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Michigan > Ottawa National Forest
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Ottawa National Forest

Bessemer Ranger District- With a population of 2,500 Bessemer offers a small town lifestyle with unique opportunities to experience the wonders of nature and recreational activities available on the Ottawa National Forest.
Iron River Ranger District- The Iron River Ranger District was established as early as 1935 encompassing areas around the friendly community of Iron River.
Kenton Ranger District- Kenton Ranger District is one of five districts on the almost one million acre Ottawa National Forest.
Ontonagon Ranger District- In the spring of 1935 the Ontonagon Ranger District was created. It is one of five districts on the almost one million acre Ottawa National Forest.
Watersmeet Ranger District- In March 1, 1935 the Watersmeet Ranger District was established as one of five districts Ottawa National Forest to manage a variety of traditional lands, fisheries, recreation and timber programs.

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General Information

Ottawa National Forest
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Ottawa National Forest
Description - The Ottawa National Forest covers almost one million acres and is rich in wildlife viewing opportunities. Topography in the northern portion is the most dramatic with breathtaking views of rolling hills dotted with lakes, rivers and spectacular waterfalls. Elevations on the Ottawa National Forest range from 600 feet at the Lake Superior shoreline to more than 1,800 feet in the Sylvania Wilderness. The most dramatic changes are noted near Lake Superior where the upward shift of the land with its exposed bedrock and resulting bluffs provide homes for cliff nesting peregrine falcons.

The Ottawa National Forest had the honor of providing the Capitol Holiday Tree, named the "Tree of Hope," for the 2001 holiday celebration in Washington, D.C. In 1975, the Forest sent a 40-foot balsam fir to the Capitol and again in 1986 it sent a spruce.

The Ottawa National Forest has five separate district offices located at Bessemer, Iron River, Kenton, Ontonagon and Watersmeet with the Forest Supervisor's office located in Ironwood. In addition, there is one nursery, the J. W. Toumey Nursery.

Attractions - The Ottawa National Forest encompasses three designated Wilderness Areas. The Sylvania Wilderness and Sylvania Recreation Area, is located near Watersmeet. The 18,327-acre wilderness offers an outstanding experience for those who want to camp, fish, hike, canoe, ski or enjoy the solitude of a wilderness experience. You will find 34 named lakes - some with sandy beaches, others surrounded by record-size red and white pines. The 16,580-acre McCormick Wilderness is located on the Kenton Ranger District and boasts a variety of landscape types ranging from nearly level to rocky cliffs and outcrops. You will find small scattered lakes and the Yellow Dog National Wild and Scenic River. The Sturgeon Wilderness covers 14,139 acres and is located on the Kenton Ranger District. Here you will find the Sturgeon National Wild and Scenic River and its tributaries with steep rugged gorges up to 300 feet deep, and 1/2 to 1 mile wide.

The Black River National Scenic Byway comprises 12 miles of Black River Harbor Road from Bessemer to Black River Harbor. This byway is a very popular travel route because of the scenic beauty of the area including the numerous waterfalls, old growth eastern white pine and hemlock stands, and the Historic Black River Harbor Village. There is ample opportunity for hiking and camping along this route. Black River Harbor provides charter fishing opportunities in Lake Superior.

Recreation - The 27 campgrounds of the Ottawa National Forest offer a wide spectrum of camping experiences. All are accessible by road and service both tent and trailer campers. Most are located on lakes or streams and offer fishing and swimming opportunities as well. Several have beaches with changing facilities.

Hiking trails on the Ottawa National Forest offer something for everyone. More than 196 miles of hiking and backpacking trails vary widely in character. Some provide short easy walks to points of interest, such as waterfalls and historic sites.

Hunting is a major recreational activity on the Ottawa National Forest. Deer, black bear, and grouse hunting is excellent. Hunting for other types of small game, waterfowl, and fur-bearers is also quite popular.

Over 500 named lakes and nearly 2,000 miles of rivers and streams await the angler on the Ottawa National Forest. Stream fishing is available throughout the forest and lake fishing is concentrated on Lake Superior and in the southern half of the forest. There are numerous developed and undeveloped boat launch facilities as well as numerous walk-in lakes to provide for a wide variety of fishing experiences.

Portions of the Ottawa National Forest receive over 200 inches of snow annually. Referred to as "Big Snow Country," winter sports enthusiasts will find alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, and ice fishing for several months of the year. There are over 2,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and numerous cross-country ski trails.

Bicycles are allowed on National Forest trails except where posted. Bicycles are also prohibited in congressionally designated Wilderness Areas. Prohibited trails include portions of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Climate - This area experiences four distinct seasons. Winters are very cold, with plenty of snow for winter recreation activities. Spring and autumn are transitional periods, with normally mild temperatures but occasional seasonal fluctuations. The area is renowned for its spectacular autumn colors. Summers bring warm temperatures. Expect plenty of mosquitoes during the summer months.

Location - The almost one million acres of the Ottawa National Forest are located in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It extends from the south shore of Lake Superior down to Wisconsin and the Nicolet National Forest. The Forest is headquartered in Ironwood, Michigan, with offices also in Bessemer, Iron River, Kenton Ontonagan and Watersmeet. There is a visitors center in Watersmeet.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: we went into the Sylvania wilderness right after labor day 2004. we paddled and portaged about 20 lakes all the way from the northeast side to the southwest. it was a fantastic and memorable trip. there were virtually no mosquitos or people. i strongly recommend going at this time due to the plethora of bugs in mid-summer. this is one of the most special places i have seen east of the Mississippi river.

Filed By: Dan T
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Five of us took a charter out of Black River Harbor. I believe the Pilot's name was Jim, the boat was the Jolly Rodger. What a wonderful fella! Had a great time, he was very personable and we all felt we had a wonderful time. A little tied though, from hawling in all those trout! Anyhow, I recommend his charter to anyone... He also has a no fish, no pay policy, but believe me, you will be paying. We all limited out on trout. Even got a nice steelhead to boot. Take care.

More Information

Contact Information:
Ottawa National Forest, E6248 US Highway 2 , Ironwood, MI, 49938, Phone: 906-932-1330, Fax: 906-932-0122, TTY: 906-932-0301
, mailroom@fs.fed.us

Watersmeet Visitors Center, Old US 2, P.O. Box 276 , Watersmeet, MI, 49969, Phone: 906-358-4724

Ottawa National Forest, E6248 US Highway 2 , Ironwood, MI, 49938, Phone: 906-932-1330

Watersmeet Visitors Center, Old US 2, P.O. Box 276 , Watersmeet, MI, 49969, Phone: 906-358-4724

Additional Information:
Michigan National Forests and Parks - The federally administered forests and parks of Michigan pervade nearly every region of the state and consist of diverse natural and historic attractions.
Upper Peninsula - This region encompasses nearly the entire Upper Peninsula landmass embracing windswept mountain tops, tumbling waterfalls, pristine woodlands, scenic lakeshores, and welcoming communities.

Ottawa National Forest - Official agency website.


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