The Unending Beauty of the Nicolet National Forest

The Nicolet National Forest in the Northwoods of Wisconsin covers over 600,000 acres of land over parts of Forest, Oconto, Florence, Vilas, Langlade, and Oneida Counties. The forest was established officially by a 1933 proclamation of President Herbert Hoover. The federal government first began purchasing abandoned and tax delinquent land beginning in 1928 with the goal of establishing a national forest. The goal was to preserve the land in its natural state for future generations, but its past is just as relevant as its future.

The lands that now make up the Nicolet were originally inhabited thousands of years ago by the Paleo-Indians, the Archaic Indians, and lastly the Woodland Tradition Indians. When Europeans arrived to the region in the 1600s, a French explorer names Jean Nicolet arrived to establish a fur trade with American Indians around the Great Lakes. During that time the number of Europeans making their home in the Northwoods grew.

Following the fur trade industry, loggers came to harvest trees to fill the needs of our developing nation. The timber industry peaked in the 1920s, and as the timber supply dwindled, lands began to be sold off to immigrants to homestead. Many farms were unsuccessful due to the nature of the soil and climate, and as they were abandoned it left the land vulnerable to wildfires. The Civilian Conservation Corps was formed during the Great Depression and, over a ten year period, thousands of young men lived and worked in camps within the newly formed national forest. They planted countless trees, created fire lanes and forest roads, and built recreational facilities. The Nicolet National Forest as we know it would not exist if not for the labor of these men.

The Nicolet today consists of remote areas with uplands and wetlands, rivers and streams, bogs, meadows, and glacial lakes. The forest is home to whitetail deer, black bears, foxes, and reintroduced elk and wolves. Numerous species of birds grace the area and the waters of the Nicolet are filled with trout, walleye, bass, northern pike and panfish. Record-breaking muskies have been caught in these waters as well.

The recreational opportunities in the Nicolet National Forest are unending. Miles of trails wind throughout the forest and wetlands. These trails are shared through all four seasons by cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers. Thousands of visitors are drawn to the area each year to explore the forest trails, camp, or spend time on the many bodies of water to canoe, kayak, swim, or fish. When they are looking for adventure or solace, they can find it in the Nicolet National Forest, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.