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Wisconsin

Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve


Why You Should Visit

At this 971-acre preserve, you can hike through 500 acres of old-growth forest and explore nearly four miles of undeveloped shoreline on the pristine waters of Tenderfoot, Roach, and Mirror lakes.

Location

Northern Wisconsin: in Vilas County, northeast of Boulder Junction

Hours

Open year-round, dawn to dusk, except from December to ice-out due to treacherous ice conditions on lakes and river.  Palmer and Tenderfoot lakes freeze in the winter but the Ontonagon River does not.

Contact

For more information about the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve, call our Northwoods office at (715) 358-6305.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The Tenderfoot acquisition is significant because it protects 500 acres of old-growth hemlock-hardwood forest--the largest remaining expanse of old-growth forest in private ownership in Wisconsin.

The preserve also protects more than four miles of undeveloped shoreline on three wild lakes in northern Wisconsin.  According to a 1996 report by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, two-thirds of northern Wisconsin’s undeveloped lakes 10 acres or larger have been developed since 1960.  If this trend continues, according to the report, all undeveloped lakes in northern Wisconsin not in public ownership could be developed within the next 20 years.

Tenderfoot is a critical link in a network of public and private forest lands that make up the Border Lakes Area, which spans about 24,000 acres in Vilas County.  The area harbors white pines up to 400 years old and includes wetlands, spring-fed ponds, many wild lakes and streams.

The Border Lakes Area is also the headwaters of the Presque Isle and Ontonagon rivers.  The Tenderfoot property contributes surface water and groundwater to both rivers, whose watersheds cover more than 1.25 million acres in Wisconsin and Michigan.  Management of the land will play an important role in protecting water quality in these two important rivers.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

In October 2005, the Conservancy purchased the land from the Rahr family, which is originally from Manitowoc where they brewed beer and made malt for the beer industry. The family donated more than $1 million of the value of the land to the Conservancy in order to ensure that the property remains in its natural state for generations to come.

Prior to selling the land to the Conservancy, the Rahr family had owned and cared for it for more than 120 years. The preserve is named in honor of Guido Rahr, Sr., who served on the Wisconsin Conservation Commission for 23 years in the 1950s and 60s.  During those years, his leadership and business experience were credited with making Wisconsin’s Conservation Department one of the most outstanding wildlife agencies in the nation.

What to See: Wildlife

As a link between the one-million-acre Ottawa National Forest, located to the north in Michigan, and the 220,000-acre Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, located to the south in Wisconsin, the Border Lakes area (of which the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve is a part) serves as a travel corridor for large-ranging mammals including timber wolves and possibly moose.

Wildlife that use the area include bald eagles, osprey, loons, and neotropical migratory songbirds like the rare black-throated blue warbler.  Also, you might see otters, fishers, black bears, wolves, and other mammals like the rare American marten.

Access to Tenderfoot is by water from the Palmer Lake boat landing.

The preserve is open to the public from sunrise to sunset for hiking, bird-watching, fishing and other low impact recreational activities, with fairly flat terrain and good trails.  Be sure to remember water and bring insect repellant in late spring, summer, and early fall.  There are no restroom facilities at the preserve.

Please help protect this unique area by following these guidelines:

  • Catch and release fishing with artificial lures is encouraged to protect Mirror and Roach lakes from introduction of invasive species.
  • Hunting for whitetail deer and ruffed grouse is allowed in accordance with state law.  For information about our hunting program, call (608) 251-8140, ext. 502 or check out the Frequently Asked Questions page of our web site.
  • Camping, picnic fires, horseback riding, biking, other wheeled vehicles or devices, and off-road vehicle use are not allowed.
  • Dogs are allowed on the preserve but must be on leash from April 1 to August 1 to protect ground-nesting birds.
  • Make sure your shoes/boots are clean of any mud that may transport invasive plant seeds to the preserve from other locations and pack out everything you packed in.
  • Collecting plants, animals, and minerals is allowed for scientific research only and requires a permit from The Nature Conservancy.
  • Please stay on marked trails and respect private property surrounding the preserve.

Please see our Preserve Visitation Guidelines for more information.

Directions

Access to Tenderfoot is by water from the Palmer Lake boat landing.

From Minocqua (approximately 27 miles): Take Hwy 51 north to County Hwy M through Boulder Junction to County Hwy B. Turn right (east) on Hwy B and go approximately 9 miles to Palmer Lake Road. Go 2 miles on Palmer Lake Road to boat launch.

Travel by boat/canoe across north end of Palmer Lake to Ontonagon River. Travel down river to Tenderfoot Lake, around the island, and northwest across the lake to TNC boat landing on opposite shore. Total distance is approximately 3 miles one way; travel time by canoe/kayak is about 1 hour one way. (Map to Tenderfoot)

Discussion

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Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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