Sylvania Wilderness

I have planning a trip for the Sylvania Wildernes for early May, prior to the May 15th start of the season, and date that you can/have to reserve campsites. Has anyone paddle in Sylvania at this time of year that can provide details of likely conditons, and provide information about how many paddlers are likely to be encountered; will I likely run into competition for available campsites? Thanks in advance…

Wife and I were there this past early Oct. Basically had the place to ourselves. Even in the car campground there were not more then 2 campers (also, some of the car campgrounds were closed for the season). I’d imagine that would be pretty much true in early May given that no permits are needed. If the crowds warranted permits they’d issue them. Call the ranger station in Watersmeet. They are very helpful people. Also, I’ve been in the BWCA in May and except for the fishing opener weekend it is real quiet.

Bring some cold weather clothing and some warmer weather clothing. It might be 77.12 degrees or it could snow.

Been there many times
May is very early spring in Sylvania. Call the Forest Service or Sylvania Outfitters for ice conditions before you go. You’ll pretty much have the place to yourself. You may see a couple paddlers out for a day trip but very few people will be camping at the remote lake sites.

Mark Morrall

Morrall River Films

Fickle Time Up Yonder
The U.P. can be very tempermental with its weather, particularly early and late in the season. Try to give yourself a window of opportunity for your trip. My wife and I had to leave Sylvania early and head for the protection of the Porkies a couple of years ago. A big ol’ front with 60 MPH winds came in off Superior and we were camper bound for 3 days. That week was pretty much a washout. A fickle place, especially in the marginal months.


– Last Updated: Feb-21-11 12:20 PM EST –

I agree with MarkK and Beaver Jack.

I have been there at ice out in early May, the day the Loons arived and it was magical. Been there in late May and it was hideously miserable. Prepare for snow and high winds and you will have anything less covered. How many people show up somewhat depends on weather.

Forgive me if you are not; but if you are novice and/or are inexperienced on lakes with big waves, maybe plan on doing something off the Crooked Lake loop. Crooked lake can be busy and has a few motors, but is beautiful. Portaging a few lakes in will give you a better chance at a campsite and less people. The benefit is the Crooked L loop is more protected than the Clark L loop. Clark Lake (especially the narrows) can be surprisingly nasty if the wind is up. Then if you camp off the Crooked L loop, if you want to do a day paddle and/or complete the circuit of lakes in bad weather, the lakes are small and protected; where Clark L loop has much bigger water.

You will see fewer people during the middle of the week; more people on weekends especially if the weather is nice. But don't be disapointed if you see people; though it is a popular destination Sylvania is special and we are very lucky to have it. If you want real solitude, less traveled rivers are a better choice; pick one that fits your experience level.

Have fun !

I live about an hour west. There’s still ice on our big lakes this year. Keep in touch with email & I’ll let you know when it;s gone.