In the Sylvania Wilderness Area in the Ottawa National Forest near Watersmeet, in the south-central Upper Peninsula, all lakes motor-free; artificial lures only (check additional special regulations). A 48-unit car campground, swimming beach, shower and picnic facilities are available on Clark Lake.

Reservations: Reservations taken up to 240 days in advance or up to three days before arrival. Reserve online at, query Sylvania; or call 877-444-6777.

Outfitters: Sylvania Outfitters in Watersmeet offers complete outfitting, canoe and kayak rentals, shuttles and good local information. 906-358-4766,

Civilized lodging: Sylvania Wilderness Cabins on Crooked Lake rents five cabins with dock and fish cleaning station. Nice folks. 920-731-0725,

Go cheap: Dirtbag backcountry addicts picking up permits may be in for some Sylvania sticker shock if they’re staying for several nights. The wilderness area sports some of the highest fees in the national forest, and though it’s more than worth it, some may want to beat the high price tag by visiting in the off-season.

Luckily the wilderness area fees are waived, as are all permit requirements, when you visit between October 1 and May 14. October can be picture perfect as the mostly maple forests burn with the last of fall color. Winter is an all-together different experience and is almost guaranteed to be a solitary one. Sylvania Outfitters grooms a network of cross-country trails during the white season. Early spring can be hit-or-miss depending on the severity of winter.

FEATURE STORY: Seduced By the U.P.’s Sylvania

Aaron Peterson is a writer and photographer living in Chatham, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For more of his work, visit

Note: This article was first published in August 2007, and was updated for the web February 2008.