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Spur Lake State Natural Area, Oneida County

Posted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:35 pm
by DonCBragg
Spur Lake State Natural Area (SNA; ... sp?SNA=537) is located in eastern Oneida County about 6 miles south of Three Lakes, Wisconsin. This SNA was largely established to protect a shallow lake and its unique plant communities, which include extensive wild rice beds, open bogs (including a “floating” bog), alder thickets, black spruce-tamarack-northern whitecedar swamps, and a small stand of old-growth eastern hemlock-hardwoods. While the whole complex is fascinating, I focused my efforts on the hemlock-hardwood stand.
This hemlock-dominated remnant stand of old-growth occupies the steep morainal hills on the northern edge of Spur Lake (easily accessed by a paved public road into the SNA; parking is on the wide shoulders available in a few places, and one designated parking area along the eastern lake shore). These dense hemlock stands also include scattered balsam fir, northern whitecedar, yellow birch, and a few widely scattered emergent eastern white pine. Between the hills are wetter swales dominated by northern whitecedar, black ash, tamarack, black spruce, sphagnum moss, tag alder, and other associated wetland plants. The understory of the upland hemlock stands are open, with few plants of any times surviving in the deep shade and thick needle mat that has formed over the centuries. A number of eastern hemlock and northern whitecedar seedlings and saplings can be found, suggesting limited white-tailed deer browsing during the winter.
The overstory dominants of this hemlock stand are probably 150-200 years old; I did not have any opportunities to age the stand, but it seems very likely that most of them were smallish trees when the “big cut” occurred in the late 1800s, and hence why they were spared (this area had plenty of opportunities for lumberjacks to clear the stand). It is possible that a few mature pine and hemlock were cut from this stand in previous decades, but no evidence remains of any systematic timber harvesting. In recent years, this land was protected by the State of Wisconsin with Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds (designated a SNA in 2007), and is now owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In recent years, the State of Wisconsin and other conservation partners have made an effort to protect a number of these scattered old hemlock-pine-hardwood remnants in the Wisconsin Northwoods.

The dense hemlock canopy made measuring tree heights difficult. As you can see from the table below, nothing was particularly spectacular, although this is a very nice stand of timber and well worth preserving for study and various forms of recreation.

Common name Scientific name DBH (inches) Height (feet) Comments
Balsam fir Abies balsamea 11.9 71.5
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 35.7 67.0 dead top
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 24.3 80.0 at least this tall
Northern whitecedar Thuja occidentalis 14.4 58.5 “ “
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 24.4 90.0 “ “
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 22.7 73.5 “ “
Eastern white pine Pinus strobus 30.6 99.0 “ “
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 23.5 no height taken
Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis 23.7 91.0
Eastern white pine Pinus strobus 32.2 100.0 at least this tall; top obscured

All heights were taken with my TruPulse 200L using the sine method, and almost certainly represent conservative estimates of height…the thick hemlock canopy really made more exacting measurements virtually impossible. The eastern white pine emerged well above the fairly continuous hemlock canopy, which varied from about 70 to 90 feet in their top heights.
Large white pine emerging above hemlock canopy.
Supercanopy white pine along paved road.

Re: Spur Lake State Natural Area, Oneida County

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:08 am
by ElijahW

Those are some beautiful photos. I especially like the old pines. This area is very similar to the Adirondacks. Thanks for posting,


Re: Spur Lake State Natural Area, Oneida County

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:59 pm
by Larry Tucei

Nice post! Love the images. I hope to get up that way this Fall, Winter or perhaps next.
I really enjoy northern Wisconsin and Minnesota it's such a beautiful area.


Re: Spur Lake State Natural Area, Oneida County

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:17 pm
by dbhguru

Ditto to Elijah and Larry. My travels in Wisconsin have been limited. So, your and Larry’s posts are especially valuable.