Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camping


Area Status: Open

The Sylvania Wilderness encompasses 18,327 acres of primitive lands and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Visitors can camp in 50 designated campsites within the Sylvania Wilderness. Visitors enjoy endless canoeing, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Natural Features: The old-growth forests and pristine lakes in the region provide habitat for a wide range of animal and plant life, including rare orchids, bald eagles, loons and osprey. The wilderness contains 34 named lakes, some with sandy beaches and others surrounded by record-size red and white pines. 

The Ottawa National Forest is comprised of nearly 1 million acres and is located in the western reaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The forest's rolling, forest covered hills extend from the south shore of Lake Superior to the Wisconsin border. Lakes, rivers and waterfalls are found throughout this beautiful landscape.

Recreation: Sylvania's abundant lakes provide plentiful non-motorized boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing opportunities. Other popular activities include hiking and viewing wildlife.

Facilities: Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camp is not a physical campground located at one location. The 50 individual sites are located along eight lakes within the Sylvania Wilderness. Camping is allowed only at designated sites. Campsites are primitive, but each is equipped with a campfire ring and a wilderness latrine.

Camping is permitted at designated sites by permit only. Permits MUST be reserved by visiting Recreation.gov (see details below). No first-come, first-serve walk in sites available in 2020.

Fish Your National Forests: Fish available include: Trout, Native Trout, Bass, Walleye, Panfish, Pike; Types of fishing available include: Wade, Shore, Non-motorized boat, Float tube, Fly, Spin, Ice; 

Maps:

  • Sylvania Wilderness Map
  • Clarks Lake Campground Map

2022 SYLVANIA WILDERNESS AND RECREATION AREA UPDATES

At a Glance

Current Conditions: The Sylvania Entrance Station will be open for the 2022 season with limited services, beginning in June.  
  • Backcountry camping available by reservation only.
  • All overnight camping users planning to camp in the backcountry between May 15 and September 30 must have a campsite reservation prior to camping.
  • All sites must be reserved through Recreation.Gov.  No walk-up permits will be issued.
  • Same day reservations will be allowed.
  • Prior to your visit, all visitors are strongly encouraged to review the rules and regulations and watch the Sylvania Wilderness Orientation video.
  • Day use fees and backcountry camping fees are charged May 15 - September 30.
  • The Clark Lake Pavilion will be open for the 2022 season, however, the shower facilities will remain closed.
Operational Hours: The Entrance Station will be open for the 2022 season with limited hours, beginning in June.  Once open, the Entrance Station will be staffed Thursday through Monday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. CT to provide customer service and information to visitors.  For the health and safety of visitors, employees, and partners, the building will not be open to visitors, a service window on the north side of the building will be used to provide customer service. 
  • All rules and regulations apply and all backcountry campers must camp at a designated site with proof of reservation.
Rules and Regulations for Sylvania can be found on all the bulletin boards at the entrance station, trailheads, and canoe launches.
Reservations: Reservation Required -
  • May 15 to September 30
  • Reservation fee of $9.00 (call center) or $8 (on-line)
  • Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance of visit on 37 of the 50 backcountry campsites.  The remaining 13 sites open for reservations 2 weeks in advance of visit.
  • Same day reservations available May 15 – September 30 on available sites.
Go to: Recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777. Camping is first come, first served from October 1 to May 14. 
Rentals & Guides: Sylvania Outfitters http://www.sylvaniaoutfitters.com/ - 906-358-4766
Area Amenities: Accessible,Boat ramp,Tent camping,Camping trailer,Fee charged for some activities,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking
Fees: The Sylvania Entrance Station will be open for the 2022 season with limited services, beginning in June.
  • Backcountry campsite permits are $15/site/night and available through Recreation.gov
  • $5/vehicle daily fee, please use the fee tube at the Entrance Station or Clark Lake Picnic and Beach parking area. DO NOT PAY ANY CAMPING FEES AT DAY USE FEE TUBES.
Permit Info: The ENTRANCE STATION is CLOSED FOR THE 2021 SEASON to protect the health and safety of our visitors and employees.
  • $5/vehicle daily use fee is required. Please use the fee tube at the Entrance Station or Clark Lake day use area. DO NOT PAY ANY CAMPING FEES AT DAY USE FEE TUBES.
  • To obtain a $30 Annual Pass, please call 906-932-1330.  
Open Season: May 15 - September 30
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Restrictions:
  • Motorized, mechanized or gas-powered vehicles, including motors, snowmobiles, portage wheels and bicycles, are not allowed:
    • Electric Motors allowed on Crooked Lake; maximum thrust of 48lbs (4 HP equivalent).
  • Wheelchairs are allowed
  • Be prepared to portage your canoe
  • Metal or glass food or beverage containers, including deposit bottles, cans and foam containers may not be taken into the wilderness
  • Dogs-
    • Are allowed on a leash in both the Wilderness/Recreation area, can be off leash during hunting seasons.
    • May not be left unattended and are not allowed in the Clark Lake Beach and Swimming area.
  • Aircraft Landings are not allowed, over flights are requested to remain at least 2,000 feet above the ground.
  • Special fishing regulations
Closest Towns: Watersmeet, Mi is 7 miles to the east and Ironwood, Mi is 39 miles to the west.
Water: Handpump at Crooked and Clark Lake landing, pressurized water system at the RV Dump Station
Restroom: Vault toilet at the Entrance Station, Clark and Crooked Lake landing, and Clark Lake Day Use area
Passes:
 

