The historic Forest Lodge estate is located eight miles east of Cable, Wisconsin, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. Nestled among old growth forest, this unique north woods retreat is situated along two-plus miles of Lake Namekagon’s pristine southern shoreline. Lake Namekagon is the headwaters of the Namekagon River, part of the St. Croix National Scenic River, a unit of the National Park Service.
There are twelve structures on the Forest Lodge property, many of which are not yet renovated for public use. By 2020, it is expected that all of the buildings will be available for public use.
Forest Lodge Vision
Forest Lodge is a center for the environment that instills a compelling sense of place, whose programs help people connect with the land and inspire them to act responsibly on its behalf.
Forest Lodge Mission
Forest Lodge serves as a gathering place that offers unique opportunities to cultivate environmental leadership, study, reflection and connection with the land and supports organizations, businesses, and communities in their work to find practical and sustainable solutions for today’s environmental conditions and future challenges.
In 1999, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest accepted a gracious donation from Mary Griggs Burke of her 872 acre Forest Lodge estate with an obligation to “provide environmental research and educational programs on or related to the Mary Livingston Griggs Special Management Area.” Mary Griggs Burke donated Forest Lodge for the preservation of its unique property and to cultivate it as a premier center for environmental leadership, sustainability, and conservation education.
The property had no previous permit holders or public use. in 2002, Forest Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 2013, Forest Lodge has been in a transition period, having been closed to the public and now open—but with very limited facilities—due to the condition of the buildings. Building rehabilitation and preservation is in progress, and public educational programs began in 2016 for the first time in the property’s history.
Fulfilling the programmatic terms of the Endowment Agreement requires resources and expertise beyond that of the U.S. Forest Service. Therefore, the Forest Lodge Advisory Council and U.S. Forest Service turned to Northland College to develop and implement programmatic outreach. A partnership with Northland will ensure preservation of the estate’s infrastructure through consistent public use.
Limited facilities are in use, and many other others are in need of rehabilitation prior to public use. Only buildings that meet building code regulation, and deemed safe for use by the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Service, can be utilized for programming. By 2020, it is expected that all of the buildings at Forest Lodge will be available for public use. The duration for complete rehabilitation is limited by available funding from the Forest Lodge Endowment and other sources.
Northland College serves as the operator of Forest Lodge and will coordinate the use of its facilities for itself and by other institutions, organizations, and public and private groups. Program opportunities through this partnership will fundamentally foster long-term conservation management decisions, as well as influence human relationships with the natural world for generations to come.
Northland College, established in 1892, integrates liberal arts studies with an environmental emphasis. The College is an accredited higher learning institution, with a focus of providing unique education and research opportunities for undergraduate students which emphasize sustainability, experiential outdoor, and environmental education, natural resource management, and good stewardship practices.
Northland College is unique in its relationship to Forest Lodge and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Mary Burke was a major benefactor of both, donating funds for a wing of a science building at Northland College and donating Forest Lodge to the Forest Service, which in turn promised to turn the site into an “ecological campus. She oversaw the Forest Lodge Endowment Agreement to stipulate that the President of Northland College will hold a seat on the Advisory Council that oversees use of proceeds from that endowment.
Northland College currently conducts forestry and water science research at Forest Lodge and the greater Chequamegon Bay region. It has close working relationships with the Cable Natural History Museum and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College. Both are near Forest Lodge, and both are entering into, or have entered into agreements to partner on courses, programs, and future research at Forest Lodge.
One of Mary Burke’s foundations endowed Northland College’s Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation to operate on campus in Ashland and at Forest Lodge. Northland College coordinates day and residential programs including workshops, conferences, seminars, college credit and non-credit courses, interpretive tours, skills certifications, environmental education classes, and arts and humanities programs related to the natural world.
Special Management Areas (SMA) are established to protect and foster public use and enjoyment of areas with outstanding scenic, historical, geological, botanical, or other special characteristics. SMAs are managed in such a manner that the ecosystems are protected against serious environmental disruptions. Research is implemented compatibly with preserving the botanical environment. SMAs can provide recreation opportunities, however, motorized recreation is prohibited. Trails may be constructed and maintained if they do not adversely affect the SMA objectives.
There are four congressionally designated Special Management Areas on the 872-acre property.
Mary Livingston Griggs Historical Special Management Area
This fifty-acre area includes land possessing a significant site or concentration of sites, buildings, structures, or objects historically by plan or physical development, including Memorial areas. At Forest Lodge this consists of the twelve historic lodge buildings and grounds.
Fairyland Research Natural Area
This land is used only for research, study, observation, monitoring, and educational activities that do not alter their special or unique characteristics. At Forest Lodge this is an area of old growth hemlocks west of the Historical Special Management Area.
Mary Griggs Burke Scenic Special Management Area
This area include aesthetically scenic land and water sites. The Mary Griggs Burke Scenic Management Area includes the extensive undeveloped Lake Namekagon shoreline.
Mary Griggs Burke Botanical Special Management Area
Totally 600 acres, these areas are designation to unique ecological plant communities. At Forest Lodge, the mature mesic and dry-mesic forest south of Garmisch Road encompassing the Forest Lodge Nature Trail, has been identified as an outstanding example of a northern hardwoods forest.