The Northwoods Land Trust owns conservation properties throughout our service area. These lands come through outright donations, transfers from other organizations, and in limited cases, purchases. These lands are open to the public, with use guidelines in place.
NWLT has also transferred or gifted lands to other organizations and municipalities to allow for more localized management and stewardship.
#1 Interstate Falls (gifted it to the Town of Kimball)
#2 Thunder Lake Wildlife Conservation Area
#3 Holmboe Conifer Forest State Natural Area
#4 Dugan Squash Lake Nature Preserve
#5 Crawling Stone Woods
#6 Marshall Wildlife Conservation Area
#7 Deerskin River Nature Preserve
#8 Wallmann-Holtzer Nature Preserve (transferred to the Big Portage Lake Riparian Owner’s Association)
#9 Van Vliet Lake Conservation Area
#10 Border Lakes Region Conservation Project
#11 Yawkey Forest Reserve
#12 Sack Lake Hemlocks Old-Growth Forest
#13 Walter “Len” Hilgart Flambeau River Preserve
The map below shows the locations of these NWLT protected properties
(#1-#9 shown; update map will be posted in the future)
1. Interstate Falls
With NWLT’s first ever purchase of conservation land, public access to the scenic Interstate Falls is now protected. The acquisition project was completed thanks to grants from five private family foundations – the Caerus Foundation, James E. Dutton Foundation, John C. Bock Foundation, James E. & Jane P. Watermolen Foundation and Modestus Bauer Foundation. These private grants provided the local match for a grant from the Wisconsin Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund program. NWLT purchased the land in December, 2015 and gifted it to the Town of Kimball on June 25, 2016.
Interstate Falls is a popular 18-foot waterfall on the Montreal River which forms the border between Wisconsin and Michigan. The parcel NWLT purchased includes about 38 acres of scenic mixed forest and about 2,500 feet of natural shoreline frontage on the Montreal River, a Class II trout stream.
The project was initiated by volunteer Ian Shackleford and is a cooperative effort with the Town of Kimball in Iron County, Wisconsin. Current project work includes surveying the boundaries, installing an entrance sign, trail kiosk, small gravel parking lot and improving/rerouting the trail with safety features at the waterfalls.
The property is located on West Center Drive just west of the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 51 and U.S. Hwy. 2 north of Hurley. Click here to download an aerial map of Interstate Falls.
2. Thunder Lake Wildlife Conservation Area
The 144.5-acre Thunder Lake Wildlife Conservation Area in the town of Three Lakes was the first of our nature preserves. The land was gifted in 2006 by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The property includes about one-half mile of undeveloped natural shoreline on Thunder Lake.
The land is adjacent to the south boundary of the Wisconsin DNR’s Thunder Marsh Wildlife Area, and provides a significant buffer between the large wildlife area and the commercial cranberry operation and Three Lakes community. The habitat is relatively undisturbed tamarack and black spruce swamp. There is very little high ground (approx. one-acre island).
The donor’s intent was to leave the property as a nature preserve for wildlife with minimal human disturbance. The property has no existing development, logging roads or trails on it. The property is open to the public, including for hunting as it is adjacent to a public hunting area. There is no direct land access from a public road, so visitors must access the site by walking in through the state lands.
3. Holmboe Conifer Forest State Natural Area
This 32-acre site next to the City of Rhinelander was transferred in 2007 to the Northwoods Land Trust by The Nature Conservancy. The land is recognized for its old-growth hemlock and pine forest characteristics, and has been dedicated as a State Natural Area by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The property includes about one-third of a mile of undeveloped natural shoreline on the Pelican River.
The property is open to the public for hiking and nature observation. There is a nature trail with shorter and longer loops of about one-quarter and one-half mile respectively. Click here for a pdf map of the Holmboe Conifer Forest. Read more by downloading our Holmboe Conifer Forest State Natural Area brochure.
4. Dugan Squash Lake Nature Preserve
This 5.62-acre site south of Hwy. 8 near the City of Rhinelander was gifted in 2009 to the Northwoods Land Trust thanks to the generosity of Patrick Dugan and Sue Hausser
man-Dugan. The property includes several acres of undeveloped woodlands and a very unique, long, narrow esker peninsula extending out into Squash Lake. All together, the property includes about 4,088 feet of natural shoreline on Squash Lake.