General Information

Directions:

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
46.24472, -89.31056
46°14'41"N, 89°18'38"W

Wilderness campsites can be accessed from Sylvania Recreation Area or from entry points on the perimeter of the wilderness (see map). 

To reach Sylvania Entrance Station and Recreation Area: From Watersmeet, travel approximately 4 miles west on U.S. 2 to County Road 535, then drive south on CR 535 approximately 4 miles south to the Sylvania Recreation Area


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Campground Camping

Recreation areas with activity Campground Camping:

For those that don't wish to spend the night in the Wilderness we provide a drive in campground with 48 campsites.  There is a pressurized water system, flush toilets, a developed beach and picnic area, a day use building that has showers, and a road system that provides access to Wilderness entry points.

No. of Sites 48
Fire Information Please keep camp fires in the fire ring.  Thank You.
No. of Accessible sites 0
Permit required?: Y

Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

Dispersed Camping in the Sylvania Wilderness is permitted in designated campsites only. Wilderness campsites can be reached by water or by trails. Permits for campsites are required from May 15 to September 30. Sites can be obtained by reserving or on a walk-in basis, depending upon availability. To reserve a Wilderness campsite you can call 1-877-444-6777 or go to www.recreation.gov. A reservation fee is charged. A maximum of six people per campsite is allowed. A fire ring and a wilderness latrine are provided at each site. Click here for a Sylvania Wilderness Map

General Info:

Permits & Regulations

Overnight campers in the Wilderness are required to have a permit which can be obtained from the Entrance Station. Additional special rules apply and can also be obtained from the Entrance Station.


Safety Information

During your visit to the wilderness please be aware of recommended items that every prepared hiker, camper, or outdoor enthusiast should have on any trip into the wilderness:

  • Good Topographic Map and compass
  • Water and high-energy drinks, dried fruit, nuts, etc
  • First Aid Kit, whistle, pocketknife, flashlight
  • Sturdy boots, warm jacket and extra clothing
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and insect repellent
  • Waterproof matches, lighter and candle for emergency fire starter
  • Trowel, toilet paper, and garbage bags for sanitation

Status: Open
Open Season: January-December
Best Season: June-August
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Difficult

Lake and Pond Fishing

Recreation areas with activity Lake and Pond Fishing:

There are 34 named lakes located within the boundaries of the Sylvania Wilderness and can only be accessed by a non-motorized boat, canoe or by trail. These lakes offer some of the best fishing available in the region.  There are special fishing regulations on lakes within the Sylvania Wilderness, they can be obtained from the Entrance Station.

