Description - The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is located in Wisconsin's Northwoods, covering over a million and a half acres. The Chequamegon side of the forest covers about 858,400 acres in Ashland, Bayfield, Sawyer, Price, Taylor, and Vilas counties while the Nicolet side covers nearly 661,400 acres in Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oconto, Oneida, and Vilas counties.
Since 1993, these two national forests have been managed as one, with headquarters offices in both Park Falls and Rhinelander. Each national forest has retained its individual identity. As one example, visitors driving across the state, from east to west on US Highway 70, will first see portal signs near Florence welcoming them to the Nicolet National Forest, then signs welcoming them to the Chequamegon National Forest, west of Minocqua.
National forests are divided into administrative units called ranger districts. The Chequamegon side of the forest comprises three districts: Washburn Ranger District with offices in Washburn, Great Divide Ranger District with district offices located at Glidden and at Hayward and Medford-Park Falls Ranger District with headquarters at Park Falls and at Medford. The Nicolet side of the Forest comprises two ranger districts: Eagle River-Florence with ranger stations located in each of those towns, and the Lakewood-Laona Ranger Districts with offices located in both Lakewood and Laona.
Both the Chequamegon and the Nicolet National Forests were established by presidential proclamations in 1933, but that was not the beginning. The land, its wildlife, and its people were already there. Archeologists have traced the cultural history to the time 10,000 years ago when the area was inhabited by the original people. The era of the Paleo-Indians was followed by the Archaic Indians, and finally, the Woodland Tradition Indians.
In the 1600s, Europeans--missionaries and fur traders--arrived in what is now Wisconsin. The Nicolet is named after Jean Nicolet, a French explorer who came to the Great Lakes Region in the 1600s to promote fur trading with the American Indians. The name Chequamegon is derived from an Ojibway word meaning "place of shallow water," and refers to Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay. During the 17th century growing numbers of Europeans and Indians made the Northwoods their home.
Following close behind the fur traders were the lumbermen who established the timber industry. Early loggers used rivers to move pine logs to the sawmills. When the old-growth pinery dwindled, lumbermen used railroads to move the heavier hardwood logs to mills. Lumbering reached its peak on the forest in the 1920s.
When the timber ran out, much of the cut over land was sold to immigrants for farms and homesteads. The soils of the Northwoods proved better suited for growing trees, however, and many of the farms were abandoned. During that time it was not uncommon for fires to burn uncontrolled across the land.
In 1928, the Federal Government, under the authority of the Weeks Law of 1911, began buying abandoned and tax delinquent land in the Northwoods with the idea of establishing a national forest. Purchase Units were approved and in 1929, a Forest Service office was established in Park Falls to oversee land acquisitions.
- Located in Wisconsin's Northwoods where towering pine and hardwood forests are interspersed with hundreds of crystal clear lakes and streams the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest offers you many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Within a day's drive of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Minneapolis metropolitan areas, the Forest is a place where urban dwellers can truly get away from it all in the scenic beauty of the Northwoods. Contained within the forest boundaries are over 2000 miles of stream (nearly 1400 miles are classified as trout water), 607 lakes greater than ten acres in size, over 400 spring ponds, and 324,000 acres of wetland.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet has several unique features. The Moquah Barrens Wildlife Area covers a pine barrens ecosystem. An auto tour through this area is an option. Another attraction on the Forest is the Smith Rapids Covered Bridge; a town-lattice, glue laminate bridge which spans the South Fork of the Flambeau River. Scenic views are offered from the Great Divide Scenic Byway, the Marengo River Valley Overlook, Mondeaux Dam Recreation Area, Penokee Overlook, St. Peters Dome, and Morgan Falls. The Penokee Range Great Divide has valleys, rock outcroppings, granite knobs and elevations up to 1,600 feet. The MacArthur Pine is another attraction on the Forest. It measures 140 feet tall and over 16 feet around. The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is worth a visit. Other scenic views are offered at Chute Pond and Quartz Hill.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet encompasses five Wilderness Areas. The 4,450-acre Porcupine Lake Wilderness can be accessed from the North Country National Scenic Trail and Porcupine Lake. Rainbow Lake Wilderness covers 6,600 acres and can also be accessed from the North Country Trail, Anderson Grade or Beaver Lake. In addition to the North Country National Recreation Trail, the Ice Age and the Rock Lake National Recreation Trails are noteworthy. Blackjack Springs covers 5,800 acres, with four large, clear springs from the headwaters of Blackjack Creek. The Headwaters Wilderness cover 20,000 acres in some of the most remote parts of the Forest. The 7,500-acre Whisker Lake Wilderness on the Wisconsin - Michigan border includes four lakes.
Recreation - Four seasons of recreation await the visitor, from spring fishing or canoeing to summer camping, hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Autumn offers hunting and beautiful fall colors. Snow season brings cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
For camping, 23 campgrounds are located on lakes and 2 on rivers. Fishing is popular in the many lakes and streams. Spring high-water canoe trails include the East Fork of the Chippewa River, the Namekagon River, the South Fork of the Flambeau River and the Yellow River.
Climate - Northern Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. Great Lakes Michigan and Superior tend to make summers cooler and winters milder close to shore. January's average temperature hovers between the single digits and the teens F (-teens C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F for several days (32 degrees C) with averages typically around 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Yearly precipitation ranges from 30-34". Annual snowfalls in the northern area of the state have a wide range; the southern areas may receive 20" while the northern areas may receive in excess of 180". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.
The National Forest is located in Wisconsin's northern region in the counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas.