Nicolet National Forest

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In 1634, a French explorer by the name of Jean Nicolet found the beautiful eastern shore of what is today the state of Wisconsin. Little did he know that some day a 661,000-acre National Forest would be created and named in his honor. The Nicolet National Forest is located in the northeastern part of Wisconsin, and offers a wide range of recreational opportunities in a setting of tall trees and scenic lakes.

With over 1,200 lakes and many rivers, the Nicolet National Forest naturally draws people interested in swimming, boating, canoeing, rafting, and fishing. Anglers can expect to find a large variety of fish including trout, pike, bass, muskellunge, walleye, and panfish. Canoeing enthusiasts may wish to try the Brule, Pine, Popple, Peshtigo, Rat, Oconto, and Wolf Rivers, all of which are easily accessible. Swimming is offered at most of the campground lakes and at several developed beach and picnic areas.

Birding and Wildlife
Birding opportunities are unlimited on the Nicolet National Forest's Halley Creek Bird Trail. A one-mile loop trail has been designed to encompass four distinct types of habitats, which increases the opportunity to see a variety of birds and other wildlife characteristic of this region of northeastern Wisconsin. Birds typically seen along the trail include red-eyed vireos, ovenbirds, wood pewees, finches, red-breasted nuthatches, pine warblers, herons, osprey, woodpeckers, tree swallows, and sparrows.

The Nicolet National Forest also offers numerous opportunities to view large wildlife species such as deer and bear, and smaller mammals such as fishers, pine martens, foxes, and coyotes. Seeing these animals in the wild is always a treat and the animals here don't seem to mind being looked upon by humans. Majestic bald eagles are commonly seen soaring in the sky or diving to the surface of a lake to snatch a fish.

More than 800 miles of trails are open to the public for activities such as hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and even dog sledding. Countless miles of abandoned roads, skid trails, old railroad grades, and truck trails provide numerous scenic trails for hikers. No fees or permits are required to hike in the Nicolet National Forest.

Would you like to follow the trail of the Indian in his birch-bark, the missionary and explorer probing unknown wilderness, or the trapper seeking beaver and otter? Try a canoe trip on the Nicolet National Forest!

On the Eagle River District you can put in at the Pine River road access and take out just below Pine Creek near Forest Road 2168. Most of the river is slow and winding, but there are some rapids between Highway 55 and Forest Road 2168. You can continue on the Pine to Chipmunk Rapids Campground where Forest Road 2156 crosses the river. This pan of the Pine is suitable for beginners.

One of the nicest rivers for canoeing is the Brule. The Brule River offers trout fishing, wilderness scenery, and solitude. You can put in at Brule Lake just northwest of Nelma or at the Brule Creek bridge on Highway A. The Brule River Campground is along the way. To the north of the campground is Hagerman Lake on the Ottawa National Forest where there is a swimming beach and picnic area. You can take out at a small park just upstream from Highway 139 to Forest Road 2150, near the Whisker Lake Wilderness Area. The Brule River is also suitable for beginners.

On the Peshtigo River, you can put in at Big Joe Campground off of Highway 139, two miles northwest of Cavour. This is on our Laona District. A take out point is at the Cavour CCC bridge. There is a parking lot just east of the bridge. This pan of the Peshtigo would be for beginners. For the more advanced, you can continue from the Cavour bridge to Burnt Bridge for fast water. There is a Forest Service access point on the right bank below the bridge.

You could also canoe on the Wisconsin River, Deerskin River, Popple River, Oconto River, and Wolf River. The Wolf River is better known for rafting. We suggest you contact the District Ranger in the area to find out current conditions and hazard ratings for these rivers.

The Forest Service does not rent canoes but there are private rentals at Eagle River, Land O Lakes, Rhinelander, and also at Iron Mountain, Michigan. You can check with the Chambers of Commerce in these areas.

Cool-water and warm-water fish species are abundant in the 1,200 lakes found throughout the Nicolet National Forest. Trout fishing is at its best here. Contemplating the day's catch amid peace and solitude is almost taken for granted along the Forest's rivers.

Winter Activities
If cross-country skiing is your sport of choice in the winter season, the miles of trails in the Nicolet National Forest are your cup of tea. The Lauterman National Recreation Trail is a good example of the great skiing offered in the forest. Although some portions of the trail are easy skiing, on the whole, the trail requires at least intermediate skiing skills.

If fast-flying thrills appeal to you, snowmobiling is a great way to cover a lot of ground in the forest! While a great choice to see these beautiful woods in winter, snowmobilers are only allowed on designated snowmobile trails or unplowed roads.

Snowshoeing provides yet another sport for the winter season. Try traveling the forest the way it was done by the early explorers and you'll see why they were in such great shape, and perhaps discover the reason so many of them stopped to settle in this region.

Forest Attractions

Eagle River District: Headwaters Wilderness, Blackjack Springs Wilderness, Anvil National Recreation Trail (hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing), Nicolet North Trail (cross-country skiing, mountain biking), Phelps Cross-Country Ski Trail, Hidden Lakes Trail, Giant Pine Trail, Bailey Lake Equestrian Trail, Argonne Experimental Forest Demonstration Trail, Sam Campbell Interpretive Trail, Franklin Nature Trail, Franklin Lake Interpretive Center and the Heritage Drive National Scenic Byway

Florence District: Florence Natural Resources and Visitor Center, Whisker Lake Wilderness, Lauterman National Recreation Trail (hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing), MacArthur Pine, Brule River Watchable Wildlife Canoe Trail, West Allen Creek Wildlife Viewing Area and Assessor's Trail Ridge Trail

Laona District: Ed's Lake National Recreation Trail (hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing), Knowles Creek Watchable Wildlife Trail, Halley Creek Bird Trail, and Dendro-Eco Interpretive Trail

Lakewood District: Lakewood Auto Tour, Jones Spring Trail, Quartz Hill Trail, Chute Pond Scenic Overlook, Mountain Lookout Fire Tower, Cathedral Pines, Oconto River Canoe Trail, Bass Lake Swim/Picnic Area, and Oconto River Seed Orchard

You will rarely need air conditioning in Wisconsin's Northwoods. Summer nights are usually cool and great for sleeping. Temperatures range from the 60s to 80s (sometimes 90s) in the day and can get down to the 40s at night. So, pack an extra sweatshirt or light jacket just in case.

Yes, Nicolet has its share of bugs. Early summer through July is the time when mosquitoes are most prevalent. Black flies are around from snow melt until mid-June, and deer flies are out in June and July if the weather is dry and warm.

Ticks are out mainly during spring and early summer, and are more common in grassy areas. It helps to wear light-colored clothing, check yourself periodically, and use repellent. Deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, are very small, about the size of a pin head. Wood ticks are larger and more common.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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