The Border Lakes Area is a 24,000-acre expanse of forests, wetlands, lakes, and streams along Wisconsin’s northern boundary with Michigan. It is part of a much larger ecosystem that contains two major river systems, a number of untouched glacial lakes, and some of the highest-quality old growth northern hardwood and hemlock forests remaining in the Midwest. This ecosystem, the Ontonagon-Presque Isle Watershed, spans more than 1.2 million acres from northeastern Wisconsin across the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Lake Superior shoreline.
Border Lakes contains the headwaters of the Presque Isle and Ontonagon rivers along with more than 100 lakes connected by a complex network of high quality wetlands and streams. These waters include numerous aquatic habitats and a diverse assemblage of native fish and other wildlife.
The area links the one-million-acre Ottawa National Forest in Michigan with the 220,000-acre Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest in Wisconsin. As such, Border Lakes serves as a corridor for wide-ranging mammals including timber wolves, the American marten, and moose.
The Nature Conservancy began working in the Border Lakes Area in 1996, when the Dunne and Hinrichs families donated a conservation easement on 502.7 acres of forested land. We now protect additional land at the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area and the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. In Wisconsin, the Conservancy has helped conserve more than 141,000 acres since 1960.
Conserving large blocks of forestland by protecting them from fragmentation and development.
The Conservancy is working with local landowners and communities to maintain and restore the area’s lands and waters in a way that benefits the vitality of habitats, native plants, wildlife and the local economy. Here are some examples of how we work:
Local community concerns are important to us. Some of the ways we “give back” to the community include:
The Conservancy owns 3,220 acres at two preserves in the Border Lakes Area:
As of January 3, 2012, the Conservancy has helped protect a total of 4,050 acres in the Border Lakes Area. This figure includes lands owned and managed by the Conservancy, conservation easements, government co-ops and assists.
The Nature Conservancy owns and manages two preserves in the Border Lakes Area:
The Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area is a 2,249-acre preserve located between Presque Isle and Boulder Junction. The preserve’s many lakes and ponds provide habitat for species like osprey, loons, and otters. It offers excellent opportunities for birdwatching, including such migratory songbirds as the black-throated blue warbler, American redstart, and golden-winged, magnolia, and mourning warblers.
The Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve comprises 971 acres in Vilas County near the Wisconsin–Michigan border. It includes nearly four miles of undeveloped shoreline and 500 acres of old-growth hemlock hardwood forest. The clear, healthy waters of its three lakes contain such sportfish as northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, sunfish, bass, and pumpkinseed.
The preserves are open for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, birdwatching, and other low-impact recreation. Carry-in access for non-motorized boats is available on all waters at the Wolter Wilderness Area. Canoeing, kayaking, and motorized boating is allowed on Tenderfoot Lake. The public may hunt and fish at both preserves.
Matt Dallman, Director of Conservation
If you have any questions about The Nature Conservancy's Border Lakes Area project, please call us at (715) 358-6305.