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Sylvania Wilderness

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The United States Congress designated the Sylvania Wilderness (map) in 1987 and it now has a total of 15,195 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Michigan and is managed by the Forest Service.


Most of Michigan's pristine forestland has been logged off, but here you'll find stands of the rare and treasured trees that once blanketed the state. In 1885 a man named A. D. Johnston purchased 80 acres of this country with the intention of cutting the wood for lumber. After laying eyes on his new property, he fell in love with the land and decided to preserve it. Johnston encouraged friends to buy and save neighboring forestland, and together they formed the Sylvania Club. The U.S. Forest Service eventually gained ownership, and what remains today is an incomparable north country Wilderness, rolling hills covered in virgin trees dating back as much as 400 years, ancient white pines, red pines, hemlocks, yellow birches, basswoods, and sugar maples. Balanced on the divide between the drainages of Lake Superior and the Mississippi River, Sylvania Wilderness contains 35 deep lakes, almost all of which are landlocked, filled by springs and precipitation. Many of these fabulous lakes are edged with white sand. Deer, bears, raccoons, skunks, otters, beavers, fishers, porcupines, coyotes, foxes, and squirrels thrive in the forest along with a variety of woodland and water-related birds. Special fishing regulations protect this unusual lake habitat. Only artificial lures may be used, and all bass, some of which reach impressive proportions, must be released. Unlike most designated Wildernesses, fragile Sylvania has 50 established campsites in 29 locations bordering lakes; they must be reserved in advance. A well-maintained trail system that wanders through the giant trees provides access. Every campsite has a wilderness latrine, tent pads, and fire ring with grills. On the northern border of the Wilderness, Sylvania Recreation Area offers a major trailhead, 48 drive-in campsites, potable water, showers and flush toilets. There is also an information center where visitors must register and become familiar with Leave No Trace Wilderness ethics. Come here for some of the loveliest day hiking in the Midwest. It's an ideal spot for recreationists to canoe camp, swim and fish in summer, or ski in winter. No matter when you visit or what you do, plan to Leave No Trace.

Planning to Visit the Sylvania Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Sylvania Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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