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Up Here, It's the Northwoods

I grew up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Specifically, I grew up about 15 miles North of the city of the Rhinelander, in the township of Stella, just outside the unincorporated town of Starks which featured a townhall, a small playground, a baseball field, 2 bars, and a little grocery store. One mile to the left was my grandparent's farm and a mile to the right was my great-grandparent's farm. We had a large deciduous forest across the road from my childhood home, a tall pine grove to the side that we raked out bike paths in and filled with forts, and a 40-acre farm field behind that was bordered by a mixture of pine and deciduous forest. A couple of miles down the road my grandparents owned a large lakefront with a little red cabin, two outhouses (one for Lena, one for Sven) and a small freestanding garage filled with water toys (old tractor inner tubes), lawn game, and an old refrigerator converted to be a keg dispenser.
My grandparents threw huge, multi-generational parties twice a Summer, one for the Fourth of July and one in August called the Corn Roast where my great-uncles would roast corn on two large homemade grills (two halves of a metal barrel) all day long. Corn was soaked in a tipped-over old refrigerator (like a very large cooler), and the cooked corn was kept hot in another tipped-over refrigerator next to it. A large coffee can was kept near the heat and filled to the brim with hot melted butter for dipping. We ate corn all day long. If you think that sounds idyllic, I can confirm that it was. These are just some of the memories that make up the Northwoods for me.
Up here, we’ve always referred to our corner of the world as the Northwoods and much like the hodag, I didn’t think about it much until I left for college. I’m not sure I even realized there were other places called the Northwoods and certainly not a whole collection of North Woods until I wrote my first book, Tales From The Trees, back in the mid aughts.
This has increasingly intrigued me, all of these places with the same or similar names—do they have a similar vibe? Are all the makings of Wisconsin’s magical and mysterious Northwoods also key ingredients of other places? Let’s review some of these places:
Northern Wisconsin’s Northwoods
One of the most famous Northwoods regions can be found in northern Wisconsin. Covering vast stretches of forested terrain, this area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The Northwoods of Wisconsin boasts numerous lakes, including the famous Lake Superior, which offers fishing, boating, and stunning vistas year-round. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest provides ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching, making it a must-visit for nature lovers.
The North Woods of Minnesota
Minnesota, known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," is home to another North Woods region. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located in the northern part of the state, is a true wilderness paradise. Paddle through a labyrinth of interconnected lakes and rivers while immersing yourself in the serenity of the boreal forest. The North Woods of Minnesota also offers exceptional hiking in the Superior National Forest, where you can explore the rugged terrain and discover hidden waterfalls.
The Northwoods of Michigan
Michigan, with its abundance of natural beauty, has its own version of the Northwoods. The Upper Peninsula, or "UP," is a treasure trove of wilderness experiences. The North Woods of Michigan are characterized by dense forests, pristine lakes, and opportunities for hunting and fishing. Don't miss the Hiawatha National Forest, a sprawling expanse of woodlands that beckons adventurers with its scenic trails and remote camping sites.
North Woods of Maine
Maine is renowned for its rugged coastline, but it also boasts a North Woods region that's equally captivating. The Maine North Woods encompass millions of acres of unspoiled wilderness, offering a remote retreat for those seeking solitude and adventure. Baxter State Park, home to Mount Katahdin, the state's highest peak, is a popular destination for hikers and climbers. Canoeing down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is another fantastic way to experience the tranquility of the North Woods.
North Woods of the Adirondacks:
Nestled within the Adirondack Mountains of New York is another North Woods gem. The Adirondack Park is the largest state park in the contiguous United States and is renowned for its rugged terrain, pristine lakes, and diverse wildlife. Hiking in the High Peaks region, exploring the many lakes and waterways, and camping in the heart of the wilderness are just a few of the adventures you can embark on in the Adirondack North Woods.
