The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is located in Wisconsin's Northwoods, covering over a million and a half acres.Since 1993, these two national forests have been managed as one, with headquarters offices in both Park Falls and Rhinelander. Each national forest has retained its individual identity.
Both the Chequamegon and the Nicolet National Forests were established by presidential proclamations in 1933, but that was not the beginning. The land, its wildlife, and its people were already here. The cultures, the traditions, and lifeways of the past have created Wisconsin's national forests as we know them today.
There are dozens of lakes among the forested landscapes in these forests and numerous recreational opportunities.. Boating, fishing and swimming opportunities abound. There are also two visitors centers where you can learn about the area.
Archeologists have traced the cultural history to the time 10,000 years ago when the area was inhabited by the original people. The era of the Paleo-Indians was followed by the Archaic Indians, and finally, the Woodland Tradition Indians.
In the 1600s, Europeans arrived in what is now Wisconsin. The Nicolet is named after Jean Nicolet, a French explorer who came to the Great Lakes Region in the 1600s to promote fur trading with the American Indians. The name Chequamegon is derived from an Ojibway word meaning "place of shallow water," and refers to Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay. During the 17th century growing numbers of Europeans and Indians made the Northwoods their home.
Following close behind the fur traders were the lumbermen who established the timber industry. Early loggers used rivers to move pine logs to the sawmills. When the old-growth pinery dwindled, lumbermen used railroads to move the heavier hardwood logs to mills. Lumbering reached its peak on the forest in the 1920s.
When the timber ran out, much of the cut over land was sold to immigrants for farms and homesteads. The soils of the Northwoods proved better suited for growing trees, however, and many of the farms were abandoned. During that time it was not uncommon for fires to burn uncontrolled across the land.
In 1928, the Federal Government, under the authority of the Weeks Law of 1911, began buying abandoned and tax delinquent land in the Northwoods with the idea of establishing a national forest. In March 1933, shortly before he left office, President Herbert Hoover issued a proclamation establishing the Nicolet National Forest. The Chequamegon was established as a separate national forest in November 1933, by President Franklin Roosevelt, from the Nicolet's westernmost lands.
When the Great Depression rolled across the United States, thousands of young, unemployed men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. CCC camps were established in the newly formed national forests. During the 10 years the Civilian Conservation Corps was active, Corpsmen planted thousands of acres of jack pine and red pine, built fire lanes, and constructed recreational facilities across the national forests. Much of their work is still evident.