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Northern Highland-American Legion State ForestCurrent conditions

As of Wednesday, August 26

Pileated woodpecker chicks at Crystal Lake (image courtesy Kim Krawczyk)
Pileated woodpecker chicks at Crystal Lake (photo by Kim Krawczyk)

Fall is knocking on our door as the grasses and cattails go to seed and start to turn brown. Goldenrod and large leaf asters make up most of the color pallet along the roadsides and trails. Crisp mornings make for very dramatic light and fog over the low spots where some of the maples are showing a tinge of maroon!

Turkeys are starting to work the ditches in search of bugs and mushrooms of all colors are starting to pop up in the woods. The deer flies have died down and the high bush cranberries are sporting their bright red berries.

It’s that time of year! Oak wilt symptoms are showing up in parts of Oneida County. Trees infected with the oak wilt fungus are dropping their leaves rapidly, often dropping 75 to 100 percent within two weeks of symptoms first appearing. The leaves will have a water soaked or brownish coloration at the tip of the leaf, but many leaves that drop will have a small area that remains green near the petiole. Oak wilt symptoms can show up anytime from July through September.

Lake and river conditions

The boat landings and canoe sites are in good shape and ready for continued use. The moderate use season is tapering down and will continue to do so until a final peak on Labor Day weekend. There will be some fishing tournaments that may keep a few of the boat landings busy but they would occur on weekends.

Mercer Chamber of Commerce has information regarding a canoe-kayak fishing tournament on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. Availability of canoe and remote reserve sites on the forest should increase as summer visitors with children will have less time for longer vacations due to school starting. Reserve sites for Labor Day may be booked but the 88 free one night only canoe sites should have good availability.

Water levels are holding steady or decreasing slowly.  Low water should not be a concern for boaters using landings or paddlers. There are stretches of the Manitowish and smaller streams that normally have shallow stretches this time of year and may require wading but nothing out of the ordinary for mid-August.

Trail conditions

Visitors are still spotting black bear (a cub this time) along the bike trail.

One young camper reported seeing a black squirrel along the road. The black squirrel is a melanistic subgroup of the eastern gray squirrel. 'Melanism' means dark pigmentation. They are common in the Midwestern United States, Ontario, Quebec, parts of the Northeastern United States and Britain. Some populations of eastern grey squirrels have higher rates of albinism--which results in white fur--but this is very rare.

Campground conditions

Campground use has slowed significantly as summer is winding down. If you don’t have a reservation, it should be easier to find a preferred campsite and some of the more sought after sites are likely even available.

With the decrease in use, campground operations crews are beginning to shift to some of their fall project work. One of our big fall tasks is cutting hazard trees in the campgrounds and crews are getting a start on that where use is low.

If you are planning to camp at Cunard Lake, Plum Lake or South Trout Lake campground this season, get your camping trip in soon! Those three campgrounds close for the season on Tuesday, September 8. All other campgrounds are open until at least mid-October, so start planning your fall camping adventures!

Check our campsite availability (updated twice daily) on our iPhone app and on our website. Please note that the camping fee increase included in the recent state budget went into effect on Tuesday, July 28.

Roads and facilities

The Crystal Lake Nature Center is open. Nature Center hours are:

  • Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ranger station hours

Both ranger stations are open 8 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. daily until Labor Day.

  • Crystal Lake ranger station: 715-542-3923
  • Clear Lake ranger station: 715-356-3668

Firewood notice: As of June 1, 2014, firewood from more than 10 miles away is not allowed on Wisconsin State Park or Forest properties. Also, firewood that has been in an emerald ash borer quarantined area is not allowed on properties outside of the quarantined area. Please buy firewood at or near the park or forest where you are going. Call the DNR toll-free Firewood Hotline, 1-877-303-WOOD (1-877-303-9663) for information before packing for a trip. For more information, see firewood facts, rules and advice or ask the park or forest office. Maps are available to view the 10-mile radius of allowable firewood on state properties.

Last revised: Thursday August 27 2015