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Ask a Wisconsin forester to take you on a cruise and sure enough, you won't end up on a boat. You'll find yourself clomping through a stand of trees, measuring such things as height and girth and overall vigor, speculating on ravages of spruce budworm.
"Cruising a stand" may be the forester's time-honored method of nature observation, but it may not be yours – especially if, on this particular cruise, you were hoping to have a nice comfortable seat affording a good view, and perhaps, a nice refreshing drink.
You lucky devil! Seems there are other ways to cruise the forests of the North. The Wilderness Queen and the Denum Lacey, to name two. These sturdy vessels ply the wilds of the Willow Reservoir and the Chippewa Flowage, where opportunities for nature-watching abound.
The Wilderness Queen, operated by Wilderness Cruises of Hazelhurst, works the deeply forested shores of the 7,000-acre Willow Reservoir. Watch for loons in the shallows, and eagles and osprey soaring above their nests as the boat moves slowly past quiet forested islands. Consider planning a boat trip on the Willow to take in the splendor of autumn's colors.
The best way to see the "Big Chip" is from the water – and that's where you'll be on the good ship Denum Lacey, owned by Chippewa Queen Tours in Hayward. More than two hundred miles of unspoiled shoreline and a view of 140 islands await passengers who visit this vast watery wilderness. Ducks, cormorants, herons, beaver, otter, bear and scores of other species take refuge in the flowage's woods and waters, so be sure to bring your camera and binoculars.
Both boats offer 2-hour sightseeing tours and special evening dinner cruises. The Wilderness Queen also features a Sunday champagne brunch, a "decadent dessert" cruise, and a moonlight ride.
Ask any forester: Cruising Wisconsin's Northwoods was never so easy.
For schedules, prices and reservations (recommended) contact Wilderness Cruises in Hazelhurst at 1-800-472-1516 or (715) 453-3310, or Chippewa Queen Tours in Hayward at (715) 462-3874.
TRAVELER'S Tip: Practice your outdoor skills at the first annual Wisconsin Outdoor Heritage Day on Saturday, September 27 at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds in Plymouth. People of all ages can practice tracking, shooting, angling and other outdoor skills. Take part in a turkey calling contest, try your hand at casting, fly-tying or bow-and-arrow target shooting. Learn the safe way to climb a tree stand, the proper way to field dress a deer, and how to cure a fur. Enjoy the food and information booths, the Wisconsin mammals exhibit and the demonstrations on working with a hunting dog. Hear speakers (including Jim Posewitz, author of Beyond Fair Chase) who'll address important outdoor issues.
The Wisconsin Junior Outdoorsman competition will be held during the event. Oh – need another pair of waders? Don't miss the sportsman's equipment swap sale! 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. $3 adults; under 16, free. For more details, or to buy space on a swap table, call Dan Redman, (414) 565-3615.