Activities, Attractions, ATVing/UTVing, Downhill Skiing, Hiking, Snowmobiling

The Northwoods’ newest gem: The Pelican River Forest

The Northwoods’ newest gem: The Pelican River Forest

Did you know that Oneida County is the new home to one of Wisconsin’s largest-ever conservation projects? The 70,000-acre Pelican River Forest is an important wilderness area that will now be protected and open to the public for hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, and more—read on to learn more about this exciting natural asset.

What is the Pelican River Forest? Where is it located?

The Pelican River Forest consists of nearly 70,000 acres of land in Oneida, Forest, and Langlade counties. The forest is located on the eastern end of Oneida County, near the towns of Monico and Pelican Lake.

The Pelican River Forest boasts 68 miles of streams and connects the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest with the Oneida County Forest and the Langlade County Forest.

Species of trees in the forest include hard maple, oak, aspen, spruce, red pine, and jack pine, and the forest is an important source of lumber for more than a dozen mills in Oneida County and beyond.

What is the history of the Pelican River Forest?

The Conservation Fund—a Virginia-based organization that works to protect and conserve important lands and waters throughout the country—purchased the roughly 70,000-acre property in 2021. In January 2024, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced the approval of an additional conservation easement covering approximately 55,000 acres of the Pelican Forest, making it one of the largest conservation projects in Wisconsin history.

What can I do in the Pelican River Forest?

While the forest property will be privately owned, it will be open to the public for various types of outdoor recreation, including hiking, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ATVing/UTVing and more.

What does the conservation easement do?

According to the governor’s office, the conservation easement will:

  • Protect 58 miles of rivers and streams and 22,334 acres of wetlands
  • Protect more than seven miles of Class I and II designated cold-water trout streams
  • Ensure the land remains forested and is sustainably managed as a working forest
  • Store approximately 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
  • Permanently secure public access and open 56 miles of roads designated for motorized vehicle use
  • Connect important snowmobile/ATV/UTV trail routes to Oneida County’s 1,100-mile trail network

Learn more at the Friends of the Pelican River Forest website.

Learn more about the Conservation Fund’s Pelican River Forest project.

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