Sylvania Wilderness

Virgin forests, lakes and sugar maples

Deer Island Lake, Sylvania Wilderness Courtesy of Peter Gorman via Flickr
Sylvania Wilderness in fall Courtesy of Peter Gorman via Flickr
Clouds over a meadow, Sylvania Wilderness © Ron Strong/SuperStock/Corbis
Trees in a forest, Sylvania Wilderness © Ron Strong/SuperStock/Corbis
Autumnal trees at lakeside, Sylvania Wilderness © Ron Strong/SuperStock/Corbis

Location: Michigan
Size: 15,194 acres
Year Designated: 1987
Fast Fact: The Sylvania Wilderness houses some of the most extensive northern hardwood old growth in America.

Up to the beginning of the 19th century, logging felled much of Michigan’s oldest and biggest trees—with the exception of the area around the Sylvania Wilderness, which managed to escape the industry’s ax. Because of this, vast swathes of northern hardwood old growth cover the wilderness area, recalling a time when such forests extended throughout the entire state.

But the trees almost met the same demise as others around the state; in 1885, a man named A.D. Johnson purchased 80 acres of land around the present-day wilderness area with the intent to cut its trees down for timber. When he set eyes on the land, however, he was immediately struck by its pristine beauty, and vowed to help preserve it. He encouraged his friends to buy the surrounding tracts of land, and together they formed the Sylvania Club, whose sole purpose was to protect the land. Thanks to their efforts, virgin trees as old as 400 years can be found in the area, along with ancient white and red pines, hemlocks and sugar maples.