Stretching from the southern border of Missouri to as far north as Manitoba, the Midwest was founded on agriculture and industrial labor and is still driven economically by farms and factories. The region sports relatively few major cities, Chicago and St. Louis being the major exceptions, and is instead woven together by small towns and cities. Despite the stereotype of flat, open farm land and industrial cities, the Midwest sports a trove of natural wonders.

Rocky beaches are common along the shores of Lake Superior. The lake borders some of the most extensive stretches of old-growth hardwood forests in the USA.

Rocky beaches are common along the shores of Lake Superior. The lake borders some of the most extensive stretches of old-growth hardwood forests in the USA.

 

The five great lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Eerie and Superior, are the region’s most noticeable natural feature. Combined, they form the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes in the world and contain 21% of the earth’s surface freshwater. The deep, pristine water of the lakes is home to approximately 150 species of fish including: Atlantic Salmon, Sturgeon, Walleye and Whitefish. Many lakeshore communities rely on the tourism generated by the lakes for they are perfect for recreational fishing, swimming, boating and many other activities. However, the beautiful forests that line these lakes and those that sit further inland, are often overlooked by tourists and explorers alike.

Beautiful sunsets along the Great Lakes are made better by the pure isolation offered by the regional forests.

Beautiful sunsets along the Great Lakes are made better by the pure isolation offered by the regional forests.

The shores of the Great Lakes are covered with pine, hardwood and ancient boreal forests. While the elevation seldom passes 1,500 feet, the few cliffs that rise out of the wilderness offer spectacular views over the flat forests and endless lakes that stretch out below them. Some of North America’s largest collections of old-growth hardwood forests reside in the northern regions of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. These forests stand as some of the United State’s most isolated, untouched and un-visited wildernesses. Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park is the country’s least-visited national park, culminating 15,000 visitors a year at best. The inland wildernesses of the Midwest can be just as remote – and breathtaking – as the lakeshore regions.

Isolated Wonder: Isle Royale can only be reached by seaplane or a six hour ferry ride.

Isolated Wonder: Isle Royale can only be reached by seaplane or a six hour ferry ride.

The thick, inland forests of the Midwest offer great collections of flora and can be a bird-watching paradise for those patient enough to wait. Loons, herons and eagles all populate the lakeshore and inland territories. Below them, black bears, cougars, elk, moose, whitetail deer and dozens of other species roam. Virgin rivers and streams that transect the forests are the homes for a vast collection of freshwater fish and the roadways for migrating salmon. These wildernesses can be found in Missouri, Indiana and Ohio although the best and most wild regions are found in the northern regions of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A river in one of Wisconsin's northern wilderness regions. The water is blackish in color because of the iron-rich rock the river runs over and between.

A river in one of Wisconsin’s northern wilderness regions. The water is blackish in color because of the iron-rich rock the river runs over and between.

A trip to America’s Midwest is perfect for an avid outdoorsman. While the region offers challenging and remote terrain for advanced explorers, it also sports a number of laid-back, picturesque parks and cities more suited for family travels or a vacationer looking for a lazy and relaxing visit. The simple, homey feel offered by the small, scenic towns and the stunning landscape surrounding them is certain to satisfy even the pickiest traveler.

View of Lake of the Clouds. Porcupine Mountain Wilderness, Michigan.

View of Lake of the Clouds. Porcupine Mountain Wilderness, Michigan.