Fish Species Bass, Walleye, Trout, Northern Pike, and Panfish can be found in most lakes. Specific specie information by lake can be obtained at the Entrance Station.
Fishing Mode Canoe or Bank
Special Designations Clark Lake and Crooked Lake have carry down landings. 
Fishing Platform No
Cleaning Station No
Accessible Platform No
Water Temperature Cold
Fishing Method Please see Fishing Regulations for Sylvania Wilderness and Perimeter area.  These can be obtained at the Sylvania Entrance Station
Water/Flow Level Most lakes range from 10-25 feet deep.  You can obtain specific lake depth information from the Entrance Station
Status: Open
Open Season: January-December
Permit required?: Y
Best Season: May-August
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Difficult

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:

There are about 26 miles of trail that wind through old growth forest and along lake shores. The trails are unmarked. Click here for a map of Sylvania Wilderness

Fire Information Only in designated campsites in fire ring.
Open Season: January-December
Permit required?: Y
Permit: Daytime and overnight visitors are required to have a permit which can be obtained from the Entrance Station.
Best Season: May-September
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Difficult

Backpacking

Recreation areas with activity Backpacking:

Backpacking in the Sylvania Wilderness opens up about 26 miles of trails that wind through old growth forest and along lake shores. Camping is available at designated locations by reservation or by walk-in. In both cases a permit is required to camp within the Sylvania Wilderness. Click here to view a map of Sylvania Wilderness

Fire Information Campfires are only permitted in a fire ring at designated campsites.
Status: Open
Open Season: January-December
Reservation info: To reserve wilderness campsites call 877-444-6777 or go National Recreation Reservation Service Website
Permit required?: Y
Best Season: June-September
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Difficult

Viewing Wildlife

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Wildlife:

This 18,327 acre Wilderness with its 34 named lakes provides you with opportunity to view wildlife in their natural setting. Whitetail Deer, Bear, Beaver, Otter, Waterfowl, Bald Eagles and many other species call this Wilderness home.

General Info:

Permits & Regulations

All daytime and overnight users of the Wilderness are required to have a permit which can be obtained from the Entrance Station.


Safety Information

When viewing wildlife please be aware of your surroundings.  Some animals can become aggressive, especially if they have young ones in the area.  Enjoy the opportunities to view these animals but please be aware of your surroundings when doing so.  Please - Don't feed the animals. 


Species Whitetail Deer, Beaver, Waterfowl, Owls, Bald Eagles, Loon, and Osprey.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Difficult

Viewing Plants

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Plants:

The Sylvania Wilderness is a 18,327 acre Wilderness that includes 34 named lakes that provide you with an opportunity to view plant life in an environment that promotes growth. Rare Orchids and old growth forest are featured throughout the wilderness.

Species Orchids, Old Growth White Pine and Red Pine.
Status: Open
Permit required?: Y
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Difficult

Picnicking

Recreation areas with activity Picnicking:

Sylvania Recreation area provides a large picnicking area that is co-located with the Clark Lake day use area and pavilion.  There are several tables and grills provided. 

The Clark Lake pavilion, located within the Clark Lake day use area, sits in a beautiful north wood setting, at the north end of Clark Lake. The pavilion provides a large indoor gathering area complete with picnic tables, limited seating, and a fireplace.

No. of Sites 5
No. of Accessible Sites 0
Status: Open
Permit required?: Y
Hours of Operation: Day use areas are open from 6am - 10pm daily
Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Non-Motorized:

34 named lakes are located within the boundaries of the Sylvania Wilderness and can only be accessed by a non-motorized boat, canoe or by trail. Most of these lakes are connected by a short portage and most have campsites located on them.  There are special fishing regulations on lakes within the Sylvania Wilderness, they can be obtained from the Entrance Station.

