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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Lake Laura Hardwoods (No. 500)

Salsich Lake

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Vilas County. T41N-R8E, Sections 11, 12, 13, 14. 852 acres.



Situated on rolling to broken pitted outwash terrain between Lake Laura and Salsich Lake, Lake Laura Hardwoods features an extensive northern mesic forest that includes old-growth stands as well as mature stands that possess or are developing old-growth attributes. Some stands are over 250 years old. Canopy dominance varies from almost pure hemlock with white pine to pure hardwoods including sugar maple, yellow birch, and basswood. Reproduction is primarily sugar maple but balsam fir is an important sapling locally. Hemlock and yellow birch are reproducing well near Salsich Lake. The understory includes Canada mayflower, lycopods, intermediate wood fern, rough-leaved rice grass, and twisted stalk. Where sugar maple is dominant associates include yellow birch, red oak, white ash, basswood with occasional large white pine and hemlock. Common groundlayer species include Pennsylvania sedge, wood anemone, hepatica, American starflower, sessile-leaved bellwort, and false Solomon's seal. Shrubs present are leatherwood, beaked hazelnut, and American fly honeysuckle. Salsich Lake is a 48-acre soft-water seepage lake, which is ringed with a mature forest. Along the southeast shore is an old-growth hemlock-hardwood stand with a long history of research use by Purdue University and University of Wisconsin ecologist, John Curtis. The lake bottom is mostly sand with some gravel, boulders, and silt and supports a rare dragonfly that has only been found in Vilas County. The clear-water lake contains freshwater sponges, indicating high water quality. Animal life is diverse with bald eagle, broad-winged hawk, common loon, pileated woodpecker, evening grosbeak, blackburnian warbler, ovenbird, northern parula, and bobcat. Of note is the presence of lungwort, a lichen that is an indicator of undisturbed ecosystems. Lake Laura Hardwoods is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.


Driving directions

From Star Lake, go east on County Highway K 2 miles, then north on Deerfoot Road 0.7 miles to a boat launch. Walk west into the site.


Lake Laura 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.


Site objectives

Manage the site as a reserve for old growth northern mesic forest and dry-mesic forest, as an aquatic reserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the forest. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality northern mesic forests.

Management approach

Native species are managed passively, allowing nature to determine the ecological characteristics. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, and maintenance of existing facilities. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near state-approved snowmobile trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance must be minimized, and must have no impact on the rare species found at the site
  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township and county.


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: Friday, October 26, 2018