Sylvania Wilderness Canoe Trip

Beau, Oliver, Ocean, Owen, Tony (back row) Uncle Jimmer (front row)

My brother Jimmer and I led the kids on a canoe trip through the Sylvania Wilderness, a National Forest Preserve about 30 miles west of my home. The US Forest Service purchased the 7,417 hectare plot saving 34 lakes and old-growth, northern hardwood forests in 1967. Thanks to a Wisconsin lumberman, A.D. Johnston who purchased 80 acres in 1895 on the south shore of Clark Lake, he thought the area was so beautiful that it should be preserved. I am very thankful that the lakes were not developed like many of the lakes up here. There are no cottages or roads going through the wilderness and very few of the lakes permit motorized watercraft. Instead, it is canoes and kayaks and the quiet of the Northwoods! The lakes straddle both the Wisconsin/Michigan state borders and the Lake Superior/Mississippi River watersheds. The lakes are deep and pristine and spring-fed and fragile due to low flush rates. The natural forest habitation around the lake preserves the beauty and the water quality. We saw several loons and bald eagles, but couldn’t see any of the park’s wolves or black bears.

One of my big takeaways from the experience was understanding the privations experienced by early French explorers to the Great Lakes. Once we got away from the lake and into the woods, the mosquitos were all over us. Thankfully, the owner of Sylvania Outfitters advised us to hear face nets to protect us. I made our route through the park, traversing three lakes which meant 3 portages. The last one was probably about 400 meters through thick hilly forests. I underestimated the size of Crooked lake the kids were a bit cranky on the way back, but the 4-hour trip to me was pure heaven. It was a cool windy day but typical for summer in the UP. The strong winds caused white caps on the exposed parts of Crooked Lake, but other than that, it was a safe and enjoyable day out.

I highly recommend visiting the preserve which is part of the Ottawa National Forest. Sylvania Outfitters, located just outside of the park near Watersmeet, Michigan has everything you need for a day on the water including transport of canoes/kayaks, paddles, and advice on where to go. We did a cross-country ski trip with the kids years ago with them.

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