Managed as a nature preserve, the property is open to the public for hiking, snowshoeing, and nature observation. Canoes and kayaks may be carried in for those wishing to explore the shallow bay. Click here for an aerial photo map image (174 K) of the Dugan Squash Lake Nature Preserve.
The Dugan Squash Lake Nature Preserve protects most of a small bay created by the esker peninsula. In conjunction with the Roger Degris conservation easement granted in 2008, the two properties also protect most of the shoreline of a much larger bay on Squash Lake. These perpetual land protection projects have left a truly lasting legacy for all who live on, use and enjoy Squash Lake!
The Preserve was officially dedicated by the NWLT Board of Directors and Pat and Sue Dugan on June 11th, 2010 with the unveiling of the sign.
Click the thumbnail for an aerial view.
5. Crawling Stone Woods
Donated on December 31, 2013, the Crawling Stone Woods is a 42.4-acre site in the Town of Lac du Flambeau in Vilas County. The land was donated by Richard Galaty and George and Carol Schneider in honor of the extended Rice – Galaty – Schneider families, who have enjoyed nearby seasonal cottages on Crawling Stone Lake since 1921.
Although it does not directly include shoreline frontage on Crawling Stone Lake, the property does include shoreland-wetlands (lake bed) on both Crawling Stone Lake and also a small, unnamed lake (“Lost Lake”). The land is also adjacent to Lac du Flambeau tribal lands on the south and west sides. The tribal lands are forested and managed for forest products and wildlife habitat. The north property boundary is Silver Beach Drive. The Crawling Stone Woods property is also located within one-half mile of two conservation easements held by NWLT.
The upland habitat is mostly mixed northern hardwood and coniferous forest with some tall white pines and northern red oaks, and older aspen and paper birch. The property also includes wetlands with black spruce/tamarack swamp, alders, and open keg/bog.
With help from volunteer foresters John Huppert and Tim Mulhern, NWLT has enrolled this site into the state’s Managed Forest Law program. The conservation area’s long-term management will focus on sustainable forestry targeting white pine and oak regeneration.
One trail runs through the property. The land is open to public access for hiking, wildlife viewing, snowshoeing, ungroomed cross-country skiing, and hunting.
Click here for a Crawling Stone 2010 Aerial Photo Map.
6. Marshall Wildlife Conservation Area
The 96-acre Marshall Wildlife Conservation Area was donated to NWLT in September of 2016. This property is located just south of State Highway 70 in the town of Lac du Flambeau in Vilas County.
A looping trail leads to a scenic wildlife viewing area overlooking a 30-acre beaver pond on Koernet Creek. Swans, sandhill cranes, woodducks, mallards, Canada geese, great blue herons, otters, muskrats and many other wildlife species can be observed from a pier (to be installed in the summer of 2017).
Click here for an aerial map of the Marshall Wildlife Conservation Area.
The uplands have been managed for paper birch and aspen, and will continue to be harvested to maintain young forest habitat. Some super-canopy white pines do tower over the forest and will hopefully serve as alternate nesting sites for bald eagles or osprey.
The property is adjacent to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest land as well as Lac du Flambeau tribal forest lands. The Marshall Wildlife Conservation Area is open to public access for hiking, birding, snowshoeing, ungroomed cross-country skiing, hunting and fishing on the creek.
7. Deerskin River Nature Preserve
In August of 2017, NWLT acquired the property from the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL). Mostly wetlands, this 40-acre parcel on the Deerskin River has never before been privately owned. As such, there are no records of the preserve ever being logged (although you can never say for certain due to extensive timber theft for pine logs in the 1800s).
However, a stand of old-growth white cedar trees still exists on the property. Old-growth white cedar is a relatively rare forest habitat type in Wisconsin and also often hosts rare orchid species. It also serves as an important deer yard.
