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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Forbes Springs (No. 490)

Forbes Springs

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR



Within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Oconto County. T33N-R17E, Sections 20, 29. 20 acres.



The centerpiece of this site is Forbes Springs, a spring pond. From this pond exits Forbes Creek, a fast, hard, cold waterway. Although outside the designated SNA, the adjacent federally designated Old-growth site also has some fine wetlands including a lengthy stretch of black ash and white cedar. A section of the cedar swamp houses a large number of rare plant populations. Other natural communities include northern mesic forest dominated by sugar maple and paper birch. Within the uplands there is some white pine regeneration. Early site surveys indicated the presence of super-canopy white pine, but a later survey only found 80 year old post logging trees, probably of fire origin. Some beech regeneration was encountered. Despite the ease of access to this site, protecting it affords the opportunity to preserve a collection of wetlands that supports viable populations of rare plants along with the spring source of the wetlands. Forbes Springs is owned by the US Forest Service and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.


Driving directions

From Lakewood, go east on County Highway F 3.1 miles, then east on FR 2101 (Smyth Road) seven miles, then north on Holt Ranch Road 0.15 mile to a footpath on the west side marked with a brown "Tour Stop 15" sign. Park along the road and walk west on the footpath. A short boardwalk leads to the spring pond.


Forbes Springs is owned by:

  • US Forest Service


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.

To create your own custom map where you can zoom to a specific location, please use the DNR's mapping application.


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.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Non-DNR lands

Entrance fees: For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

Hunting and trapping

This is a non-DNR owned SNA: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the land owner. Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the "Resources" heading above. More details regarding allowable uses of this non-DNR owned SNA may be posted, if available, under the "Access" tab above.

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Other activities

Other allowable activities such as - but not limited to camping, geocaching and bicycling are determined by the landowner. Please contact them directly or visit their websites for details.

Last revised: Monday, March 27, 2023