Top Ten U.S. Campgrounds

Clark Lake Campground: Michigan
By Suzanne Dow

Anytime a lumberman decides that a forest he owns is too beautiful to log, you can be sure something very special has happened. This story began in the year 1895, when A.D. Johnston went to assess the 80 acres of wooded land he had recently purchased in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. What he found was a beautiful forest with abundant game and excellent fishing. He decided this place was better suited as a vacation place for himself and his family than as a source of logging income.

When Johnston's friends visited his vacation home, they agreed with him wholeheartedly and began buying adjoining parcels of forested land. Soon, the new owners joined to form the Sylvania Club. By the time the Forest Service bought the club's holdings in 1967, the preserved land totaled some 18,327 acres. Renamed the Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area, the holdings became part of the Ottawa National Forest. With so little virgin forest in the whole northeastern quadrant of the United States (roughly, the Forest Service's Eastern Region), acquisition of the Sylvania Wilderness was a significant event. Today, those who visit the area enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities, including canoeing on crystal-clear water, unsurpassed wildlife viewing, and a selection of several levels of camping.

The prohibition on development in wilderness areas attracts backpackers seeking opportunities for dispersed camping. There are some 50 small campsites scattered throughout Sylvania's virgin forest lands. For those who prefer developed camping, there is Clark Lake campground.

Clark Lake has four loops with 42 campsites tucked into the ancient forest. Two loops have the feel of wilderness camping, with no water or bathroom facilities. The other two loops feature water and flush toilets. Hot showers and a recreation vehicle dump station are also found at Clark Lake campground. Such luxuries at a campground located in a forest that has never known the sounds of wholesale logging practices makes Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area's Clark Lake campground special.

Sylvania is not for the faint-hearted camper. However, if you are comfortable with dry camping in a tent or an RV, the reward is being surrounded by the pristine beauty of a primeval forest.


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