Welcome to the Minocqua area with 2,300 bodies of fresh water, the highest concentration in the world.
We are also home to the North Highland-American Legion State Forest. The NH-AL is the largest state forest in Wisconsin with 225,00 acres, 18 family campgrounds and 130 canoe and remote campsites.
The NH-AL is a heaven for paddlers, with 68 lakes designated as “Wilderness”, “Wild” or “Scenic”.
Wilderness Lakes are primarily forested with an undeveloped shoreline. Lakes are maintained in an undeveloped condition and without significant signs of human influence for recreational, ecological and habitat values.
On Wild Lakes human influence on the lake or its surrounding lands is not conspicuous. The shore-lands are primarily forested. The lakes are essentially undeveloped, other than primitive campsites and no structures are visible from the water.
Scenic Lakes preserve the present use, but designate a 400-foot scenic management zone surrounding each lake.
The Wilderness Lake shorelines are primarily forested, the forest composition varying with the site characteristics and the area’s management history. Each lake has an undeveloped shoreline, with no structures, except primitive campsites, within 1⁄4 mile. The lake and its shoreline within 1⁄4 mile, or to the visual horizon if it is further, are passively managed. Public motor vehicle use for lake access and all recreational uses are not allowed.
Six Wilderness Lakes
Thirty-three lakes are designated as Wild Lakes. On Wild Lakes human influence on the lake or its surrounding lands is not conspicuous. The shore-lands are primarily forested, the composition varying with the site characteristics and the area’s management history.
The lakes and their shore- lines, within 400 feet or to the visual horizon from the lake if that is further, are natural appearing without signs of management.
Thirty-three Wild Lakes
Due to a statewide policy change that tightened the criteria for allowable uses on designated wilderness and wild lakes, several NH-AL lakes that were designated under the 1982 plan no longer qualify for designation without changing their long established pattern of use. Under the revised forest plan they will be assigned a classification that fits their current conditions; thus, allowing all of the present uses and similar management objectives to continue.
Sixteen of these lakes fall within Native Community Management Areas that will have limited or no forest management in order to protect the natural scenic values of the lakeshore.
To continue the high level of shoreline protection, the shoreline of the remaining 29 lakes will be classified as scenic lake zones. A 400-foot scenic management zone, similar to the wild lake management zone, will surround each lake.
Twenty-nine Scenic Lakes
The Wisconsin DNR has put together some trips along the Manitowish River in the NH-AL State Forest.
The Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest offers canoeists the opportunity to camp along rivers and lakes at designated canoe campsites. There are currently over 70 sites on the State Forest. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring. Sites are numbered and marked with yellow signs displaying a tepee. Portages are designated by yellow signs with crossed paddles.
Trip 1: High Lake to Fishtrap Dam
Put-in at the High Lake boat landing on the south side of Hwy. B. The small creek leads to High Lake. Travel southwest through a culvert into Fishtrap Lake. Once through Fishtrap, the river meanders past Johnson and Nixon tributary creeks. Take out at the portage just upstream from the Fishtrap Dam. The 7.5 mile segment could be a day trip or an overnight trip. Total paddling time is 4 hours.
Trip 2: Fishtrap Dam to Highway K
Take Hwy. M north of Boulder Junction and turn on High-Fishtrap Road. Stay to the right which is Dam Road. Put in below the dam that is downstream from the boat landing. The take-out is 6.1 miles at the boat landing just upstream from Hwy. K. Paddling time is 3 hours. This could be a day or overnight trip.
Trip 3: Highway K to Highway 51
Put-in for this segment is just below the rapids on Hwy. K. This segment is 15.5 miles and 8 hours of paddling. Allow several days for this trip. A short portage for the ten foot dam at Rest Lake and Hwy. W is required. Take out where the Manitowish River and Hwy. 51 intersect. For a shorter trip (4 hrs.) take out at the Island Lake boat landing.
Trip 4: Highway 51 to Murray's Landing
The last segment begins below the Hwy. 51 bridge and runs 17 miles. A USGS topographic map is recommended for this trip as the river flows into the Flambeau Flowage, but not directly to Murray’s Landing. Allow at least an overnight stay for this trip. Paddling time is 12 hours. Taking out at the Hwy. 51 Wayside or the Hwy. 47 bridge can shorten this segment. Once past the Hwy. 47 bridge there is no take out until Murray’s Landing. Allow 8 hours paddling time for the Hwy. 47 to Murray’s Landing segment.
Trip 5: White Sand to Trout River Trip
This trip begins at White Sand Lake north of Hwy. K. Travel south across a portage from White Sand to Lost Canoe. From Lost Canoe, portage into Pallette. Pallette Lake has three portages. The portage to Stevenson Springs keeps you on the route to Trout Lake. The portage to Escanaba can be a side trip. Escanaba Lake is 100% state owned and a beautiful place to paddle. Be aware that Escanaba and Pallette are research lakes and no fishing is allowed without a permit. Permits must be returned by the end of each day. Staying on the route and portaging to Stevenson springs will bring you to a sand road. Pull over on this road to a small creek which flows to the North Trout Campground and boat landing. Beaver dams will be located along this stretch. The White Sand to North Trout Campground section of this route can be used as a day or overnight trip. From South Trout Lake, take the Trout River which passes through Wild Rice, Alder, and Manitowish Lakes. Paddling north of Manitowish Lake and under the Hwy. 51 bridge into Spider allows you to connect with the Manitowish River Trip. There are a total of three portages on this route. The total distance is 19 miles but can be divided into smaller routes.
Trip 6: Wisconsin River Trip, Cloverland Drive to Bridge Road
The put-in for this trip is just below the Cloverland Dam off Cloverland Road, west of Eagle River south of Hwy. 70. There are three sites along 20 miles of River. Each site is separated by fairly long stretches of river. The first site is on the south shore of the river just east of a wide shallow open water area. The next site is downstream of the Rainbow Reservoir just below Rainbow Rapids. If you wish to make this trip shorter you can pull out at Newbold Memorial Park, located on the left side of the river just downstream from the River Road bridge. The third and southernmost site is just downstream of the confluence of the Horsehead creek. The river is approximately 100 feet wide here with sweeping current. Take out is at Fredrich Landing, located on the right, just downstream of the double set of bridges on Bridge Road near McNaughton. Motors are allowed on this stretch but will most likely be concentrated on the Rainbow Flowage. A Rainbow Flowage map and a good topographical map are suggested for this route.
NH-AL Trip 6 (PDF)
All information is sourced from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.