One of our favorite walks, especially in fall, is a short half mile loop trail at the Round Lake logging dam in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Price County. It is an easy walk taking about one to two hours, depending on how long you want to linger at scenic spots, sitting on benches, bird watching, and studying interpretive signs along the trail.
In the late 1800s, lumber barons built hundreds of logging dams in northern Wisconsin. The Round Lake dam is the only one remaining built around 1876. The structure raised water levels in spring to push white pine logs down the South Fork of the Flambeau River to sawmills downstream.
The Round Lake land and dam were sold to the USDA Forest Service after the death of Otto C. Doering who bought the land in the early 1990s to build his family’s summer home. He was a preservationist and conservationist who knew and communicated with Aldo Leopold, a famous Wisconsin conservationist. Doering restored the dam and the land, planting thousands of trees and restoring the wildlife following similar land ethic principles Leopold used to restore his Wisconsin “waste” land along the Wisconsin River near Baraboo. The dam was restored once again in the early 1990s by a partnership of the Friends of the Round Lake Logging Dam, the Price County Historical Society, and the USDA Forest Service. Working together they used much of the salvageable historical timbers and hardware allowing it to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We enjoy the area for many reasons, the main ones being that Mary Lou worked for the Doering family in the “good old days,” the huge old growth conifer trees along the trail, and the wonderful bird watching, especially during spring and fall migrations. All kinds of warblers can be seen flying and catching insects around the dam itself as was the case when we were there on Sept. 22, the first day of fall when tree colors were spectacular.
To find the logging dam, head east from Fifield for 17 miles, turn north on Forest Road 144 (Rustic Road 105) until it intersects with Forest Road 535 where signs will direct you to the logging dam. It is a Forest Service fee area with a pay station located before entering the site or, if you have a Golden Age Passport permit, place it under the windshield on the driver’s side of the car when you park at the parking lot. Then you are good to go for an enjoyable walk to the logging dam and around the former Doering property now preserved for all to enjoy.
The private Nature Education Center in Fifield operated by Tom and Mary Lou Nicholls is open seasonally by appointment only. Nicholls can be reached at email@example.com.