The Deerskin River in this section has a flowing gradient that is fun to paddle. An easy couple-hour float takes you downstream in a gentle current from the Nicolet National Forest to the river crossing at Rangeline Road just upstream from Scattering Rice Lake. Click here for a Deerskin River Nature Preserve Brochure with an aerial map and directions.
8. Wallmann-Holtzer Nature Preserve
Sybil (Wallmann) Holtzer and her sister Beryl grew up enjoying a summer cottage with their parents on Big Portage Lake in the town of Land O’ Lakes, Vilas County. After seeing so many lakefront parcels subdivided and developed, Sybil wanted to give back to the lake. She and her husband, Howard Holtzer, purchased 8.73 acres of vacant land with about 750 feet of frontage on Big Portage Lake to keep that stretch natural.
In December of 2007, Sybil and Howard granted a perpetual conservation easement on the property and dedicated it as the Wallmann-Holtzer Nature Preserve. Following an intensive lake study, this stretch of shoreline was identified with a “sensitive area” designation by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, one of only a few such areas on Big Portage Lake.
With help from Attorney Jack LaChance (pictured with the sign), Howard and Sybil gifted the remaining interest in the land to the Northwoods Land Trust as a bequest when they passed away. In order to retain the conservation easement protections, NWLT has agreed to transfer ownership to the Big Portage Lake Riparian Association. NWLT will then continue to annually monitor and defend the conservation easement provisions – a win/win for both conservation organizations and especially for the lake and its fish and wildlife populations. The property is only accessible by boat. Fishing, hiking and wildlife observation are permitted, but there are no established trails. Click here for an aerial view of the Wallmann-Holtzer Nature Preserve.
9. Van Vliet Lake Conservation Area
In December of 2017 a 2.4-acre parcel with 377 feet of natural shoreline on Van Vliet Lake in northern Vilas County was donated by Paulette Cary.
This small parcel adjoins another conservation parcel with 345 feet of frontage that was originally donated by Paulette Cary to the Last Wilderness Conservation Association. Since then, the Last Wilderness Conservation Association has transferred the parcel to NWLT. The total conservation property therefore protects over 700 feet of valuable Van Vliet Lake shoreline.
These properties lie within the “Border Lakes” region of Vilas County. See #10- Border Lakes Region Conservation Project for more information.
In addition, the property is contiguous with the Van Vliet Hemlocks State Natural Area and provides a valuable habitat buffer for this unique site. A nature trail for the Van Vliet Hemlocks State Natural Area is just across West Van Vliet Road from the new conservation property. Click here to download a 2015 aerial map of the Van Vliet Lake Conservation Area.
10. Border Lakes Region Conservation Project/
Last Wilderness Conservation Association Transfers
NWLT accepted transfers of conservation lands from the Last Wilderness Conservation Association (LWCA) in the “Border Lakes” Region of Vilas County, an area which has been recognized as a globally-significant conservation resource due to the abundance of inland freshwater lakes of glacial origin. According to the WDNR’s Wisconsin Land Legacy Report, the Border Lakes region was identified as one of the 229 Legacy Places critical to the state: “The Border Lakes Region probably represents the last opportunity in Wisconsin to protect a reasonably large cluster of lakes. Lying at the heart of several large blocks of public property, the area is also among the last places to provide a variety of recreation activities in a very remote setting… Protection of this unique mosaic of lakes, wetlands and upland forests—with its significant water quality, fisheries, wildlife and forestry resources—is important to maintaining the biological diversity and recreational opportunities of northern Wisconsin.”
As of March 2019, 18 projects have been transferred from LWCA to NWLT. Out of the 18, 11 properties are now owned and managed by NWLT. Four are privately owned with conservation easements, and three are privately owned with grants of development rights.
All 11 of the properties now owned by NWLT are open to public access for non-motorized outdoor recreation and nature study, including hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, wildlife observation, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Hunting is also allowed on several of the properties with permission from NWLT.
The Genevieve Lake property, one of the ‘jewels’ of the Border Lakes Project, includes 3,690 feet of lake frontage and 445 feet of creek frontage. This property is contiguous with the Nell Lake State Natural Area, creating a block of approximately 175 acres of wild land, including a large expanse of acidic conifer swamp, and three undeveloped lakes.
