Places We Protect

Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area


Moss-covered tree trunks among fall leaves on the forest floor around the banks of a stream at the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area Preserve.
Wolter Wilderness The Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area is a great place to find beauty and solitude in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. © Randy Urry

This preserve protects nearly 10 miles of undeveloped shoreline on 15 wild lakes and ponds.



At this preserve you'll be able to hike through a portion of Wisconsin's North Woods. The 15 wild lakes and ponds at the preserve—with names like Upper and Lower Aimer, Knife, Battine, Bug and Canteen—host a rich diversity of fish and other aquatic species. The surrounding forests provide habitat for many native plants and wildlife species.

This area also serves 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 Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area is a part) serves as a travel corridor for large-ranging mammals including timber wolves and possibly moose and Canada lynx.




Open year-round, dawn to dusk


Birding, wildlife, fall color, cross-country skiing


2,641 acres

Explore our work in Wisconsin

Photos from Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area

From spectacular birding in spring and fall to cross-country skiing in the winter, there are year-round opportunities to explore the Wisconsin Northwoods at this preserve.

A male Blackburninan warbler perched on a branch.
A fisher pokes its head and front paws out of a hollow stump.
Lower Aimer Lake ripples under a blue sky with white clouds.
A pair of common loons face each other, beak to beak, as they float on a lake's surface.
A Northern leopard frog partially submerged in a clear pool in a forest.
An osprey soaring against a blue sky with a fish in its talons.
A rippling lake surrounded by autumnal trees on the lakeshore.
The ferns and understory of a forest in summer.
Cross-country skiers on snowy trail bordered by conifer trees with sun glinting on snow at Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area.
A male black-throated green warbler calling while perched on a branch.


  • Birds: In the summer, you’ll find neotropical migrant songbirds like the black-throated green and black-throated blue warblers, American redstarts, golden-winged warblers, magnolia warblers and mourning warblers among the forest trees. Along the lakes and ponds, you can see common loons, osprey, and an occasional bald eagle.

    Wildlife:  White-tailed deer are common throughout forests in this area. Otter, fisher, black bear and timber wolves are known to frequent the preserve.

    Habitats: The preserve harbors white pines up to 400 years old, wetlands including bogs and white cedar swamps, spring-fed ponds and many wild lakes and streams.

  • The preserve is open to the public for hiking, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and other low impact recreational activities, with fairly flat terrain and good trails. 

    Spring, summer and fall are all great times for birding at this spectacular preserve.

    In the winter, the Town of Presque Isle grooms 2.5 miles of the trails at the Wolter preserve for cross-country skiing. The rest of the trails are open for back country skiing and snow-shoeing. If you are snow-shoeing on the trails that are groomed, please walk beside the ski tracks rather than on top of them. Snowmobiles may use the existing snowmobile trail near County Highway B for winter recreation.

    Dogs are allowed on the preserve but must be on leash from April 1 to August 1 to protect ground-nesting birds. When dogs are off-leash, they must be kept under voice control by their owners at all times to prevent them from creating a nuisance on adjacent properties and residences.

    Carry-in access for non-motorized boats and canoes is allowed on all waters. Catch and release fishing with artificial lures only, is allowed on all waters.

    Good walking shoes or boots, long pants, water, and bug spray (in late spring through early fall) are recommended.

    The preserve is open for hunting and trapping in accordance with state law.

  • For more information about visiting the preserve, please follow the links below:

    All our preserve maps are now georeferenced. You can download an app on your Apple or Android device, and it will allow you to view your location, record GPS tracks, add placemarks and find places.


TNC bought the first piece of land at the preserve from Mrs. Catherine Wolter, a long-time resident of the Presque Isle area, in June 2000. Mrs. Wolter, and her late husband Fred Wolter, had owned and cared for the property for 58 years. Today, the protected land at the preserve totals 2,654 acres (including a 13-acre conservation easement) and includes nearly 10 miles of undeveloped shoreline on 15 wild lakes and ponds in northern Wisconsin. The preserve encompasses some of the last remaining lakes in northern Wisconsin where the native fish populations thrive with limited human influence.

At TNC's request, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee initiated a study of the lakes and ground water at the preserve in October 2000. They studied water flow and quality at the site and made a thorough inventory of the plant and animal life in the lakes. TNC used the information from the study to help guide management and access decisions at the preserve.

Nearby Preserves and Protected Areas

Need more nature? Visit The Nature Conservancy's other preserves or other local protected areas.