Wilderness next to Chicago?

What is the closest true wilderness to Chicago with paddleability? No motor-boats, no highways, preferrably, no crowds?

Boundary waters are so far away! Is there anything like that in Northern Woods?


Wisconsin River
is about three & 1/2 hrs from Chicago. Not exactly wilderness but some remote stretches. Or you can drive up to the Flambeau. About 5 1/2 hours. No cell phone reception, gravel roads and a real nice state river forest.

Willow Flowage and

– Last Updated: Apr-11-07 4:30 PM EST –

Turtle Flambeau Flowage. Again, not true wilderness but large impoundments with camping on many islands and lots of bays to paddle. Turtle-Flambeau has a "quiet" area where there are no dwellings and motor boats are restricted to slow speeds. There are about 200 islands in this 17,000 acre impoundment. No portages and a bit of a sense of wilderness similar to the BWCAW. Near mercer, WI and about 6-7 hours from Chicago.

Willow Flowage is in the same general area (near Woodruff, WI) and is very similar and maybe even a bit more remote that Turtle-Flambeau.


Sylvania Wilderness
In the UP of Michigan is paddle only (except for one lake I think). It’s just over the Wisconsin border, northwest of Eagle River. Quite a few lakes to paddle and explore, plus some great bass fishing.


Sylvania and Big Island Winderness
I 2nd Sylvania and another option would be the Big Island Wilderness in Hiawatha NF south of Munising in the UP.