When you take a look at a map it’s obvious Northwoods and North Woods would expand beyond our Northern US borders (and that animals, hodags included, would not know these invisible, man-made confinements.) Canada is a country renowned for its breathtaking natural landscapes, and among its many treasures are the Northwoods, vast regions of pristine wilderness that offer a unique blend of rugged beauty and untouched tranquility.
Here is what I compiled for our neighbors to the north:
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario:
Algonquin Provincial Park, located in central Ontario, is one of the most iconic Northwoods destinations in Canada. Covering over 7,600 square kilometers, it is the oldest provincial park in Ontario. The park is renowned for its dense forests, crystal-clear lakes, and an extensive network of canoe routes, making it a haven for paddlers and wilderness enthusiasts. Algonquin is teeming with wildlife, including moose, wolves, bears, and numerous bird species. It's a prime location for wildlife observation and photography. Visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and stargazing, all while being immersed in the breathtaking beauty of the Northwoods.
Temagami, Ontario:
Temagami, situated in northeastern Ontario, is a wilderness paradise renowned for its old-growth forests and countless lakes and rivers. The area is a canoeist's dream, with an intricate web of paddling routes, including the famous Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park. Temagami is also home to ancient pictographs, showcasing the rich cultural history of indigenous peoples in the region. Hiking, fishing, and snowmobiling are among the activities that draw adventurers to Temagami throughout the year.
La Mauricie National Park, Quebec:
Located in the province of Quebec, La Mauricie National Park is a stunning Northwoods destination characterized by dense boreal forests, rugged terrain, and pristine lakes. The park offers excellent hiking opportunities, with a network of trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints and waterfalls. Canoeing on the park's numerous waterways, including the famous Wapizagonke Lake, is a popular activity. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot beavers, otters, and various bird species in their natural habitat.
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba:
Situated in southwestern Manitoba, Riding Mountain National Park combines Northwood's wilderness with a unique prairie landscape. The park is home to an array of wildlife, including bison, black bears, elk, and wolves. Visitors can explore dense forests, tranquil lakes, and the beautiful Wasagaming townsite, offering cultural experiences. Hiking, wildlife viewing, and stargazing are some of the activities that make this park special.
Jasper National Park, Alberta:
Jasper National Park, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, showcases Northwood's beauty amid stunning mountain scenery. The park boasts serene lakes, dramatic canyons, and glaciers, making it a photographer's paradise. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting, with opportunities to see elk, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears. The Dark Sky Preserve status of Jasper ensures exceptional stargazing experiences.
I by no means consider this an exhaustive list, I'm sure I've missed other areas, but it is an impressive list of natural wonderlands all accessible to Midwesterners with an easy car trip. While the similarities between all of these places are as simple as amazing nature experiences, Northern Wisconsin's Northwoods has some special highlights to explore. With its vast state and national forests, pristine lakes, and diverse recreational opportunities, this region offers an immersive experience in the heart of the wilderness. Whether you're hiking through dense forests, paddling on mirror-like lakes, or simply basking in the serenity of the Northwoods, you'll find that this corner of Wisconsin is a place where nature takes center stage.
Northern Wisconsin's Northwoods
The place that I call home is a mecca for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, boasting a mosaic of state and national forests that provide a rich tapestry of natural wonders. What I love about our Northwoods is our storied history of small family-run rustic resorts and camps—that this place has been a destination for relaxing, fun, and adventure for over one hundred years to hundreds of thousands of people from all over the place. Let's unpack why as we wander through the treasures of Northern Wisconsin's Northwoods, exploring the state and national forests that make this region a natural wonderland.
Popular Hikes in Wisconsin's Northwoods:
Timms Hill Trail (Timms Hill County Park):
    • Located in Price County, this trail leads to the highest point in Wisconsin, Timms Hill, which offers panoramic views.
    • The trail is relatively short but takes you through a picturesque forested landscape.
Hidden Lakes Trail (Nicolet National Forest):
    • This 11-mile loop trail takes hikers through the pristine wilderness of the Nicolet National Forest.
