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Hiawatha National Forest
Hiawatha National Forest
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The Hiawatha National Forest Destination encompasses a segment of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the northernmost area of the Midwestern United States. Hiawatha National Forest, the destination’s namesake, is found in the heart of the region and is commonly nicknamed “the Great Lakes National Forest.”[4] A number of cities dot the destination, such as Marquette, Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Mackinaw City, and Munising. The city located within the closest proximity to Hiawatha National Forest is Escanaba.[1] Over the course of the year, Escabana experiences temperatures that vary between 10 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the season. Those who have toured the city in the past suggest that future visitors who plan on undertaking warm-weather activities should visit any time between late June and early September, as temperatures throughout these months have been described as “comfortable.”[6] Outdoor recreational activities are relatively popular at Hiawatha National Forest. Hiking and biking are available on several non-motorized trails that wind through the national forest, and people can also fish or hunt in the designated areas.[2] Geographically, Hiawatha National Forest has over 100 miles of shoreline on both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The forest’s location between these lakes provides a diverse range of habitats for a variety of wildlife, including timber wolves, muskrats, weasels, sandhill cranes, bobcats, and moose, to name a few.[1]

What Hiawatha National Forest is known for

Encompassing a portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the midwestern United States, the Hiawatha National Forest Destination is primarily comprised of forested land and a few cities. Hiawatha National Forest, the destination’s namesake, occupies the central region of the destination, covering a total land area of 894,836 acres. The forest, as a whole, is divided into two subunits that are referred to as the Eastside and the Westside. Approximately 44% of the forest’s total area is in the Eastside, while the Westside is composed of nearly 56%. In addition to the namesake, the destination contains other natural areas, namely the Gwinn State Forest area to the west, Escanaba River State Forest to the southwest, and Sault Ste. Marie State Forest Area to the east.[1]

In view of Hiawatha National Forest’s considerable size, a wide range of activities and attractions frequently pique the interest of visitors. One particular site near the national forest is the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, situated along the shore of Lake Superior. The lighthouse, which reaches a height of 65 feet, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and currently serves as a museum. Though Point Iroquois Lighthouse is one of the most prominent of the lighthouses that are established along Hiawatha’s Great Lakes shorelines, five other historic lighthouses can be found in the national forest as well: Round Island Lighthouse, Peninsula Point Lighthouse, Grand Island North Lighthouse, Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse, and Christmas/Grand Island West Channel Front and Rear Range Lights.[2] 

Apart from the previously listed lighthouses, tourists also tend to be drawn to the outdoor recreational activities that Hiawatha National Forest has to offer. Canoeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and ATV riding are a few of such activities that numerous visitors take interest in annually. Year-round recreation is available, as people are given the opportunity to engage in cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter.[2] It should also be noted that a portion of a significant hiking route known as the North Country Trail passes through the national forest; however, the trail itself extends 4,600 miles. Furthermore, a relatively high quantity of campgrounds that can provide temporary lodging for those who are hoping to undertake leisure pursuits in the forest, which are accessible throughout Hiawatha National Forest.[1]

As hiking tends to be a fairly popular outdoor activity among tourists, several trails can be found in various areas of the destination, more particularly on the eastern side of the Upper Peninsula. Algonquin Trail, Round Island Point, Tahquamenon Falls Trails, Ashmun Creek Trail, and Voyageur Island are some of the hiking paths that wind through the peninsula, the latter of which offers “water trails” that can be explored via kayak or paddleboard.[3]

The largest city that is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Marquette, which is situated along the shore of Lake Michigan in the destination’s northwestern region. The city is the county seat of Marquette County and covers a total area of 19.40 square miles. Notably, “the largest wooden dome in the world” is established in the city of Marquette, unofficially known as “YooperDome” to a number of locals and tourists. This dome is principally utilized for football games that take place on its AstroTurf field. Aside from the sports aspect of the city, Marquette frequently receives fishermen who are often seeking whitefish, deep-water lake trout, salmon, and brown trout.[7]


The Hiawatha National Forest Destination is bordered by Lake Superior to the north and Lake Michigan to the south. A portion of both lakes can be found within the boundaries of the destination, as well as a fraction of Lake Huron in the east. Different types of bodies of water are scattered within and around the destination’s namesake, as the Cleveland Cliffs Basin, Indian Lake, Round Lake, Grassy Lake, and Petes Lake can all be found in Hiawatha National Forest’s general vicinity. Larger-sized lakes are located east of the Hiawatha National Forest near Seney National Wildlife Refuge, namely Manistique Lake and South Manistique Lake. Beyond aquatic landforms, forested land constitutes the vast majority of the Hiawatha National Forest Destination.

