Wilderness Areas on the Chequamegon - Nicolet

What is a Wilderness Area?

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as an area of undeveloped federally owned land, designated by an Act of Congress, that has the following characteristics:

  • It is affected primarily by the forces of nature, where people are visitors who do not remain.  It may contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historic value.
  • It possesses outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive and unconfined type of  recreation.
  • It is an area large enough so that continued use will not change its unspoiled, natural condition.
  • It provides the opportunity for (and often requires) self-reliance and challenge.

If you're looking for a rustic, quiet place in the forest, whether for a one-day hike or a camping trip,  make plans to visit one of our Wilderness Areas! No reservations are required, however some parking areas may require a $5.00 daily parking fee. 

Wilderness Areas on the Chequamegon-Nicolet

There are 5 Wilderness Areas on the Forest totaling over 44,000 acres. Sizes range from the 4,292 acre Porcupine Lake Wilderness to the 18,188 acre Headwaters Wilderness.  They are located in northern Wisconsin.  

Blackjack Springs Wilderness

Officially designated as a Wilderness in 1978, this 5,800 acre area is located 7 miles northeast of Eagle River, WI in Vilas County.  

Blackjack Springs main feature is a series of four large, crystal clear springs that form the headwaters of Blackjack Creek, in the midst of dense forest cover.  This Wilderness contains diverse vegetation typical of the Lake Superior Highlands of northern Wisconsin.  The terrain is somewhat rolling and uneven.  

Wildlife such as deer, bear, fisher, ruffed grouse, and various species of songbirds are common.  One lake, three streams with associated spring ponds and wetlands are also found here.  Fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing and nature study are popular recreational uses.


Headwaters Wilderness

Officially designated as a wilderness in 1984, this 18,000 plus acre wilderness is located 16 miles southeast of Eagle River, WI in Forest County.

Portions of this area contain some of the largest and oldest trees in the forest.  Kimball Creek, Shelp Lake and the Headwaters of the Pine River are major features within this Wilderness.  The terrain is generally flat. Popular recreation uses in this Wilderness include hiking, bird-watching, hunting, fishing and studying nature.


Porcupine Lake Wilderness

Officially designated as a wilderness in 1984, this 4,446 acre wilderness is located 4 miles southeast of Drummond, WI in Bayfield County.

Some of the wilderness contains rolling hills covered with oak, maple, hemlock and white pine.  The remainder of the area is fairly flat. Many streams contain trout. Porcupine Lake and Eighteen Mile Spring Pond have good fishing for trout, bass, panfish, and northern pike.  Watchable wildlife include deer, bear, fox, coyote, loons and many species of songbirds.

The North Country National Scenic Trail runs the length of the area.  Branded posts mark the trail location at some intersections.


Rainbow Lake Wilderness

Rainbow Lake was one of the first wildernesses designated in 1975.  The total area encompasses 6,583 acres, located 4 miles north of Drummond, WI in Bayfield County.

Among the unique features of this wilderness are the numerous narrow gauge railroad grades that were used for log hauling in the early 1900's.  The North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs the length of the wilderness, follows parts of these old grades.  The trail is marked at difficult intersections. 

The terrain in the area is flat to gentle rolling, and steep hills can be found north, east and northwest corner of the wilderness. Fishing opportunities can be found at Wishbone, Clay, Reynard and Beaver Lakes.  Wildlife is abundant, so bring your binoculars and cameras!  


Whisker Lake Wilderness

Whisker Lake was designated as a wilderness on October 2, 1978.  This 7,500 acre tract is located 11 miles west of Florence, WI on the Michigan-Wisconsin border in Florence County.  

The area got its name from the large pines near the shoreline of Whisker Lake.  Old timers called these pines "chin whiskers". These "chin whiskers" somehow escaped being burned by wildfires that ravaged the area after it was railroad-logged in the early 1900's.  

The terrain within the Whisker Lake area ranges from rolling upland to beaver flooded wetlands.  Trout fishing is available at Riley Lake, Edith Lake, Wakefield Creek and the Brule River.  Berry picking, hunting, cross-country skiing and wildlife viewing are just some of the activities you can enjoy during your visit.


Wilderness Travel Tips

Here are a few tips designed to maximize your wilderness experience:

  1. A detailed map and a compass are a must when venturing into the wilderness.
  2. Make sure someone knows of your travel plans.
  3. Plan to take plenty of bug repellent during the spring through fall seasons.
  4. Take along a first aid kit.
  5. Keep an eye on the weather and plan for the unexpected.  Be aware that hypothermia may occur in any season.
  6. Carry an adequate supply of safe drinking water - about one gallon per person per day.  All stream or lake water must be properly purified before drinking.
  7. Check yourself periodically for ticks.  Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease.  A deer tick is smaller than the common wood tick and reddish brown.
  8. Store food properly to avoid animal problems.  You can avoid problems with bears by hanging your food high above the ground between trees at night.  Never bring food into your sleeping bag or tent!  

Rules for "No Trace" Camping

  1. Keep campfires small.  Better yet - use a portable camp stove.  If you decide to have a fire (campfires are permitted in the wilderness), gather small dead and down wood a good distance from camp.  Before leaving camp, "naturalize" the area by scattering any rocks and wood you used to make a fire ring.  
  2. Carry out all your unburnable trash such as cans, foil, and glass.  Buried trash soon becomes an eyesore as animals uncover it within a short period of time.
  3. Dispose of human waste at least 100 feet from campsites, trails or waterways.  Dig a shallow hole and cover.  Nature will do the rest.
  4. Carry wash water away from streams or lakes rather than washing in the stream or lake.  
  5. Avoid damaging live trees and plants.  Minimize site alterations. Good camps are found not made.
  6. Protect the solitude; make your camp out of sight and sound of trails and other camps.
  7. Anything moved for comfort or convenience (such as rocks or logs) should be replaced before leaving.

Wilderness Regulations

  1. The possession or use of motorized or mechanized equipment is prohibited.  This includes all motor vehicles, bicycles, outboard and electrical motors, and any wheeled device for transporting canoes, boats, or equipment.
  2. Camping within 100 feet of water or the North Country National Scenic Trail is prohibited.
  3. Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days.
  4. All State of Wisconsin fishing and hunting regulations and license requirements apply in wilderness areas. 
  5. Erecting permanent hunting tree stands or ground blinds is prohibited.
  6. Storing or leaving a boat, canoe, equipment, personal property, or supplies is prohibited.
  7. Disposing of debris, garbage or other waste, except that which is burnable and  disposed by fire, is prohibited.