Ottawa National Forest
Although backpackers could get lost amid the deep woods of Ottawa National Forest, and anglers favor Lake Gogebic east of Ironwood, visitors should be sure to visit the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area.
The Sturgeon River, a federally designated wild and scenic river, travels a circuitous route through much of Baraga County before bleeding into Portage Lake near Chassell. One of the three wilderness areas within the national forest, the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness protects 14,000 acres that surround this river and its tributaries.
The highlight is west of U.S. 41 and south of M-38, where the river cuts and tumbles through a magnificent 300-foot-high gorge. To reach it, follow Forest Road 2200 north from Sidnaw. Follow signs onto Forest Road 2270 to reach a parking area and foot trail that winds down about a half-mile or so to a cascade and the river. Continue west from the parking area on Forest Road 2270 to reach Silver Mountain, with stone steps that lead to a remarkable valley view. Come in fall for a fiery display by the abundant maple forest.
The U.S. Forest Service has marked few trails within the wilderness area, which, of course, is its appeal for those who love the backcountry. Several grown-over logging roads wind through the area for hikers who want to explore on their own. (A topo map is an absolute necessity.) Camping is permitted throughout the wilderness, and you can find some pretty choice spots out there.
To make sense of what the Ottawa has to offer, start with a map. You can pick up a small brochure or large topo map at Ottawa National Forest Headquarters (E6248 U.S. 2, Ironwood, 906/932-1330, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri.). Other district offices, in Ontonagon and Watersmeet, may have maps and brochures, but budget cuts have forced them to curtail other visitor services.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel