Places We Protect

Wild Rivers Legacy Forest


Water in a small stream flows over a series of rock ledges among boulders covered with moss and surrounded by a conifer forest.
Woods Creek TNC led protection of 64,600 acres, known as the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest, which encompasses 48 lakes and ponds and more than 70 miles of rivers and streams. © Nick Miller/TNC

At more than 64,600 acres, The Wild Rivers Legacy Forest is exceptionally rich in diversity.



A project of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Forestry LLC, Forest Investment Associates and The Nature Conservancy.

Why This Place is Special

More than 14 miles of two Wild Rivers—the Pine and the Popple—flow through the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest. The property also contains one of the finest remaining wild lakes complexes in Wisconsin, composed of Savage, Dorothy, Mud and Robago lakes. Sugar maple, basswood, hemlock and yellow birch trees preside over a forest understory of maidenhair ferns, club mosses and great white trillium. Wildlife, including bears, flying squirrels and porcupines, is abundant.

Land Ownership

The State of Wisconsin owns 5,629 acres at Wild Rivers Legacy Forest, which is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as part of its Pine-Popple Wild Rivers Area. The state land contains most of the river frontage on the Pine and Popple and the wild lakes complex.

The remainder of the land—58,988 acres—is owned by Conservation Forestry LLC and Forest Investment Associates, and is managed for timber production. A working forest conservation easement held by the state and TNC keeps the land open for recreation and ensures that the forest is managed sustainably.

TNC negotiated the transaction with International Paper that resulted in protection of the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest. TNC does not own any land in the project area. 

Why TNC Selected This Site

At more than 64,600 acres, The Wild Rivers Legacy Forest is exceptionally rich in its diversity of life. It contains 48 lakes and ponds and more than 70 miles of rivers and streams—including portions of two wild rivers—that flow into and contribute to water quality in Green Bay and the larger Great Lakes system.

The forests and waters provide food and shelter for eagles, songbirds and wolves, as well as jobs, forest products and recreation opportunities.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

This project, which is an unprecedented partnership among TNC, the State of Wisconsin, and two timber investment companies, began with a purchase from International Paper, which was negotiated by TNC in 2006. The state now owns the heart of the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest—a core of wild and scenic rivers and lakes comprising 5,629 acres in Florence County. Together with TNC, it also owns a working forest conservation easement on nearly 59,000 acres. The timber companies own that land and the right to manage it for timber production, but the people of Wisconsin own the public access and development rights as well as the right to ensure that forestry activities are conducted in ways that protect wildlife habitat, water quality and forest health and diversity while maintaining local forest industry jobs.

Funding for the project was provided by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (through the Forest Legacy Program), Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and Nature Conservancy supporters.

Learn how to visit the Pine-Popple Wild Rivers Area.




64,617 acres

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