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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Plum Lake Hemlock Forest (No. 26)

Plum Lake Hemlock Forest

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Within Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Vilas County. T41N-R8E, Sections 16, 21, 22, 27, 28. 747 acres.



Plum Lake Hemlock Forest is a near virgin stand of old-growth on rolling topography between Star Lake and Plum Lake. Canopy trees include hemlock, yellow birch, sugar maple, basswood, and paper birch. The presence of large white birch suggests a fire origin with the stand originating around 1810 and succeeding from aspen to pine to hemlock. Selective cutting of white pine, as evidenced by scattered stumps, occurred in the 1880's. Seedlings of birch and red maple are present, but hemlock reproduction is sparse due to overbrowsing by deer, which often use the area as a winter deer yard. The forest contains substantial numbers of snags and course woody debris strewn about the forest floor. Shrubs, though not dense, include mountain maple, American fly honeysuckle, and red elderberry. The understory includes a diversity of herbaceous species including Canada mayflower, shining club-moss, creeping-snowberry, bunchberry, American starflower, pipsissewa, lesser rattlesnake-plantain, and Indian-pipe. Nesting birds include red-eyed vireo, black-throated green warbler, blackburnian warbler, northern parula, winter wren, ovenbird, hermit thrush, and veery. Plum Lake Hemlock Forest is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1953.


Driving directions

From the north junction of State Highway 155 and County Highway N in Sayner, go west on N 2.1 miles, then north 4.2 miles on Razorback Road, then east 1 mile on Rearing Pond Road, then south at the T intersection 0.5 mile to the western boundary. Park along the road and walk southeast into the site. To access the eastern portion, from the south junction of 155 and N in Sayner, go east and north on N 4.8 miles, then southwest on Tramper's Trail (Hook Lake Road) 0.8 miles to a parking area.


Plum Lake Hemlock Forest is owned by:

  • WDNR


The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.

The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.


Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

Allowable activities

In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Monday, June 10, 2019