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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Catherine Lake Hemlock-Hardwoods (No. 501)



Within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Iron County. T43N-R4E, Sections 1, 2, 11, 12. 829 acres.



Catherine Lake Hemlock-Hardwoods features an extensive stand of mature, mesic forest on rolling moraine located on the east side of Catherine Lake. Although the forest varies in quality and composition, the eastern half contains a relict old-growth stand dominated by large hemlock, yellow birch, and sugar maple with the largest trees averaging near 50 inches in diameter. Super-canopy white pine occur near the lake. With some trees estimated at 250+ years in age, it is likely that the least disturbed areas of the SNA were never clear-cut during the cut-over era. These areas contain old-growth characteristics including snags, tip-up mounds, coarse woody debris, and a multi-layered canopy. The groundlayer is diverse and includes species such as red baneberry, maidenhair fern, wild sarsaparilla, American starflower, Canada mayflower, early coral-root, sharp-lobed hepatica, lycopods, naked miterwort, large-leaved shinleaf, and twisted stalk. Wetter areas contain an understory that includes bog rosemary, grass pink, wild calla, pitcher plant, round-leaf sundew, mountain wood-sorrel, bunchberry, three-leaved goldthread, and yellow blue-bead lily. Associated with the extensive uplands forests are five small undeveloped lakes, a complex of wetland communities including open bog, black spruce swamp, emergent marsh, sedge meadow, and alder thicket. The site supports numerous rare plants and animals including black-throated blue warbler, cape may warbler, gray jay, giant rattlesnake plantain, and northern black currant. Catherine Lake Hemlock-Hardwoods is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.


Driving directions

From Winchester, go north on Beaver Lake Road 0.6 miles, then northwest on Bruette Road 1 mile to a DNR gate located just before the private property. Park and walk west into the site (please do not block the gate). Numerous recently opened woods roads lead to the SNA. The site can also be reached by boat via the Fisher Lake boat launch off of East Fisher Lake Road.


Catherine Lake Hemlock-Hardwoods 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.

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.

Entrance fees: Excepting Parfrey's Glen, the Cambrian Outlook in the Dells of the Wisconsin River, SNAs within State Parks and some within State Forests, all other DNR-owned SNAs do not have any admission fee. For more information, see Wis. Admin. Code NR 45. For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

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

Although a handful of sites allow activities like primitive camping (e.g. Lower Chippewa River on sand bars) or horseback riding (e.g. S. Kettle Moraine), the activities listed below are generally prohibited on DNR-owned SNAs.

  • 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
  • Drones: Flying-related activities, including the use of drones, hang-gliders and model airplanes, are prohibited. Permission may be issued by the SNA Program for the use of drones for educational or research purposes.
  • 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, March 27, 2023