Beauty and History in the Sylvania Wilderness

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MICHIGAN U.P.– On a recent canoe trip with Conserve School students and staff, we trekked into the UP’s Sylvania Wilderness Area. Being a beautiful vacation destination for hundreds of campers, canoers, and fishing enthusiasts alike, Conserve School is lucky to have such a place practically out its back door. For 5 nights and 6 days we paddled, camped, swatted mosquitoes, and escaped them with refreshing dips in the stunning clear lakes.

Beyond the beauty though, a fascinating history is nestled under the canopy of old-growth hemlocks and maples. Over a hundred years ago, the Ojibwe came to the area from out East, migrating from a prophecy to travel to where food grew on the water. They came and found wild rice, which currently grows in Sylvania, forming magical wildlife hotpots bustling with activity. Sylvania as it exists today became possible through the Michigan Wilderness Act in 1987, which put the area into the 9.1 million acre wilderness system that was previously created by the 1964 Wilderness Act . Before this at the turn of the 1900’s, Sylvania’s early development consisted of individual property-buyers purchasing land around Clark Lake, eventually forming a private fishing and hunting club.

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