A diverse ecosystem is found in Hiawatha National Forest, with habitats that support a variety of flora and fauna species. These habitats include northern hardwood forests, inland wetlands, jack pine, and other conifers.[4] Some of the animals that roam the Hiawatha National Forest are white-tailed deer, timber wolves, golden eagles, black bears, coyotes, moose, bobcats, beavers, bald eagles, river otters, red foxes, Canadian lynxes, cougars, and wild turkeys, among several others.[1] These animals can also be found in other areas of the eastern Upper Peninsula, in addition to American badgers, big brown bats, North American porcupines, northern river otters, and snapping turtles. White-tailed deer are reportedly regarded as “the most commonly seen animals” in the Upper Peninsula, especially during the months of October and November.[5]

Escanaba is the nearest city to Hiawatha National Forest.[1] Due to climatic conditions in the area, it is recommended to visit Escanaba between late June and early September. Warm-weather activities are more accessible throughout these months, as tourists have described the city’s summer season to be somewhat “comfortable.” The daily high temperature reaches roughly 66 degrees Fahrenheit on average from June to September; however, temperatures tend to rise around 76 degrees Fahrenheit during the month of July, which is often considered the hottest month of the year in Escanaba compared to the other months. The cold season generally lasts from December to March, with temperatures dropping to around 35 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Former visitors have commented that the winter months are “freezing,” “snowy,” and “windy.”[6]


In honor of the chief of the Mohawk tribe who assisted with the development of the confederation called “the Five Nations of the Iroquois,” Hiawatha National Forest was given its present name. This chief was additionally known for being “the hero of Longfellow’s poem, Hiawatha.”[1] By the 1930s, the majority of the Upper Peninsula experienced a timber shortage, as most of the pine that had been in the area was cut in the late 19th century. This land that was, at the time, composed of chopped trees began to be affected by major fires that damaged the soil and natural landscape. In an effort to restore the forest and prevent future timber shortages, several congressional acts were passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which were also intended to encourage a greater population of wildlife and provide more opportunities for recreational activities. The restoration of the national forest and its process of becoming what it is today entailed numerous pines being planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Moreover, many lighthouses that had been abandoned were transferred from the Coast Guard to become attractions for tourists.[8]

The historical significance of Point Iroquois Lighthouse, a notable establishment found near Hiawatha National Forest, dates back to 1662 when the Ojibwa tribe encountered a group of Iroquois who were invading the land’s point. The tribes fought each other and ultimately hindered the Iroquois’ westward advancement. Due to these particular events, the point was thus known as “Nadouenigoning” among Native Americans, which translates to English as “place of Iroquois bones.” It wasn’t until circa 1854 that the site of the lighthouse was designated by the Lighthouse Board, and a contract for its construction was signed. Two years following the lighthouse’s completion, Charles Caldwell—a former assistant at Whitefish Port—became the first keeper of the lighthouse.[9]

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Otter Lake Campground

Munising, Michigan

Otter Lake Campground

Otter Lake Campground has a total of 57 units and is located near Munising, Michigan, in the Hiawatha National Forest. Named for its close proximity and access to Otter Lake, the establishment offers campsites that range from dry camping only to providing water and electric hookups. There are also two dry cabins on the property that can accommodate up to four people. A bathhouse is located at the center of the campground with showers and flush toilets, as well as a laundry facility featuring two washers and two dryers. Those interested in traversing the park will find a trail from the property into the national forest that can accommodate ORVs in addition to foot traffic. Ellen, one of the campground’s owners, also mentions that the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which starts in Munising and runs 40 miles along the coast of Lake Superior, is another popular tourist attraction many guests often visit.

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Paint River Hills Campgrounds and Cabins is located in Crystal Falls. With thirty-two units in total, the campground provides a variety of accommodations, including five full hookup spaces for RVs, seven pull-through sites, multiple back-in spaces, and ten tent sites. In addition, there are five cabins available for guests. The property also has shower and bathroom facilities available for visitors to use. The camp host says they aim to treat visitors the way they would like to be treated. The nearby Paint River offers opportunities for fishing for a variety of species, namely perch, bass, and trout. The campground is also within proximity of various attractions and festivals, such as the Bass Festival and Fungus Festival. Crystal Falls, a former mining town, has a number of historical and cultural attractions as well. Paint River Hills Campgrounds and Cabins has been in business for 20 years, with the original owners developing and building the property.

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