Places We Protect

Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve


Guido Rahr Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve, Wisconsin © Greg Anderson

Tenderfoot is a critical link in a network of public and private forest lands.



At the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve, 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.

Tenderfoot Reserve 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.  Land management will play an important role in protecting water quality in these two important rivers.




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.


Old-growth forest, wild lakes, wildlife


971 acres

Explore our work in Wisconsin

Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve Photos

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.

Two people in kayaks on a lake bordered by fall trees; a third kayak is nearly out of frame on the left side with only the paddle the back of the kayak visible.
A pine marten with snow on in its nose looking directly into the camera.
A male chestnut-sided warbler perched on a branch.
Trees with bright orange, red, and yellow fall foliage along the shore of Palmer Lake.
An adult common loon on a lake, stretching out its wings.
A bald eagle flying over an icy lake with a fish clutched in its talons.
A black bear sitting partially behind a tree, looking directly at the camera with one paw on the tree.
Looking up at the yellow and orange leaves of the Northwoods forest canopy in fall.
A single bobcat walking through the snow in Wisconsin.
A male black-throated blue warbler on a branch.


  • 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 black-throated blue warbler.  You might also 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 for hiking, bird-watching, fishing and other 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:


    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.


In October 2005, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased this property 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 TNC to ensure that the property remains in its natural state for generations to come.

Prior to selling the land to TNC, 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.

Virtual Tour

You’re invited to take a virtual video trip to our Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve in northern Wisconsin with Nature Conservancy Deputy Director for Conservation Matt Dallman, author and naturalist John Bates and long-time volunteer Rod Sharka. Visit the preserve, learn why the old-growth forest at Tenderfoot is so remarkable and see the critters using our new boardwalk. Watch the video below to join us! 

Tour the Tenderfoot Forest Reserve (7:12) Take a virtual your of TNC's Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve in northern Wisconsin. You'll see one of the few old-growth hemlock forests in Wisconsin, a beautiful wild lake and wildlife captured by our wildlife cam on our new boardwalk.

Nearby Preserves and Protected Areas

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