Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest is a large swath of forested area in the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The closest town, Atlanta, MI, is slightly less than 20 miles south of the campgrounds. The campgrounds are situated near the shorelines of Tomahawk Lake, a popular destination for fishermen looking to catch bass, crappie, or pike for supper. There are multiple hiking trails that allow you to explore this forest including one that takes you past several yawning natural limestone caverns. This forest supports an abundance of life, from unusual and endangered flora, such as Pitcher’s thistle and eastern prairie fringed orchids, to big game, like elk and mule deer. Birds are also plentiful here, including waterfowl like loons, geese, and piping plovers, as well as a vast number of songbirds like warblers, sparrows, grosbeaks, and threshers. The campgrounds are split into two sections, a west and an east unit, with a total of 47 primitive campsites, a few scattered vault toilets, hand pumps for potable water, and two boat launches.
Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest is around 230 miles northeast of the town of Grand Rapids, MI, situated on the north end of the peninsula that sits between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. While the vast majority of the roads that lead to the campgrounds include several twists and turns, they tend to be wide enough to make them simple to navigate either in big rigs or towing trailers, and most of them have wide paved or gravel shoulders. While this is true of most of the roads, a few of the roads, particularly the county roads, are much narrower and have uneven dirt shoulders. Michigan State Highway 33, which leads to the turnoff for the campgrounds, is a pleasant drive through scenic evergreen forests, with just a few wide curves, although drivers should keep their eyes open for wildlife, particularly around the dawn and twilight hours. Once you turn off of Highway 33, the remaining roads are mostly dirt and gravel, although they remain easy to navigate. The closest town to the campgrounds is Atlanta, MI, just under 20 miles to the south. There isn’t much in the way of designated parking, other than the campsites themselves, but there are a few flat areas near the lake to park your rig if you aren’t planning on staying overnight.
The Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest has 47 primitive campsites suitable for tents, RVs, and trailer, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground is split into two units: the west unit, which is located on the northwestern shore of the lake, and the east unit on the northeastern shore. While the campsites are primitive, without electrical, water, or sewer hookups, they are level and in general, they provide both privacy and room. Each site provides a fire ring with a hibachi-style grill and a picnic table for the convenience of campers. Generators are only allowed during daytime hours and are not permitted to make excessive noise. There are vault toilets available for visitors at each unit as well as hand-pumps that provide potable water. Pets are welcome in this state forest but must be restrained by a six-foot or shorter leash to protect both the pet and the environment.
Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest boasts many miles of trails which wind through the back-country wilderness. The 80-mile High Country Pathway loop is a moderately difficult trail which is mostly flat but has spots that are slippery in wet conditions, as well as areas where the underbrush has overgrown the path. Some parts of the trail travel through wide-open areas, so hikers will want to be sure to apply sunblock on a regular basis to avoid sunburn. The two-mile-long Sinkholes Pathway, which loops around several yawning limestone sinkholes, is moderately easy, with a few steep changes in altitude.
Anglers will want to be sure and bring their equipment along in their RVs when visiting Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest. The campgrounds are close to Tomahawk Lake, which is a popular spot for fishing both from the shore and by boat. There are several varieties of fish that swim in this lake, including bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, and pike. The forest of flooded pines that emerge from the south side of the lake give the fish numerous places to hide from predators but can make boating a challenge if you are not careful. For safety purposes, high-speed boats are not allowed on this lake.
Birdwatching enthusiasts will want to ensure that their binoculars, field guide, and camera are packed in their campervans. There are a number of water and shorebirds that can be found by the lakes, including common loons, Canada geese, and killdeer. In the trees and bushes that surround the water, you are likely to spot a large variety of smaller songbirds, including grosbeaks, sparrows, warblers, and thrashers. Wild turkeys often make their way through this forest, bald eagles can sometimes be seen near the lake, searching for their next meal, and osprey nests can occasionally be found in the months of May and June.
Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest has a number of scenic views and interesting natural phenomena such as large limestone sinkholes and the submerged evergreen trees and stumps that can be found in Tomahawk Lake. This unspoiled wilderness also hosts a number of different animals that can be captured on film, including elk, squirrels, turkeys, rabbits, and a large variety of water, shore, and songbirds. Photographers with a good eye may even get a shot of one of the endangered or threatened animals in this area, such as Hine’s emerald dragonflies, Kirtland’s warblers, or piping plovers.
Geocaching is a fairly new activity, made possible by current GPS and cellular phone technology. Participants in this worldwide scavenger hunt utilize these technologies to search for caches, typically small, hidden containers, that are placed by previous participants. Inside each container is a logbook or log sheet to record your find, and many of them also contain small trinkets, which searchers replace with a similarly valued item. Some geocaches also contain trackable tokens that can be tracked as they are moved from one cache to another, making it a particularly an engaging hobby for people who travel frequently. The Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest is a popular place for participants to hide caches.
Stargazers will want to be sure to pack their telescope and star atlas in their trailer. The skies at Tomahawk Creek Flooding State Forest are reported to be particularly dark, allowing for better viewing of the stars and galaxies. This activity is most fruitful closest to the new moon and many astronomy enthusiasts report seeing a large number of fine, faint details when viewing from this area. While not all of the campsites give a clear view through the trees, there are a few open fields near the campsites that will provide an optimal place for observing.