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Northern Wisconsin Highlands Lakes Country

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About the Northern Wisconsin Highlands Lakes Country

The Northern Wisconsin Highlands Lakes Country, referred to in some documents as the Northern Highlands Lakes Country, is a region in northern Wisconsin, extending barely into the westernmost portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, characterized by coarse, acidic soils and a high density of lakes.

This region is a pitted outwash plain, with a high density of glacial lakes, mostly shallow, and numerous wetlands. The soils here are formed on deep, acidic glacial drift which are sandy or gravely and tend to be excessively-drained. The lakes here tend to be prone to acidification, both due to their shallow depths and the low buffering capacity of the soil. The climate is a cold humid continental climate, with extreme winters. In the northwest, lake effect provides a slight increase in precipitation, but this region is too far for the lake to moderate temperatures. The high portion of surface water is shallow and quickly freezes in winter, not providing much moderation to winter lows.

This area was originally covered with forests of mostly eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and red pine (Pinus resinosa). These areas were subject to frequent low-intensity fires but usually protected from high-intensity crown fires. The driest sites, especially in the southwest, where the water table is farther from the surface and severe fires were more common, supported open barrens of jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and jack oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis). There were some hardwood-conifer swamps, mostly near the borders of this region. Extensive peatlands filled depressions too shallow to form open lakes.

The red and white pine here were extensively logged around 1900, and the forests have since converted to an early-successional community of aspen and paper birch (Betula papyrifera). These forests are in turn utilized for pulp. There is some cranberry production in wetlands. The area is also extensively used for recreation. Significant areas of land are managed for grouse and other upland game birds. There are numerous protected public lands, mostly in the form of small nature preserves.

This region is bordered to the north by the Winegar Dead Ice Moraine, an area of ground moraine with more hardwoods in the forest. To the east lies the Brule and Paint River Drumlins, a region with fewer lakes, finer-textured, more poorly-drained soils, and mostly hardwoods. This border is a gradual transition and there are some features from both regions on each side of the border. There is a border to the south with the hillier Perkinstown End Moraines. To the west this region is bordered by the Chippewa Lobe Rocky Ground Moraines, and there is a tiny border north of that with the Chequamegon Moraines and Outwash Plain.

Plant Lists & In-Region Search

We do not yet have data to generate plant lists for a region as fine-tuned as this one. However you can move up to the broader Northern Lakes and Forests and generate lists for that region: native plants or all plants. Or search that region's plants here:


1. Omernik, J.M., Bryce, S.A. "Michigan: Level III and IV Ecoregion Descriptions / Mapping Issues", US EPA (2007) Web.

2. Albert, Dennis A. "Regional landscape ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin: a working map and classification.", General Technical Report NC-178, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN (1995) Web.