Big Island Lake Wilderness

Located in the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan.

Big Island Lake Wilderness is located in Schoolcraft County, Michigan. It is administered as a part of the Munising Ranger District of the Hiawatha National Forest. The Big Island Lake Wilderness lies about one-half mile northwest of the community of Steuben, which is 22 miles northwest of the city of Manistique and about 18 miles southeast of the city of Munising.

The wilderness is bounded on the south of County Road 437, and on the west by County Road 445. The remaining border is delineated by Forest Road 2303 on the northeast and an abandoned railroad grade (Haywire Grade - Forest Road 8109} on the southeast side.

The area was heavily logged from the late 1890's through the 1930's. First pine was removed and then the hardwoods. Evidence of historical and present use is visible in many places. Old stumps are scattered throughout the area, and old roadbeds are still noticeable. Four old logging campsites and one homestead lie within the area, as well as seven miles of old railroad grades. The land has been influenced by humans and continues to be as some sounds of vehicles and other motors from the surrounding area can be heard from inside the wilderness boundaries.

There are 23 small lakes within the area ranging in size from 5 to 149 acres. These lakes are situated among low, rolling hills. The lakes are near enough to each other for canoe portaging, and are currently linked by marked portage trails.

Twilight Lake, a 54 acre clear water lake, is managed for trout. All area lakes are covered under special fisheries management, through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. This special regulation has been enacted because the lakes in the area are relatively sterile and are low in fish production. The regulations limit the type of lures which can be used and size of the fish caught (see the annually published Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fishing Guide for more detailed Information).

Hardwood forests cover the uplands of the area, with maple, white birch, beech and quaking aspen. Hemlock spruce and balsam grow in the lowland areas along streams bogs and wetlands. The many northern hardwoods display a delicate array of colors in the early spring and a brightly colored landscape during autumn. Forests of the surrounding area are the result of logging history similar to the Big Island Lake area. As such there is little difference as compared with the surrounding area.

Many species of wildlife are present in the various ecosystems of the wilderness. Loons, beaver, ducks, great blue herons and occasionally bald eagles may be seen feeding in or near the lakes. Sandhill cranes may be found feeding in open upland habitat in the northern portion of the area. Woodland animals which may be present include pine marten, bobcat, raccoon, porcupine, chipmunk and black bear.

Although the area does not have rugged terrain, a degree of challenge is present for visitors. People must make their own way through the forest for other than the portage trails there are no marked footpaths. Off the lakes and canoe trails, a visitor will need good orientation skills.

Seasons of the year and weather conditions pose a continual physical challenge. Thirty-four inches of precipitation accumulates annually with 160 inches in the form of snow. An average snow pack of 48 inches provides good opportunities for snowshoeing and Cross-country skiing from mid-December to mid-March.

For more information contact: The Hiawatha National Forest

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 23 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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