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Northern Highland-American Legion State ForestCurrent conditions

As of Thursday, July 30

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

Loons, loons everywhere! Campers even spotted three of them at once on our small Crystal Lake. Crystal visitors have also been entertained by a pair of almost ready to fledge pileated woodpecker chicks peeking out and calling from their nest cavity about 15 feet off the ground. Some bikers encountered a few turkeys right on the paved bike trail.

Watch out for yellow jacket nests this time of year. Some of our campers have been stung while out collecting firewood.

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

Lake and stream water levels are still near normal levels for this time of year. The Flowages Rainbow and Willow areas are starting to recede, with the Rainbow down what appears to be about three feet. The Manitowish River is near normal flow but has been slightly above normal so far this year.

Most lake water temperatures are in the 70s so cool water awaits those who like to swim. Boat Landings and canoe sites are in full swing as far as activity and day time air temperatures have been in the high 70 to 85 degree range, so many people are using the lakes to recreate.

Trail conditions

We have just finished constructing and signing a re-route on the Raven trail Red loop. We also abandoned a badly eroding section which was also very difficult to groom for skiing.

Campground conditions

Campgrounds were very busy again this past weekend, with over 80 percent of campsites across the forest occupied on Friday and Saturday nights. Use will likely remain high for the next two to three weeks. If you don’t already have a reservation, it might be difficult to find a site in some of our busiest campgrounds such as Clear Lake, Crystal Lake, Firefly Lake and Musky Lake.

However, there are always sites available in some of our outlying campgrounds. Ten of our 18 campgrounds on the forest are entirely first come-first serve and all campgrounds have some non-reservable sites. Also, some of the outlying campgrounds rarely exceed half of the sites occupied.

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.

Our third group of volunteer campground hosts will arrive this Friday. This group of hosts will be here through Labor Day and they are the last hosts for the season at most of the campgrounds.

Biking conditions

Looks like the word has gotten out that it's a bike riding dreamland up here. Thousands of bikers are enjoying the miles and miles of paved bike trails that wind through the forest. Riders go past campgrounds, lakes, rivers, picnic areas, vistas and through small towns, all on well-maintained paved trails that are separate from roads.

Even if you are not camping, there is plenty of parking along the trail (for example, on the corner of highway M and N) and no trail pass is required to ride. If you are looking to camp and bike, the following NHAL campgrounds are along the bike trail: Crystal Lake, Firefly Lake, Musky Lake, North Trout Lake, South Trout Lake, Plum Lake and Big Lake. There is also a lovely seven mile paved trail that runs from the Clear Lake picnic area (across the road from the Carrol Lake campground) through the Clear Lake campground and on to the Indian Mounds campground on the southern part of the forest. Don’t forget the 18 mile Bearskin State Bike Trail is also in the area (a Wisconsin State Trail pass is required on the Bearskin).

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 July 30 2015