WELCOME to a natural area north of the tension line. The "tension line" is an area of transition at the Southern edge of the cool, moist, northern forest. (Highway 51 crosses it in the Steven's Point area.) Of course, folks up here like the double meaning, too. Come explore the Long Lake Nature Trail, and truly experience the great Northwoods!
Soil in the upland area of the Northern forest is sandy and well-drained. But the cool northern air keeps moisture from evaporating as much as it does further south. Look for trees and plants that love this extra moisture.
Stark White birch stand out in the dark forest. Native people used birch bark for baskets, canoes, and roofing material. Trembling Aspen look a lot like Birch, but have greener, weaker bark that absorbs sunlight. This allows "Popple: as locals call it, to grow as far north as the Arctic Circle.
Moss and lichens carpet the north. Lichens are a cooperative combination of energy-producing Green Algae and a fungal support structure. How many different shapes can you find growing on rocks and trees?
The Northwoods is full of low-growing, shiny-leafed plants. The wax coating and low profile help them retain moisture on well-drained soils. One of these misers is a Wintergreen. Look for the large star imprinted on the plump, red berry.
Hazelnut is the most common bush along the trail. The beaked Hazelnut has smooth twigs, while the American Hazelnut's twigs are velvety. Can you see a difference in the shape of their nuts? The squirrels may have beat you to them!
Grouse have haunted the area near the end of the trail for a long as anyone can remember. Their neutral coloring is a good disguise, until the pigeon-sized birds fly up at startled passersby.
Lower areas of Northern forest are specially moist. The water beneath the dens, floating mat of moss in peat bogs does not feel the suns warmth. Look to what special features the plants have to help them take up water and nutrients in this cold, sour environment.
Foxes of may colors skirt northern wetlands. You may be able to find their tracks worn in he soft moss.
Bog-loving Black Spruce and Tamarack trees have compact needles. Tamarack needles turn golden brown in autumn, then fall off each winter.
Labrador Tea's leaves, with fuzzy white or tan undersides, help give the bog a wonderful smell. Do you think the hair and rolled leaf edges help the plant retain water?
Deep-red Pitcher Plants attract flying insects into their hold of digestive juices. Bugs are a good supplement to the diet of a bog plant. Look, but don't fall in!
Otters are a large, playful member of the weasel family. They love to eat fish and slide down hills of snow on their shiny, dark-brown fur. If you see one of these shy creatures, consider yourself very lucky.
More detailed information on the Long Lake Nature Trail can be found in Long Lake Nature Trail. This 40 page booklet was published in 1970 after extensive research by a UW-Madison Natural Resources graduate student. It is available at Holiday Acres Resort, PO BOX 460NT, Rhinelander, WI 54501-(715) 369-1500.