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Lower Tomahawk River Pines

No. 588


Photo by R. Wernerehl


Lower Tomahawk River Pines features mature stands of dry-mesic pine forest, which were historically prevalent over large portions of this ecoregion but are now rare and diminishing. This site is one of the few tracts of relatively intact, natural-origin pine forests along this portion of the Tomahawk River corridor. Historical vegetation indicates this area was part of a larger Pine Barrens ecosystem that developed on the outwash plains associated with the Lower Tomahawk and Wisconsin Rivers.

Mature stands of fire origin, mixed pine forest border the lower reaches of the Tomahawk River and Swamp Creek. Understory species include large-leaved aster, pipsissewa, bunchberry, trailing arbutus, wintergreen, twinflower, shining clubmoss, princess pine, and bracken fern. Associated wetlands include northern sedge meadow, alder thicket, and tamarack swamp. Scattered silver maples are found along the wide floodplain of the river. In this stretch, the Tomahawk River is wide and slow-moving with a sand and muck bottom.

Bird life includes golden-crowned kinglet, yellow-bellied sapsucker, pine warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler. Rare species include a state-threatened dragonfly, which requires clean, forested, fast-flowing streams for survival. It is one of the least tolerant groups of aquatic insects to perturbations in water quality. Protection of the forest river corridor will be of benefit to this and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Lower Tomahawk River Pines is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2008.

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the Maps tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and a detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Entrance fees: Except for Parfrey's Glen, the Cambrian Outlook in the Dells of the Wisconsin River, SNAs within State Parks and some within State Forests, all other DNR-owned SNAs do not have any admission fees. For more information, see Wis. Admin. Code NR 45 [exit DNR]. For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

Allowable activities: DNR-owned land

The activities listed below are generally allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted above and posted with signs on the property site.

Prohibited activities: all SNAs

Although a handful of sites allow activities like primitive camping (e.g. Lower Chippewa River on sand bars) or horseback riding (e.g. S. Kettle Moraine), the activities listed below are generally prohibited on DNR-owned SNAs.

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead.
  • Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Drones: Flying-related activities, including the use of drones, hang-gliders and model airplanes, are prohibited. Permission may be issued by the SNA Program for the use of drones for educational or research purposes
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use.

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR].


Oneida County. T36N-R6E, Sections 9, 16. 242 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of County K and State Highway 47 north of Rhinelander, go west on K for 12.8 miles, then continue west on Swamp Lake Road for 2.2 miles, then south on Prairie Lake Road for 1.7 miles to the northwest corner of the site. The site is also accessible by boat. Put in at the Bearskin Trail crossing off County Highway L and canoe downstream about 3 miles to the site.

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities.

Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details. The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries. To create your custom map where you can zoom to a specific location, please use the DNR's Mapping Application.

Property Map [PDF]

Lower Tomahawk River Pines is owned by: Wisconsin DNR

Management objectives and prescriptions

Improve the existing primitive road to a lightly developed road from the parking area to the water to serve as a carry-in boat launch. Improvements will include adding a gravel base and a small vehicle turnaround area. Parking will not be allowed at the launch turnaround. All other primitive roads will remain closed to vehicles.

Willow Flowage Master Plan [PDF]