east side (Chippewa and Mackinac counties) was originally designated the Marquette National Forest by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909. From 1918 until 1962 it was the Michigan National Forest, until it was transferred to the Hiawatha. The west side (Delta, Alger, and Schoolcraft counties) was designated Hiawatha National Forest in 1931.

Today the Hiawatha National Forest is a maturing forest of nearly a million acres. It was created from abandoned farms, razed logging tracts and lands devastated by clear-cutting and forest fires. The "land that nobody wanted", is now a working forest that provides timber and other forest related products to support local communities and offers refuge for various species of plants, fish, and animals. Much of the large timber, such as red pine and white pine we see today, are due to reforestation efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the grassroots 'Pennies for Pines' project, which encouraged children to donate pennies to plant pine trees on National Forests.

The HNF is a land rich in history. Native Americans were the first settlers after the glaciers retreated. When French explorers and fur traders arrived, they met the Anishinabek, who are also known as the Potawatomi, Ojibway, and Odawa. They were soon followed by missionaries and European settlers who founded Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace, two of the oldest cities in the United States.

The HNF provides recreational opportunities to many Upper Peninsula communities and tourists, from Cedarville to Sault Sainte Marie on the east side to Marquette and Escanaba on the west and everyone in between. Visitors will enjoy 19 developed campgrounds, 2 rental cabins, 27 boat access sites (includes carry-in), 21 day use/picnic areas, 6 lighthouses, 3 islands, and 6 congressionally designated wilderness areas as well as one National Recreation Area. Visitors can walk the beaches or play in the sand and waters of three Great Lakes or fish in any of the hundreds of inland lakes that dot the forest, or hike, hunt, drive for pleasure on back roads, pick berries or birdwatch or explore historic islands. Tour the Hiawatha in the fall to see spectacular foliage that ranges from the palest yellows to vibrant oranges and reds. In winter, visitors can ride for miles on groomed snowmobile trails, or renew body and soul with quiet sports such as cross country skiing, snow shoeing or ice fishing.

No matter what the season or the activity, the Hiawatha National Forest is a great place to visit!

For more information about the Hiawatha National Forest, visit any of our offices located in Gladstone, Munising, Rapid River, and St. Ignace.

Link to Interactive Visitor Map.


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