Sylvania Wilderness Area?

I am considering a trip to Sylvania sometime this year… I’ve done 7 or 8 BWCA trips and would like to try Sylvania. Besides the National Forest website there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of info out there. I’m curious what others have to say about it? How does it compare to the BWCA? I realize of course it’s a lot smaller! How hard is it to get permits for summer weekends?

Thanks for any info!!

I don’t know if you’re interested in fishing, but it is incredible. I grew up in Sayner, about 15 miles west of Eagle River, and my dad and I spent some great days over there.

I’m not sure about permit availability, as dad always took care of that. It’s a beautiful little gem that doesn’t see the traffic of the b-dub.

Crooked Lake

– Last Updated: Mar-27-08 7:38 PM EST –

It's nice. One thing to consider though is that motor boats are allowed on Crooked Lake and so that impacts the solitude / quiet.

Phil Siggelkow, of fond memory and formerly of Blackhawk Canoe led an industry gear eval trip there in the late 80’s. A great, intimate, jewel of wilderness. Go id convenient.

Special Fishing Regs
It does have great fishing but largely you can’t keep what you catch. Special fishing regulations apply on all but Crooked Lake. Furthermore, the regulations change from lake to lake. Larger size limits apply, only artificial lures can be used, only barbless hooks can be used; and it’s catch and release on the smallmouth bass.

The best source of information is Sylvania Wilderness Outfitter BTW they are THE ONLY outfitter for Sylvania. They are good though and very helpful.

Sylvania is similar to the BWCA in that it is a canoe camping place with many lakes joined by portages, and it is within a National Forest.

It is a beautiful place and probably worth the trip, but it is not the BWCA. I have been there once. I don’t go more often simply because the distance to it for me is equal the BWCA and I like the BWCA better.

In Sylvania the campsites are assigned, the lakes are small, and the portages are easy. The woods are old growth hardwood - very different from the BWCA. Sylvania used to be a hunting and fishing club and the portages are the old roads that used to connect the lakes. Hiking trails run throughout and it is easy to walk to any of the lakes.

Only 5 people are allowed per campsite though 2 groups (10 people) are allowed to travel together. Daily camping fees are charged and there is a fee for your car.

Have gone annually for 15 years now. 48 drive in sites to launch day trips and 50 wilderness sites spread over 8 lakes connected with a trail system.

The outfitter is located on Crooked lake, where motors are allowed. Leave sail rigs and portage carts at home, they are not allowed. The entire area is about 18000 acres. Contact Watersmeet ranger station of the Ottawa national forest for best information.

I spent 5 nights there last summer…I would suggest making reservations ahead of time…some of the lakes are quite wonderful and most of the portages short and very well marked…finding your campsite from the water can be challenging but it’s even MORE of a challenge finding some of them backpacking…

Not sure how dated the fishing advice is on this thread, but when I was there in October 2006 it wasn’t even worth schlepping my gear across the portages as we only caught a few small mouths in the outer lakes. Talking to a local guy who was fishing Clark Lake at our take-out, he told us that’s the only lake worth fishing. If eagle sightings are your thing, though, you won’t be disappointed as they’re everywhere.

Generally speaking, the campsites are decent. The Loon site on Loon Lake was our base camp for a couple of days and it’s quite nice. We did a day trip into Deer Island Lake (very nice area–spend some time here), Cub Lake, Big Bateau Lake (also very nice), Florence Lake (a mucky leach hole), and back to Loon.

In retrospect, I’m glad I did the trip since I got some fantastic autumn color photos, but I don’t think I’ll be back. I’ve had much more enjoyable wilderness canoeing and fishing experiences no too far across the border in Ontario.

well it’s not the great slave run but it is a sweet little spot. I’ve always had good experiences altho it is somewhat dated now. I’ve also had good luck fly fishing for small mouths and I always catch & release anyway. Campsites were always rested, had nice views, and were in good shape. Good eagle sitings and appreciated loons at night. try it out.

Fishing Sylvania
The fishing in Sylvania is ALWAYS fantastic! We have been taking our family there for 7 years now and we have never been disappointed. A 6 inch rubber worm on a barbless hook = tired shoulders at the end of the day. Last year my son and I caught more than 200 largemouths and smallmouths in 3 days. The largest was 23 inches.

Campsites in Sylvania Wilderness
Four of us will be canoeing / camping in the Sylvania Widerness next August. We are currently planning on spending about 3 nights on Loon Lake and 3 nights on either Crooked or Mountain Lake. We will be making reservations ahead of time. Can anyone recommend any specific campsites on these lakes or any other suggestions? We spent a week on Isle Royale last August and are looking for less portaging and spending more than one night in the same site.

Online Best

– Last Updated: Mar-20-10 5:15 AM EST –

You can get your backcountry permits online in advance, but you have to wait until the day you go in if you do it when you get there. It can be crowded and you may not get the site you want. Taking your chances on availability. Best to do it in advance. But if wind comes up or something happens, you're screwed. You reserve specific sites for specific nights. Makes it hard to move around from site to site unless the weather is perfect.

P.S. Don't get naked on the beaches if you're modest as there may be hikers or canoeists camped nearby that you can't see. The camp sites are away from the water. Sylvania FEELS more like wilderness than it really is.

Fish Factory
I’ve been going to Sylvania for 9+ years. The best part about Sylvania is that very few people know about it. In my opinion, the best fishing lake in Sylvania is Crooked Lake, which is known for its countless bays and channels. Crooked Lake is a fish factory! Fish the weed beds for huge pan fish, bass, and crappie. I’ve even caught some Northern Pike from time to time.

I would brush up on the fishing regulations in Sylvania. Crooked Lake is the only lake in the wilderness that follows normal Michigan fishing regulations. The other lakes are catch and release with bass, and you need to use barb-less hooks.

I’ve camped on Crooked Lake, Mountain Lake, and Clark Lake. Some of the campgrounds tend to be way up on a ridge, away from the water, and not very level. I would recommend Fisher on Crooked Lake, Bear and Lynx on Mountain, and Pine on Clark Lake. If you can get it, Loon on Loon Lake is supposed to be the best campground in Sylvania, but is always the first one taken.

Overall, Sylvania is definitely worth checking out. It’s one of my favorite places to go with family and friends. Have fun!