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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Dunn Lake (No. 237)

Dunn Lake

Photo by E. Epstein



Vilas County. T43N-R7E, Section 12, 13, 24. T43N-R8E, Section 18. 954 acres.



Dunn Lake features a mosaic of communities surrounding the lake, giving the area a wilderness aspect. The site contains an outstanding example of northern mesic forest, with super-canopy white pine above large hemlock, yellow birch, sugar maple, and basswood. This undisturbed stand lies on the northeast side of Dunn Lake and extends eastward across the Presque Isle River. Another old-growth stand lies on an upland peninsula west of Sanborn Lake. The Presque Isle River is a meandering, soft, warm water stream that supports a high diversity of native aquatic plants. Bordering the stream are excellent examples of northern sedge meadow, alder thicket, and northern wet forest communities. Recent beaver activity has altered the composition of these. The uplands to the south have been subjected to intensive timber harvest. Bald eagles have nested in the large white pines. Dunn Lake is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1990.


Driving directions

Public access is via the Presque Isle River. There is no upland public access at this time. Please contact the State Natural Areas Program for more information.


Dunn Lake 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, March 25, 2019