This 1,044-acre preserve is a great place to experience the serenity and beauty of the wild, undeveloped lakes that epitomize Wisconsin's Northwoods, but which are becoming increasingly rare.
North Central Wisconsin: in Ashland County, near Mellen
Open year-round, dawn to dusk
There is a good, relatively flat walking trail that will take you to Twin Lakes (2 miles round trip), and another that will lead you to land owned by Ashland County (this trail is not well-marked). Visitors can canoe, cross-country ski, hunt, and fish at the preserve.
Caroline Lake forms the headwaters of the Bad River. Its clean, clear water contributes to the high water quality of the river and of the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs—16,000 acres of wild rice, grasses, sedges, trees, streams, and open water located along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The Sloughs are the largest and healthiest full-functioning estuarine system remaining in the upper Great Lakes region.
In 1997, The Nature Conservancy purchased 1,044 acres from Georgia-Pacific Corporation. The preserve is enrolled in the Managed Forest Law, and a management plan has been written that provides for a sustainable working forest while meeting the goals of protecting natural processes, water quality, and biodiversity. Timber harvesting at the preserve began in the winter of 2003.
In 1999, as part of the "Great Addition," the State of Wisconsin purchased almost all of the remaining shoreline of Caroline Lake with intentions of managing the property as a dedicated State Natural Area.
Caroline Lake Preserve is one of several sites being used by Northland College to study the effect that deer and hare browsing have on the regeneration of conifer trees. Northland College is also monitoring the understory vegetation of northern hardwood forests, including those at Caroline Lake (PlantWatch Program).
The last glaciation left northern Wisconsin dotted with more than 12,400 lakes. Pressure to develop this lake resource has been increasing dramatically. In 1960, there were approximately 1,200 privately-owned lakes with no development. Since that time, more than 700 of those lakes have been developed with one or more dwellings. The Conservancy's Caroline Lake Preserve protects the majority of the shoreline around Caroline Lake and Twin Lake-East and Twin Lake-West.
The surrounding forests are composed of mainly balsam fir, aspen, hemlock, yellow birch, maples and pines.
The wetlands surrounding the lakes provide important nesting and migratory stopover habitat for mallards, blue-winged teals, common loons, and neotropical migrants.
Please see "Preserve Visitation Guidelines"