Once the private wilderness retreat of Cyrus McCormick, whose father invented the reaping machine, this 27-square-mile tract of wilderness was willed to the U.S. Forest Service by the McCormick family in 1967. Today, it remains in pristine wilderness condition—remote, undeveloped, and largely unused.
In other words, perfect for backcountry hiking and camping. No-trace camping is permitted throughout the wilderness area. For more information, contact the Ottawa National Forest Ranger District (4810 E. M-28, Kenton, 906/852-3500, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily).
To access the McCormick Tract, follow U.S. 41/M-28 west from Marquette about 50 miles to Champion. Just after you cross the Peshekee River, follow the first paved road north. This is County Road 607, also called the Peshekee Grade or the Huron Bay Grade. In about 10 miles, you’ll see a sign for Arfelin Lake; take the next road to your right and watch for a sign and small parking area.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be pretty much on your own to explore this rugged terrain of high hills, rivers, muskeg, and bedrock outcroppings. Don’t expect marked and maintained hiking trails. This tract is wild, so with the exception of a well-worn path to White Deer Lake (where the McCormicks’s lodge once stood), you’ll mostly be traveling cross-country. A compass and topo map are absolute necessities.
Wildlife sightings can be excellent—the state’s largest moose herd roams here, which in turn has attracted predators like the elusive gray wolf. You’re not likely to see a wolf, but may be treated to its hollow wail at your camp some evening.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel