The Ottawa National Forest is located in the northwestern portion (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan and borders on Lake Superior. It is comprised of 982,895 acres. There are 27 developed campgrounds, 18 of which meet the selection criteria.
Retaining much of the pristine beauty of turn-of-the-century northern Michigan woods, Ottawa National Forest offers an interesting contrast to some nearby forests. Known for its hearty people, Ottawa offers a variety of recreation opportunities in a lush hardwood forest. These activities include good fishing, a robust wildlife populations, spectacular fall colors, river canoeing, and outstanding camping locations. While dispersed (or undeveloped and therefore not included in this campground review) camping locations are scattered across the Ottawa, the dominant features of the Forest’s developed camping areas are rustic facilities and crystal blue lakes.
With over 500 lakes within the Ottawa National Forest’s boundaries, it is difficult to find a campground not located on or near a lake, river, or stream. Each lake has a beauty of its own and challenges the visitor to identify their favorite. Of course, the “granddaddy” of lakes in the area is Lake Superior. On the very edge of this enormous expanse of water is the Black River campground, very popular with recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts. One of the more modern campgrounds in the Forest, and in addition to the wonderful views, this campground offers flush toilets and RV waste station. Nearby are five delightful waterfalls on the Black River (the black color is caused by chemicals leaching out of decomposing trees) can be reached via hiking trails. The beauty found along these trails is memorable.
Moosehead Lake, Pomeroy Lake, and Henry Lake campgrounds form a nice cluster around the floatable/canoeable Presque Isle River. A Class 1 canoe stream (no rapids), the Preque Isle River offers good family fun and nice fishing opportunities. An alternative to exploring the Ottawa by river is discovering one of the 36 pristine lakes found in the Sylvania Wilderness.
A memorable experience for any angler is almost as simple as pick-a-lake-drop-your-line. Both lake and river fishing are best in the spring but are almost as good in the fall. Whether its Walleye, Northern pike, or panfish on the dinner menu, anglers of all ages with find that noteworthy event near most of Ottawa’s developed camping locations.
A unique experience is exploring Sturgeon River Gorge and Sylvania Wildernesses. With no established trails or camp sites, the Sturgeon River Gorge offers an experience reminiscent of pioneer life. At the main entrance to the Sylvania Wilderness is the Clark Lake campground with several loops and varying levels of camping, ranging from car and tent camping sites to RV and motorhome facilities, nestled in an ancient woods. The Sylvania Wilderness is one of the largest “virgin” (trees that have never been harvested) forests in the region. Sylvania is also special for the nearly 100 specific primitive campsites dotting the Wilderness. Because they are Wilderness designated areas, no motorized or mechanical equipment is permitted in Sturgeon River Gorge and Sylvania, which only adds to the special experience of staying in either place.
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