Places We Protect

Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve


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

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



Why You Should Visit

At this 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.

Take a virtual tour of the Tenderfoot Forest Reserve


For more information about the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve, call our Northwoods office at 715-388-7171.

Why TNC 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. 

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 TNC 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.




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.


971 acres

Explore our work in this region

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.

Plan Your Visit

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 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. 
  • 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 July 31 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.
  • 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.

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 Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve You’re invited to take a virtual video trip to our Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve.

All of 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.