Hiking the McCormick Tract Wilderness
The McCormick Wilderness is located in the north-central part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about 35 miles east of the main body of the Ottawa National Forest in Baraga and Marquette counties. The area is 12 miles north of Champion and 50 miles west of Marquette on US Highway 41. Access to the southwest corner of the wilderness is by County Road 607, an old Huron Bay railroad grade.
McCormick Wilderness includes 16,850 acres, or about 27 square miles of forested land and small scattered lakes. The area also contains the 3675 acre McCormick Research Natural Area designated in 1971, and the Yellow Dog National Wild and Scenic River.
The lay of the land at McCormick is varied, ranging from nearly level to rocky cliffs and outcrops. The area straddles the divide between the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan watersheds and the Huron, Yellow Dog, Dead and Peshekee rivers all have part of their head waters here. Eighteen small lakes lie sparkling on the landscape. Numerous swamps and muskegs rim the area's waterways. In one respect McCormick's lakes and streams seem a little out of place -- they more closely resemble waters found further north on the Canadian Shield rather than the more fertile water of the "UP", and game fish populations are low as a result.
The glacier-scoured hills of McCormick Wilderness are covered with a mixture of northern hardwood and lowland conifer forests that reclaimed the land after the logging era of the early 1900's. The trees in the area have been undisturbed for at least 70 years. Small patches of towering ,white pine, Michigan's State tree, are scattered among rugged rock outcrops, lakes and streams, and remind us how these woods looked before European settlement.
Animals that live in the area are typical of northern Lake States forest and include white-tailed deer, black bear, otter, fox, mink, squirrels, and snowshoe hare. Bird watchers will find a variety of feathered friends including the loon and pileated woodpecker. Active and abandoned beaver dams are evident on most of McCormick's waterways. Visitors are more likely to see moose and pine martin here than in many other places on the Ottawa due to reintroduction programs. Small populations of large mouth bass, northern pike and trout live in the area's network of lakes and streams.
The tract was used as a vacation retreat and protected over the years by three generations of McCormick's, descendants of Cyrus H. McCormick, inventor of the reaping machine. The last owner, Gordon McCormick, donated the family estate to the USDA-Forest Service upon his death in 1967. Because of its unique characteristics and setting, it became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System when the President signed the Michigan Wilderness Act in December 1987.
Access to the interior of McCormick Wilderness is limited. A 3 mile foot trail connects County Road 607 with White Deer Lake where the McCormick estate buildings once stood, but these have since been removed and only the foundations remain.
The rugged McCormick Wilderness has much to offer outdoor enthusiasts who prefer to hike, backpack, fish, hunt, camp, cross-country ski or snowshoe in a remote undisturbed wooded setting. Canoeing opportunities are limited by lengthy portages between lake s. Cross-country skiing is limited by snow depths and access from County Road 607 which is not always plowed.
The major attractions of the McCormick Wilderness are the waterfalls on the Yellow Dog River, the undisturbed large, aging mixture of northern hardwood trees, the overall rugged, isolated, unspoiled character of the area, and the chance it provides to see native species in their natural habitat. McCormick's exceptional natural appearance and feeling of solitude it provides demand our attention and care."
This trip takes about 6 hours to complete including a lunch break at White Deer Lake. It includes about 7 miles of hiking so one should be physically fit enough for this adventure.
Value Cost : $ 100 per person for a guide and lunch. Minimum of 2 required. Up to 6 people OK. 3-6th person $50.
Note: You could also do this trip without a guide on your own.