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Canoeing & Kayaking
Sylvania Wilderness & Ottawa National
Forest, Watersmeet, Michigan USA
Copyright 2001 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo -
Our Route Summary
- Submitted by: William Reid
- Date Submitted: 10/2001
- Location: Sylvania Wilderness in
the West end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, near
Watersmeet, in the Ottawa National Forest
- Class: Classes 1 & 2. The
open lakes were quite windy, with considerable
- Distance Paddled: There are 25
miles of portages and trails and about 4,000
acres of water. Portages range from 1/10th mile
to 3/4 mile in length.
- Water Level: Not relevant
- Water: fresh
- Wildlife: bears, deer, beaver,
bald eagles and loons that allow you to get up
close and personal for some spectacular photos,
21,000 acres of pines and 300 year old hardwoods
across 36 pristine lakes and 19 ponds, bass
(catch & release), trout, pike, and pan fish
- Special Regulations: Motorized
or mechanized equipment cannot be possessed or
used in Sylvania with the exception of electric
motors only on Crooked Lake. Group travel size
for any purpose is limited to 10 people, with the
exception of campsites, where the limit is 5
people. For other restrictions and conditions of
entry in this wilderness area check: http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/ottawa
Entry and Exit
- Directions: The park office is
located West of Highway 45; South of U.S. 2 Large
Brown & Yellow Forest Service sign, follow
signs. Their hours of operation are: Saturday
through Wednesday 7:30am - 5:00pm and Thursday
& Friday 7:30am - 8:00 pm. Phone reservations
will be taken only from February 1st - May 15th.
Their phone number is: (906) 358-4724
- Fee: Between May 15 and
September 30 there is a $5.00 daily or $20.00
Annual facility pass charge. From October 1 to
May 15 there are no fees.
- Description: launch area is
vast, paved, and sandy
- Parking: secured parking nearby
- Facilities: Park office, picnic
areas, tent camping. There is an Ottawa National
Forest Visitor's Center nearby and displays of
indigenous species as well as local topographic
and geological displays. For those who do not
have their own equipment, or would rather rent
from an outfitter, Sylvania Outfitters is located
on the park boundary and has a complete rental
facility as well as a collection of topographical
maps of the entire area. They can be contacted
P.O. Box 276
Watersmeet, Michigan 49969
- Handicap Access: Portages and
some takeouts may not be suitable for handicapped
What We Saw
After registering at the park office it is a short
drive to the Crooked Lake boat ramp and launch area shown
Paddling on Crooked Lake is shown at left.
Sprinkled among the 21,000 acres of pines and 300 year
old hardwoods are 36 pristine lakes and 19 ponds. Short
portages connect most of them. Sylvania had been a
private estate since the turn of the Century. Since 1966
the Ottawa National Forest has maintained it. This area
is famous for its Catch & Release Bass fishery.
|Campsites are remote to each other, and
are as stated above, limited to 5 people per site. Toilet
facilities are primitive and consist of a walless
"Biffy". There are a number of sites that have
swimming adjacent to the site.
Seeing a bear can be an
exciting experience and this IS bear country. The very
things that make them fun to watch; curiosity, acrobatic
antics, and appetites can also ruin one's wilderness
experience. Standard precautions such as cleaning up
after each meal, scattering wash water at least 150 feet
from campsite, and storing food, toothpaste, candy &
gum in a separate storage bag, hung at least 10 feet off
the ground, 4 feet away from tree trunks, and about 4
feet down from a sturdy branch. We adhered to the above
guidelines and had no problem with bears!
Our portage from Crooked Lake to Mountain Lake is
shown at right.
We stayed on Mountain Lake, and it was secluded
and in three days we saw only 7 other paddlers.
Pull out/launch area on Crooked Lake is shown at left.
|Our Mountain Lake, Lynx campsite is
shown at right.
The night sky was unbelievable with the
Milky Way reflecting on the lake, a shooting star
gallery, and even the Northern Lights.