Portage Times (pdf)

 

Starting Point Ending Point Rods Feet
Crooked Lake High Lake 22 rods 363 feet
Crooked Lake Corey Lake 34 rods 561 feet
Crooked Lake Clark Lake 112 rods 1,848 feet
Crooked Lake Mountain Lake 13 rods 214.5 feet
Mountain Lake East Bear Lake 96 rods 1,584 feet
West Bear Lake Kerr Lake 97 rods 1,600.5 feet
West Bear Lake East Bear Lake 40 rods 660 feet
High Lake Kerr Lake 38 rods 627 feet
Clark Lake Loon Lake 99 rods 1,633 feet
Glimmerglass Lake Hay Lake 126 rods 2,079 feet
Whitefish Lake Hay Lake 158 rods 2,607 feet
Whitefish Lake parking lot 242 rods 3,993 feet
Loon Lake Fisher Lake 140 rods 2,310 feet
Loon Lake Florence Lake 78 rods 1,297 feet
Loon Lake Deer Island Lake 92 rods 1,518 feet
Deer Island Lake Cub Lake 79 rods 1,303 feet
Cub Lake Big Bateau Lake 7 rods 115 feet
Florence Lake Fisher Lake 133 rods 2,194 feet
Florence Lake Big Bateau Lake 34 rods 561 feet
Launch Ramps No
Trailer Parking Yes, at put in at Clark Lake and Crooked Lake.
Type of Craft Canoe/Kayak. No motorized boats allowed.
Fuel availability No
Marina/Mooring No
Status: Open
Permit required?: Y
Difficulty Level: Easy to Difficult

Swimming

Recreation areas with activity Swimming:

The 34 named lakes in the Sylvania Wilderness provide the opportunity for swimming. Some of the lakes have a non maintained shore line that is usable as a beach.  Clark Lake has a developed beach located at the north end of the lake, just outside the wilderness.  It is located next to the Day Use Building. 

General Info:

Permits & Regulations

All day and overnight users must have a permit that can be obtained from the Entrance Station.  The use of soaps or other cleaning agents is not permitted in any Sylvania Lakes.


Safety Information

There are no life guards on duty, please use caution and supervise all children. 


Clothing Requirements Bathing suit required. No Lifeguard On Duty. No soaps or cleaning agents are permitted in any Sylvania Lake.
Hours of Operation: Day Use area is open to the public from 6am - 10pm daily
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation areas with activity XC Skiing/Snowshoeing:

The Sylvania Wilderness provides 26 miles of non-groomed trails that travel through old growth forests and along the shoreline of lakes.  Many of the trails connect with two groomed trails outside the wilderness (Sylvania Wilderness Outfitters Ski Trails and Land O' Lakes Ski Trails).

General Info:

Permits & Regulations

All daytime and overnight users of the wilderness are required to have a permit which can be obtained at the Entrance Station.


Safety Information

We want your visit to the wilderness to be a enjoyable time.  Please take the time to prepare and make sure you have the neccessary survival equipment:

  • Good Topographical Map and compass
  • Water and high-energy trail food
  • First Aid Kit, Whistle, pocketknife, and Flashlight
  • Appropiate cold weather clothing
  • Waterproof matches, lighter and candle for emergency fire starter
  • Be advised cell phones rarley work in the wilderness

Amenities

Camping trailer: 48 campsites in the Clark Lake Campground
Picnic tables: In day use areas and Clark Lake Campground
Tent camping: 50 Wilderness campsites and 48 campsites in the Clark Lake Campground
Parking: At designated trailheads, landings, and day use area
Toilets: Vault toilet at the Entrance Station, Clark and Crooked Lake landing, and Clark Lake Day Use area. Flush toilets in the Clark Lake Campground and Clark Lake Day Use Building
Fee charged for some activities: Facility Permit and Camping
Accessible: Toilet in Loop 1 of Campground
Boat ramp: Clark Lake & Crooked Lake - Carry Down Only
Drinking water: Handpump at Crooked and Clark Lake landing, pressurized water system at the RV Dump Station and Clark Lake Campground

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Latitude : 
46.24472

  Longitude : 
-89.31056