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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Papoose Creek Pines (No. 503)

Papoose Creek Pines

Photo by Josh Mayer



Within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Vilas County. T42N-R5E, Sections 2, 3, 4. 563 acres.



The sandy-soiled flats bordering Papoose Creek support a medium-aged but representative dry-mesic to dry forest dominated by red pine and white pine. Canopy associates include red oak, paper birch, red maple, and near the creek, white spruce and balsam fir. The natural origin pines are approximately 80 to 100 years old, well-stocked and contain a diverse shrub and ground layer. Most mature stands have medium-large trees up to 15 inches, and a moderate shrub layer of beaked hazelnut, over bracken fern, barren strawberry, big-leaved aster, and wintergreen. Other characteristic understory species include princess' pine, pipsissewa, trailing arbutus, and gay-wings. Near the creek where white spruce is common, the groundlayer includes three-leaved goldthread, twinflower, and bunchberry. Bordering the fast-flowing creek is a mixed shrub swamp of alder, sweet-fern, spiraea, and willows. Bird life includes evening grosbeak, pine siskin, red crossbill, Nashville warbler, pine warbler, hermit thrush, and golden-crowned kinglet. Papoose Creek Pines is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highway 51 and County W in Manitowish Waters, go north on W 2.1 miles, then east on County K 1.2 miles. The majority of the site lies north of the road.


Papoose Creek Pines 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 northern dry-mesic forest preserve, as an aquatic preserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes, in addition to a timber harvest, brushing and prescribed burn program, will determine the structure of the pine tracts. Natural processes alone will determine the structure of the remainder of the forest and associated wetlands. Note: It is understood that over the course of time, the red pine tract under a fire management regime will differ dramatically from other areas that are managed passively. Other State Natural Areas, however, are managed to succeed from an old-growth oak/red pine cover type to more mesic forest. Both management scenarios are needed as ecological reference areas.

Management approach

The management in areas away from Papoose Creek is accomplished with occasional timber harvest to reduce the hardwoods, and controlled low-intensity ground fires (not reaching the canopy) to top-kill shrubs once every 15-25 years. Limited brush and slash reduction may need to precede these burns. The road and river provide excellent fire breaks. The older pine plantations are managed by thinning the pines to attain a more natural appearing pine forest. The remaining areas are managed passively, allowing nature to determine the ecological characteristics. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township.
  • Snowmobile trail maintenance is provided by the local snowmobile club under guidelines provided by the Department.


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