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The Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests

On any given weekend, we seek rest, relaxation, and a bit of the great outdoors. For those of us who are venturing away from our homes, we pack up a few days worth of clothing, necessities, outdoor gear and head up north. But where is up north? It depends on which state you live in.

In Wisconsin, up north refers to the woodlands in the northern part of the state. This area was inhabited by Native American people prior to the 1600s when Jean Nicolet, a French explorer, came to the Great Lakes region and began to trade fur with the native people. Extensive logging in the late 1800s and early 1900s depleted the woodlands. Because of this, President Roosevelt established the Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests in the 1930s. He felt the need to set aside and protect some of the nationís land. The name Chequamegon (pronounced sho-wah-ma-gon) comes from the Ojibway language and means land of shallow water. The Nicolet National Forest was named after Jean Nicolet.

During the 1930s in the midst of the depression, President Roosevelt also established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Men were enlisted in the CCC to replant the depleted forest lands. The men planted thousands of acres of jack and red pine. After 10 years when the replanting was done, the CCC was deactivated.

Currently, the Chequamegon National Forest consists of 850,000 acres, while the Nicolet National Forest has over 660,000 acres. They are timber-producing forests and many items are harvested from the woods: Christmas trees, twigs, transplants, boughs, cones, moss, and firewood. Harvesting the woods keeps them in healthy condition. The state and small towns nearby benefit financially, economically and culturally.

The national forests have many activities available for visitors who seek to spend some time in the great outdoors. There are modern and rustic campgrounds. The modern campgrounds have flush toilets, showers, electricity, picnic tables, fire pits, and dumping grounds. Rustic campgrounds allow campers to get back to the basics with picnic tables, pit toilets, and fire pits.

The Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests have more than 200 miles of trails through the woodlands. One half-mile trail leads hikers to Morgan Falls and there they will see a 70-foot waterfall. Another 1.5 miles down the trail is St. Peterís Dome, the highest point in the Chequamegon National Forest. The hike is mostly uphill. Two other trails in the forest are a 60-mile section of the North Country Trail and a 40-mile segment of the Ice Age Trail.

The Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests are hosts to much recreation. The forests are a haven whether taking a scenic drive by car, hiking through the woods, or fishing for the big one.

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