Hiawatha National Forest

Mackinaw Wilderness

Mackinac Wilderness is located in Mackinac County, Michigan approximately 12 miles northwest of St. Ignace. The southwest boundary of the wilderness lies along the Soo Line railroad and State Highway M-123; boundary on the south is FR-3450 and on the east and north sides boundaries are formed by FR-3119 and 3122, respectively. Mackinac Wilderness is administered as a part of the St. Ignace Ranger District of the Hiawatha National Forest.

The entire area was logged in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Following logging, much of the area was burned. There has been little logging or other human influence since that time. As a result, the second growth forest covering the area is now 60 to 80 years old. The general area surrounding Mackinac is similar in terrain and vegetation. Noise influencing the wilderness comes from along State highway M-123.

The northeast quarter of the area contains low ridges and is forested mostly with northern hardwoods and occasional stands of birch and aspen. The south half has fairly large areas of wetland types that lie between sand ridges. These types vary from marshes to shallow bogs to clumps of small trees. Beaver have dammed drainages and created approximately seven major ponds in the area. A seven-acre lake called Spring Lake forms the headwaters of Spring Lake Creek.

Mackinac's most notable feature is the Carp River. The north branch of the Carp River, Taylor Creek and Spring Lake Creek all flow into the portion of the Carp River with the wilderness. Several stretches of minor river rapids are located near the center of the wilderness.

Over hundreds of years, a number of oxbows have formed along the well defined floodplain of the Carp River. Oxbows are former river curves which were cut off from the main river as its meanders straightened over time. The presence of the oxbows and the water-cut riverbanks add to the diversity of the river plain. Much of the Carp River has a sandy bottom.

Brook, brown and rainbow trout use and spawn in the Carp River and its feeder streams. The diverse nature of the area attracts a wide range of wildlife. Beaver living along the river and tributaries continually alter the landscape by cutting aspen and constructing dams, which in turn create ponds and meadows. Other wildlife species native to the area are osprey, sandhill crane, great blue heron, bald eagle, beaver, black bear, raccoon, pine marten, pileated woodpecker, mink, muskrat, red squirrel, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, and brook trout. Dense fir and cedar stands attract wintering deer.

The wetlands and dense forest of Mackinac present a challenge to visitors. There are no marked trails in this Wilderness. People must make their own way through the area. Good orientation skills are a must. The northern portion of the wilderness is accessible by foot. Some places which have exposed, broken bedrock at the surface may be more difficult for foot travel. Foot travel in the southern portion of the Mackinac Wilderness is difficult. Wetlands may be dense and tangled with shrubs, and the open areas are often wet and mucky.

Current recreation use of the area is primarily along the Carp River and includes canoeing, fishing, hunting and trapping. The southern half of the area offers the visitor a chance to observe and study various kinds of wetlands.