The Manistee (Manis-tea) National Forest is located in the west-
central part of Michigan, a small part of which borders the
eastern shore of Lake Michigan. It is comprised of 533,901
acres. There are 16 developed campgrounds, 15 of which meet the
The Manistee National Forest is a place of water, trees, sand, and a diverse recreation opportunities. Most of the Forest's developed camping locations are located in mixed woods of birch, maple, and pine along either a stream, river, or lake. With all this water, fishing and boating are popular. But water sports run a close second to hiking and plain old relaxing.
In a forest as heavily harvested as the area now called Manistee National Forest, it is difficult to find old-growth woods. The only area in the Forest with this feature is along the Pere Marquette River; the rest of the Forest has the look of a new forest. During the late 1930s through early 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) planted an amazing number of pine trees to reforest the area. The CCC's efforts are easy to recognize. Look for tree planted in neat, even rows in a precision order not seen in nature. Over the years, native plants re-established their presence in the orderly rows of CCC planted trees, softening the artificial appearance of the man-planted tree plantations.
The western edge of the Manistee National Forest is bound by Lake Michigan. There is only one developed forest campground located on its shores. It is appropriately named Lake Michigan and is in the Lake Michigan Recreation Area. Lake Michigan campground, sandwiched between the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness and Nordhouse Semi-primitive Motorized Area, feature sites for car, tent, recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts. Lake, Dunes, and Semi-primitive area features provide Lake Michigan Recreation Area with a delightful number and variety of recreational opportunities, making it a great location for a family camping vacation. Check with campground host for what's going on.
While there are Congressionally designated wilderness areas, the Manistee also has semi-primitive motorized areas and semi-primitive non-motorized areas. Think of these areas as wilderness areas but with a little "w". White River, as an example of a semi-primitive non-motorized area, is just as rustic as any designated wilderness area but with more people and some subtle differences in the vegetation. Adjacent to the White River area is a car and tent camping location called Pines Point campground. It provides easy access to White River for both canoeing and tubing enthusiasts. There are no power boats or motorized vehicles in this or any semi- primitive non-motorized area to detract from the magnificent quiet.
On the other hand, semi-primitive motorized areas, such as Loda Lake, provide for motorized recreation along designated Forest Service routes. Here the topography provides an alternative to the watery challenges found in other parts of the Manistee National Forest.
Three major rivers wind through the Manistee National Forest to Lake Michigan. They are Pine, Manistee, and Pere Marquette Rivers. Pine River, the "smallest", winds its way as a fast flowing waterway to the Manistee River. For those who think they might want to challenge Pine River, it is recommended for only experienced canoeists who do not mind taking an unplanned dip. The Manistee River is a wider, slower moving, "family" river. And, fisherman claim the Pere Marquette River is the best fishing river in the Forest.
There are several hundred miles of trails winding through the Manistee National Forest. Some trails are designated for mountain bikes while others are specifically designed for off- road-vehicles. Even more are reserved for foot traffic only. The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, adjacent to Michigan Lake Recreation Area, offers miles of interesting foot-only trails through 3,500 to 4,000 year old sand dunes. Between the 140 foot high dunes scattered along Lake Michigan's shoreline, visitors find patches of vegetation and small water holes and marshes full of wildlife.
The North Country Trail (NCT) is a National Scenic Trail which, when completed, will stretch across 3,200-miles of this country. About 100 miles wind across the Manistee National Forest. Although the developed campgrounds of Bear Track, and Bowman
Bridge aren't adjacent to the NCT, they are close enough to be a base camp for the Trail's many hikers.
One of the more interesting recreational activities found in the Manistee National Forest is morel (mushroom) hunting. The most popular of the edible mushrooms found in the Forest's woodlands, morel hunting attracts novices as well as expert searchers. The best time for morels is May but with more than 100 different types of mushroom, mushroom hunting is a summer-long activity. With some being poisonous, be sure to bring a good mushroom identification book.
The Manistee National Forest has a great deal to offer its visitors: miles upon miles of trails for about every mode of travel imagineable; a variety of bird and water fowl keep birdwatchers busy from one season to the next; exploring the edge of a placid lake in a canoe or experiencing the thrill of tubing down a churning river; and, the pleasure of sitting next to a campfire under a sky filled with twinkling stars. The list goes on and on. Come and see for yourself.
1755 S. Mitchell Street
Cadillac, Michigan 49601
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
650 North Michigan Ave.
PO Drawer D
Baldwin, Michigan 49304
412 Red Apple Road
Manistee, Michigan 49660