Michigan's Southwest Upper Peninsula and Langford Lake
I live in the Midwest, about a hundred miles from Chicago and usually take a couple of vacations a year The last decade Puerto Vallarta has been one of my choices (I have written a few hubs on this city I fell in love with) while the other is usually California and, more recently, New England. That being said, a place much closer to home, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, has tantalized me with the beauty and solitude of it's magnificent scenery.
When I get the urge to head up to the Upper Peninsula, I only throw a tent and fishing equipment in the back seat. I never really make a schedule or plans on what I'm going to do where I'm going to go.
I very highly suggest a GPS unit as there are few man made structures to get your bearings and helps you understand the distance between isolated lakes and campsites. I also highly recommend the “Sportman's Connection”. They are a series of books that cover different lakes in the United States. I bought the two for the UP, “Western Upper Peninsula” and “Eastern Peninsula.” Each page has a map of the lake and a quick description of the types of fish available. Different books in this series cover different areas of the United States. Besides the GPS and these fishing lake guides, I take no other maps or reference books with me.
Books I take with me to the UP
I have driven across the Upper Peninsula a few times but my favorite part is the Southwestern corner that straddles the state line of Wisconsin.
The area has countless lakes and limitless campgrounds, most are low cost primitive campsites. There are so many lakes and campsites that there are usually only one or two other campers. Often there is no one else but myself. I have stayed at Langford Lake in Gogebic County several times which is located in the massive Ottawa National Forest.
langford lake mi
This map shows the countless lakes that straddle the Michigan-Wisconsin state lines near Langsford Lake shown by the green pin A
My first time staying at the the camp ground there was only two other campers, an elderly couple. Amazingly, I found out they only live a few miles from myself and we were hundreds of miles from home. They told me that they have been coming to Langford Lake for almost fifty years and the experience was much different so many years ago.
Families would be towing small campers behind their cars and join a line of other cars to get into the campground. Sometimes it would take days to get a campsite and the line of campers would slowly inch forward and at night people would sleep in their campers and the line would stop. They also pointed out to me where bear traps would be placed. Bears would be caught and relocated to other parts of the Ottawa National Forest.
Langford Lake has primitive campsites and I use only a tent. There is nothing special about Langford Lake as it's almost indistinguishable to the many other lakes in the surrounding area but I like to call it “my” lake as usually I'm the only one there.
Camp fees are very cheap, just a few dollars but has a million dollar view from your tent overlooking the lake.
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The closest two towns are Watersmeet in Michigan and Land O Lakes, Wisconsin.
Watersmeet isn't much of a town, but there is a small Indian casino there. I would estimate that the town is maybe about twenty-five miles away. Land O Lakes is actually a small village with about 1,000 people. There are some basic retail shops there, most family owned.
The deeper you go into Wisconsin, the more vintage mom and pop motels line the road. All are very rustic but exceptionally clean and friendly. It's almost as if a time portal has transported you back to the 1960's or 50's.
You will also start to see a few of Wisconsin's famous “Supper Clubs.” These super clubs are restaurants that have terrific food, mostly consisting of prime rib, steaks, and seafood and try to make dining out a special experience, such as it was years ago when people only went out maybe once or twice a month.. All this is done in a causal atmosphere. You won't feel out of place in most of these supper clubs wearing jeans.
Going back into Michigan, and traveling west of Langford Lake you will come to Michigan's largest inland lake, Lake Gogebic. There are snowmobile trails all around the lake. Even farther west is Copper Harbor country, a small finger that extends out into Lake Superior. Copper Harbor is so named because of the history of mining in the area. Today Copper Harbor is sparsely populated with small New England style villages and deserted mining towns.
Langford Lake's campground, as are most in the National Parks in the UP, are small isolated primitive campgrounds connected to other campgrounds of the same type through unpaved dirt roads that wind in sometimes confusing routes in heavy forest. Another reason to use a GPS.
There is a small place called Cisco Lake Bar and resort near Langford Lake.(Mostly a bar and bait shop, not much of a resort) that you can get to through one of these unpaved roads through the forest. Believe me it's best to use your GPS to get back to your campsite, especially at night from the bar. The Bar is a place to go for bar food, bait, and if you want to see people after breaking your solitude at the campgrounds. Cisco Lake is actually a chain of lakes. Thousand Island Lake is another chain of lakes very near to Cisco that have some rustic but expensive fishing lodges around the lake.
What I like about this Southwestern corner of the UP is the variety of options available to me. I could, if I wanted, probably spend a couple of days in solitude fishing and camping without seeing more then one or two people. If I want a more lively atmosphere I could head to the casino in Watersmeet or head to the Cisco bar or into Wisconsin and head to a supper club.
The Definitive Guide to the UP
If your really interested in the Upper Peninsular of Michigan a must have book is “Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.” They are a very highly regarded couple that have traveled through out the UP and give fantastic information to the well known and off the track features of the Upper Peninsular. Their book is is considered the definitive book of the UP. I have written them and they have kindly replied to questions I have had.
One of my trips to the UP during different stops, I kept mentioning how I'm finding my way around the area through the Hunt's guide. Seemed like everywhere I went I was told you just missed them as they were doing research for a new book. It always seemed as if I was one or two days behind them.
I would welcome any input of other readers that have been to this area.
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