Sylvania Wilderness Canoe Trip, 2011

Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area is in the Ottawa National Forest in the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the early days, Sylvania was a private retreat for hunting and fishing. Albert Johnston purchased 80 acres of land at the south end of Clark Lake in 1895. Although he originally intended to use the land for logging, he liked the natural beauty of the area and decided to save the trees and build a home here. A succession of owners used Sylvania as a private retreat. By the 1950’s, Detroit’s Fisher brothers owned a majority of the private hunting and fishing retreat known as the Sylvania club. They designed an enclosed auto body, “Body by Fisher,” and made a lot of money selling the design to General Motors. After their death, the U.S. Forest Service purchased Sylvania in 1966. What had once been a private hunting and fishing club is now a beautifully preserved wilderness area for the public to enjoy. Travel within most of the Sylvania Wilderness is limited to canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. Wilderness campsites are primitive with almost no facilities, and campers have many limitations on what can be brought in.

Sylvania Links:

Yvonne’s first trip with the Chicago Group of the Sierra Club was to the Sylvania Wilderness back in the early 1980’s. We have enjoyed seven trips to Sylvania together or with small groups during the last 18 years. This trip was the first time that we led a trip to Sylvania with the Chicago Group of the Sierra Club.

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Photos by Helen Hoselton

We learned a few tips from Helen. She took over 300 photos, and would have taken more if her camera’s battery had not been exhausted. The following nine photos from Helen capture the beauty of Sylvania:

  • Golden Silence Lake, one of Sylvania’s 34 named lakes
  • Sunset near our campground at Clark Lake
  • Deer are common on the hiking trails.
  • Dragon flies are common, and some have interesting colors.
  • A mother duck with her ducklings was a common sight.
  • Loons are excellent swimmers and spend most of their time in the water. We could occasionally here the call of a loon from our campground.
  • White Moth
  • Budding water lilly
  • Iris

Photos by George and Yvonne

Day One

  • Downtown Watersmeet.
    We had a nice breakfast at Big Mama’s Grill before canoeing into the wilderness.
  • Our group met at the Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center, and enjoyed the gift shop.
  • We brought both of our canoes, and rented a third canoe at Sylvania Outfitters.
  • George and Deb.
    After we unloaded our cars, we began to load our canoes.
  • We loaded our canoes with all of our camping gear and four days of food.
  • Helen and Yvonne are ready to shove off.
  • We made several trips up the path from the beach to our camp.
  • We paused to catch our breath while hauling all of stuff up the path to camp.
  • George and Yvonne taking a break after arriving in camp

Day Two

  • Portaging canoes from Clark Lake to Loon Lake
  • In this photo, Deb is carrying the canoe 92 rods (about 1/4 mile) from Loon Lake to Clark Lake.
  • Paula, Deb, and Henry canoeing on Loon Lake
  • Lunch break on Deer Island Lake
  • Yvonne cooking chili
  • Sitting on the beach by our campsite after supper

Day Three

  • Yvonne and George cooking blueberry pancakes
  • Henry and Deb in the sunlight at the cooking table
  • Helen and Deb paddling to the south end of Clark Lake
  • A loon surfaced near our canoe on Clark Lake
  • Paula and Yvonne canoeing on Clark Lake
  • George practicing paddling solo

Day Four

  • We stored our food up high so the bears could not get it.
  • Yvonne and George at breakfast
  • George cooking French Toast
  • Yvonne and Paula hiking near our camp
  • Yvonne on hiking trail
  • Mushrooms grow well in Sylvania.
  • Small orange flower
  • A mother duck with young ducklings
  • George and Yvonne relaxing before dinner
  • Flower on hiking trail
  • Ducks on parade
  • George and Yvonne relaxing before dinner
  • The three finalists in our camp’s fashion show
  • We had fun cooking and eating pad thai with Indian vegetables.
  • Watching sunset from the beach

Day Five

  • Loading canoes at camp
  • After four nights at camp, our canoes were a little lighter.
  • Arriving at the Clark Lake boat dock