The property can be accessed from Serenity Lane. Parking is available at a small pull-off on Serenity Lane on the east side of the property. Genevieve Lake can be accessed by way of an access easement that comes off of Serenity Lane near the pull-off. Download the property map here.
11. Yawkey Forest Reserve
On October 31, 2018, NWLT received a remarkable gift of 431 acres of land on scenic Lake Katherine in the town of Hazelhurst, Oneida County. The conservation land was donated by the Yawkey Lumber Company after their 125 years of ownership.
The new Yawkey Forest Reserve includes woodlands, wetlands and wildlife habitat, and protects about 4.4 miles of natural shoreline on beautiful Lake Katherine. It includes three small, undeveloped islands ranging from approximately a half-acre to two acres in size. These islands provide outstanding scenic beauty as well as critical wildlife habitat, so will continue to be closed to public access to protect alternate loon nesting sites. A few other particularly sensitive areas of the property will also remain closed to public use and will be clearly marked with signs.
The remaining majority of the property will be open to non-motorized public outdoor recreation including hiking, birding, snowshoeing, hunting and fishing. The Bearskin State Recreational Trail, used for hiking, bicycling and snowmobiling, runs along the west boundary of the property. Other points of public access for boating include the Hazelhurst town beach and boat landing on the west shore of the lake off Oneida Street (site of the lumber company’s former saw mill) and a canoe and kayak access site located northwest of the Highway 51 bridge. The lake’s South Bay and Tigertail Point can be seen from the Highway 51 bridge south of Hazelhurst.
The total appraised value of the property was over $12 million at the time of the donation, resulting in one of the most valuable and sizable outright gifts of conservation land to a land trust in Wisconsin. Download the Yawkey Forest Reserve map here.
12. Sack Lake Hemlocks Old-Growth Forest
In December of 2019, NWLT acquired the Sack Lake Hemlocks Old-Growth Forest in the Town of Knight in Iron County from the State of Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL).
The Sack Lake Hemlocks property includes 129 acres of land and 871 feet of natural shoreline on Sack Lake, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) identified “wild l
ake.” NWLT acquired the property after a year-long process of discussions with BCPL, working out the logistics of the transaction, and raising grant funding from various private foundations.
Ecological, cultural and recreational values are retained in old-growth forests as they attract hikers, birders, hunters, and budding scientists. As the new owner of the Sack Lake Hemlocks property, NWLT will manage it for its old-growth forest habitat and for the wildlife that thrive there, as well as for public access for hiking, hunting, fishing and nature observation. The Sack Lake Hemlocks property has been identified as particularly important habitat for the American marten, a Wisconsin Endangered Species.
Grant support for the permanent conservation of the Sack Lake Hemlocks Old-Growth Forest was provided by the Caerus Foundation, Inc., John C. Bock Foundation, Modestus Bauer Foundation, American Natural Heritage Foundation, Arthur L. & Elaine V. Johnson Foundation, James D. & Jane P. Watermolen Foundation, and Cellcom Green Gifts Program.
13. Walter “Len” Hilgart Flambeau River Preserve
The 27-acre Walter “Len” Hilgart Flambeau River Preserve sits on a bend in the river with approximately 2,020 feet of natural shoreline on the South Fork of the Flambeau River in the Town of Fifield in Price County. Trustees of the Walter L. and Martha G. Hilgart Trust donated the riverfront parcel to NWLT in December of 2020 as a memorial to Walter “Len” Hilgart who passed away in October of 2016.
The property is only accessible by water, and not by land. It is located 1.8 miles south (downstream) of the Fifield Memorial Park and Wayside on Highway 13. The Highway 13 parking lot and canoe launch is well-used by paddlers who pass through class I and II rapids before reaching the County Highway F launch and takeout 12 miles downstream. Further downstream is the Flambeau River State Forest, where the South Fork joins the North Fork to form the Flambeau River. The property’s riparian communities include black ash, silver maple and red maple, with an open, shrubby wetland with blue joint grass and alder.