    • The trail is known for its hidden lakes and offers opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.
Fallison Lake Trail (Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest):
    • This 8-mile loop trail winds through the forest and around Fallison Lake.
    • Hikers can expect to encounter diverse wildlife and enjoy serene lake views along the way.
Almon Park Hiking Trails:
    • Almon Park just outside of Rhinelander features a network of scenic trails, including the Pioneer Creek Trail and the Northwoods Trail.
    • These trails offer opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting.
Bearskin State Trail:
    • This 18-mile crushed limestone trail is perfect for biking, hiking, and snowmobiling in the winter.
    • The trail winds through picturesque forests and past tranquil lakes.
Copper Falls State Park:
    • While not in the Northwoods, Copper Falls State Park in Mellen, Wisconsin, is worth the drive.
    • The park offers a range of hiking trails, including the Doughboys Nature Trail, which leads to stunning waterfalls
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest:
Spanning over 1.5 million acres, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is a crown jewel of Wisconsin's Northwoods. This sprawling forest offers a diverse range of outdoor activities, from hiking and camping to fishing and snowmobiling. Within the forest, you'll discover gems like the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage, a sprawling reservoir known for its excellent fishing and serene paddling opportunities. In the winter, the forest transforms into a winter wonderland, with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails for those who embrace the cold.
Nicolet National Forest:
Nestled within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Nicolet National Forest deserves special mention. Covering nearly 670,000 acres, it's home to pristine lakes, scenic trails, and abundant wildlife. The Hidden Lakes Trail System and the Franklin Lake Campground are must-visit destinations within the Nicolet, offering the chance to immerse yourself in the region's wild beauty.
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest:
Known locally as the "Northern Highlands," this state forest encompasses more than 225,000 acres. It's a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts, with a network of hiking trails, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife. The 28-mile powwow Trail, part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, winds through the forest and is perfect for long-distance hikers. For those seeking tranquility, camping on the shores of Trout Lake or Crystal Lake is an experience not to be missed.
Flambeau River State Forest:
The Flambeau River State Forest, situated in northwestern Wisconsin, is a haven for paddlers and anglers. The Flambeau River meanders through the forest, offering miles of pristine waterways for canoeing and kayaking. There are also numerous campgrounds along the riverbanks, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Northwoods.
Porcupine Lake Wilderness:
Located within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Porcupine Lake Wilderness is a designated wilderness area that covers nearly 4,500 acres. This pristine landscape is a sanctuary for those seeking solitude and a truly wild experience. Hiking through the forest, you'll encounter lush woodlands, serene lakes, and abundant wildlife.
National Campgrounds in Wisconsin's Northwoods:
Turtle-Flambeau Flowage Scenic Waters Area:
    • Located within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, this serene area offers several campgrounds along the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage.
    • Campsites here are rustic, providing an authentic camping experience amidst the beauty of the Northwoods.
    • The flowage is perfect for boating, fishing, and wildlife watching.
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest:
    • The Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest offers several campgrounds, including Crystal Lake Campground and Clear Lake Campground.
    • Crystal Lake Campground is known for its clear waters and sandy beaches, making it a great spot for swimming and relaxation.
    • The forest's campgrounds are well-equipped and offer easy access to hiking trails and water-based activities.
Flambeau River State Forest:
    • This forest boasts multiple campgrounds along the Flambeau River, such as Connors Lake Campground and Deadhorse Lake Campground.
    • Campers can enjoy paddling, fishing, and exploring the scenic beauty of the Flambeau River.
    • The forest's campgrounds provide a peaceful retreat in the midst of nature.
Again, this is not an exhaustive collection of all the outdoor recreational opportunities available in the Northwoods. Think of it as me piquing your interest and hopefully helping you explore more and plan your next adventure to our Northwoods.
More information on Rhinelander and the surrounding areas can be found at
More to come!
XO Jill

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