Recreation

It's All Yours!

The nearly one million acres of the Ottawa National Forest are located in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The National Forest extends from the south shore of Lake Superior to the Wisconsin border. The area is rich in wildlife viewing opportunities; breathtaking views of rolling hills dotted with lakes, rivers and waterfalls; and spectacular fall colors. You have to see it to believe it--come visit the Ottawa!

 

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Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Recreation Conditions Report

 Area Name Status Area Conditions
Bergland Cultural & Heritage Center and Museum Open to Visitor Visit the Bergland/Matchwood Historical Society Musem website for more information.
Black River Harbor Recreation Area Open to Visitor Reservations are now available at 23 of the 40 sites at the campground.   Work will be continuing at Black River Harbor this year to improve facilities and resources for the public’s enjoyment.  Please be aware of the following:
  • The boat launch is open.
  • Work has begun on dock redesign and future replacement.  There is no access to the docks until work is completed, and no transient docking available.
  • The lower parking lot remains open for access to the day use area and suspension bridge.
  • Please call ahead for current conditions; the area may be closed for short durations to accommodate construction activities.  We will send out closure alerts as far in advance as we are able.
Check back frequently for project updates and status of facilities. We thank you for your patience and support as we complete this much needed work at the Black River Harbor area.
Bob Lake Campground    The campground is open, however, there are no services provided.
Bobcat Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Burned Dam Campground    Open with no service.
Courtney Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Golden Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Henry Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Imp Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Lake Ottawa Recreation Area    The campground is open for the season.
Lake Ste Kathryn Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Langford Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Marion Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Moosehead Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Norway Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center Open to Visitor Open daily, 9:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m. (CDT).  Open until 8:00 p. m. on Thursdays for evening programs.
Paint River Forks Campground    Open with no services
Perch Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Pomeroy Lake Campground    The campground is open for the season.
Robbins Pond Campground    Open with no services.
Sparrow Rapids Campground    Open with no services.
Sturgeon River Campground    Open with no services.
Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camping    Prior to camping any time between May 15 through Sept 30, visitors are required to handle reservations, fee payment, registration and watch a Leave No Trace video at the Sylvania Entrance Station (Sat-Thu 8:30-5, Fri 8:30-6); call (906) 358-4404 for information Before July 15, landing on islands is not allowed in order to protect nesting loons Group Size-for any purpose (i.e., traveling together or otherwise congregating) is limited to ten people in the wilderness. However, no more then six people are allowed at campsites. Cans & Bottles-Non-burnable and disposable food and beverage containers including cans, bottles, and Styrofoam are not allowed. Permitted Containers include containers of fuel, insect repellent, medicines, personal toiletries and reusable plastic containers. Wheeled chairs are permitted.

Spotlights

Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camping

Sylvania and Clark Lake Entrance Station

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 can be obtained on a walk-in basis at the Sylvania Entrance Station or can be reserved by visiting Recreation.gov (see details below).

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; 

Sylvania Wilderness Map

Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center

Image of Visitor Center

Welcome to the Ottawa National Forest!  Start your visit to the Forest with a trip to the Ottawa Visitor Center, here you will find recreation information, maps, and much more.  The facility is packed with interpretive exhibits and animal mounts explaining the Forest's natural and cultural history.  We offer a large selection of educational videos to be viewed in our auditorium; Thursday Evening Programs throughout the summer months; group conservation education programs, upon advanced request; as well as an interpretive nature trail.  The Visitor Center and interpretive trail are fully accessible, and no fees are charged for admission to the Center, or to attend our interpretive programming.

Also located within the Center is the "Bear's Den" sales outlet, operated jointly by the USDA-Forest Service and the Ottawa Interpretive Association.  The "Bear's Den" offers many environmental books, Ottawa apparel, unique gifts and other nature-related items for purchase.  Proceeds from these sales, after expenses, go back to the Ottawa National Forest in the form of grants for interpretive projects around the Ottawa.

Available at the Ottawa Visitor Center:

2018 Summer Program Brochure - pdf

Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness

Spring at Sturgeon River Falls

The Wild and Scenic Sturgeon River rushes out of the northern portion of this wilderness, over the 20 foot volcanic outcroppings of Sturgeon Falls, and through a gorge that reaches 350 feet in depth and a mile in width. Throughout this rugged, steep Wilderness, the Sturgeon and Little Silver Rivers and their tributaries have carved falls, rapids, ponds, oxbows, and terraces. Stunning views are possible from the eastern rim of the gorge. Except for a few naturally bare slopes, most of the land is forested with pine, hemlock, aspen, sugar maple, birch, and basswood. When the leaves of the hardwoods change color in the fall, they form a vivid tapestry. There are few established trails in Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, and the few overgrown logging roads are hard to find and follow. The North Country National Scenic Trail parallels the northern and eastern boundaries for about eight miles. Sturgeon River Campground offers seven sites on the southeastern boundary. In spring and during peak runoff, kayaking and white water canoeing are challenging, and only recommended for advanced paddlers.

Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Map

McCormick Wilderness

Sign for McCormick WIlderness

Three generations of McCormicks, the descendants of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaping machine, held the deed to this area before Gordon McCromick willed the land to the U.S. Forest Service. McCormick Wilderness has recovered from the logging era that ended in the early 1900's. Today, you'll find a mixture of northern hardwoods and lowland conifers interspersed with small patches of towering white pine, Michigan's State Tree. Straddling the divide between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, this region ranges from nearly level terrain to rocky cliffs. McCormick's water is what draws most visitors, with the Huron, Dead, Pahokee, and the Wild and Scenic Yellow Dog Rivers all have part of their headwaters within the wilderness. Many cascading waterfalls on the Yellow Dog make it unnavigable. The Yellow Dog is one of a few Eastern rivers designated "Wild". Eighteen small lakes add sparkle to the landscape. Trout, pike, and bass live here, but only in small numbers due to the less-than-fertile-waters. The three mile White Lake Trail connects County Road 607 to White Deer Lake where the McCormick Estate once stood. Remnants of old, unmaintained trails can sometimes be found, but the rest of the Wilderness is fairly rugged, isolated, unspoiled, and relatively difficult to access.

McCormick Wilderness Map