Sep 10, 2018

Oconto County

The “Up North” experience in Mountain, Lakewood and Townsend is closer than you think

 

Oconto County is every outdoor enthusiast’s dream. With Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the north of the county, the Bay of Green Bay to the east and hundreds of miles of all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trails in between, there are endless opportunities for adventure in Oconto County.

If you love the outdoors, you’ll love Oconto County.

 

ATVing

Northern Oconto County is home to more than 450 miles of fully interconnected ATV/UTV trails. Our trail system runs through county and national forests to give you the best scenic view as you ride through the area. You can cruise through the county’s towering forests between May and Nov. 3, 2018.

The Nicolet State Recreational Trail bisects the county acting as a backbone for all of the interconnecting trails through scenic Oconto County woods. The trail starts in Gillett and runs 90 miles north to connect to numerous trail systems across the state. Our ATV-friendly businesses make your trip to Oconto County convenient and enjoyable with great customer service and direct trail access from lodging and campgrounds.

 

Snowmobiling

When the leaves fall snowmobile season starts! Oconto County has more than 400 miles of snowmobile trails that meander throughout the county and national forests.

There are eight snowmobile clubs across the county that maintain these trails throughout the season. These clubs – with state-of-the-art equipment and years of knowledge – have some of the best groomed trails in northern Wisconsin. An estimated total of 10,000 volunteer hours each year go into preparing, brushing and grooming the trails.

Riding experiences vary from open farmland in the south to heavily forested land in the north. Depending on snow conditions, trails open in December and the season can last through the end of March. There is direct access to surrounding counties and Michigan for weeks of riding.

Oconto County is less than a full tank of gas round trip from the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas and less than a three-hour drive from the Milwaukee area, which makes it easy to plan a day trip to explore Oconto County.

 

Sweet Memories Candy Shoppe

It’s a must stop while you’re in Lakewood. Sweet Memories Candy Shoppe has all the charms of an old-fashioned candy shop. Listening to a tune on an old-fashioned player piano, or enjoy a cold Coca-Cola dispensed from an original 1959 Coke machine.

Devour delicious gourmet ice cream snacks while you swing on the deck. Treat your senses to the smell of homemade chocolate, fudge, caramel corn, cheese corn and flavored candied corn. Check out the games and puzzles that are sold for that rainy day at the cottage. Enjoy room after room of candy from roughly 4,500 square feet of treats.

The doors to the candy shop opened in 1991. Today customers can find more than 60 flavors of salt water taffy, 50 flavors of Jelly Belly, 36 flavors of homemade fudge, 20 gourmet ice cream choices, two candy cases full of chocolate and so much more. Sweet Memories has become part of many families’ Up North tradition for 28 years.

 

Mountain Fire Lookout Tower

For the best panoramic view of northern Oconto County, head to the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower. The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower was built in 1935 by the U.S. Forest Service and Civilian Conservation Corps. It was once part of an extensive lookout tower network in the former Nicolet National Forest. 

The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower was the first tower in Wisconsin to be placed on the National Historic Lookout Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower was restored in 2015 and 2016 through a partnership with the Lakewood-Laona Ranger District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest with financial assistance from Oconto County Economic Development Corp., numerous local businesses, organizations, communities and residents. Employees from the Lakewood-Laona District spent more than 500 hours doing the restoration work.

Today, the 100-foot steel tower with a 7-ft. by 7-ft. cab is one of the few remaining lookouts on the east side of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. It’s132 steps to the top, but definitely worth it.

Cathedral Pines

The majesty of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is on full display when you visit Cathedral Pines. These towering trees evaded harvest by the logging industry and have been preserved in their natural state.

The oldest known white pine in the area is 368 years old. Many of the white pine are more than nine feet in circumference, which includes the tallest white pines in the state.

The herons arrive at Cathedral Pines in mid-April and begin nesting in May. Both parents use sticks to build the nest as high as 130 feet above the ground. Great blue herons are usually silent but can utter loud, deep croaks when alarmed. In June and July, raucous sounds emanate from the heron rookery and visitors often describe the din as a prehistoric sound. There is a gravel trail that will lead you through this unique experience.

 

Lakewood Trout Rearing Station

An effort to make sportfishing in the Northwoods better continues at the Lakewood Trout Rearing Station in northern Oconto County. In 2018, 25,000 trout were delivered to the rearing station, including 18,000 brown trout and 7,000 brook trout.

This facility is run entirely by volunteers from the Lakewood area, with some as young as eight years old. This is the fourth year of the hatchery being reopened since it was closed as a state-run facility in 2014, and in that time nearly 100,000 trout have been planted in local waters. Our local fishermen have reported phenomenal results.

Free tours of the facility are available on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 

Fall color

It’s difficult to predict exact dates of the leaves turning color because there are a number of factors involved. But it’s safe to assume the best fall foliage viewing begins in mid-September and wraps up in early-October in most places across the area.

The season beckons long weekend drives and adventurous hiking. Let us take you there – Oconto County has some of the best fall foliage in Wisconsin. Every autumn, nature paints the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest with gorgeous hues of gold, red and orange.

Here is a list of the top 4 places to view fall colors in Oconto County:

1. Spend a leisurely fall afternoon on a self-guided ATV ride through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

2. Climb all 132 steps to the top of the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower. The tower is one of the best places in Oconto County to view fall colors.

3. Hike up the newly developed trail to Butler Rock in the Town of Brazeau to reach the county's highest point. This two-mile sand trek is not for the faint-hearted, but the views are spectacular.

4. Hike up to the Chute Pond Overlook just south of Mountain. A short, moderately steep trail of 2/3 miles leads to the top of a rock outcrop featuring five vistas. Three of the vistas overlook Chute Pond, one looks over a forest service tree plantation, and one looks north along State Highway 32 with Bagley Rapids on the west and Green Lake on the east.

 

Fishing

Oconto County offers a variety of excellent fishing opportunities. The county’s inland lakes and pristine trout streams are an angler’s ideal destination. Our lakes are accessible from fully developed public launching facilities to carry-in sites with a short hike.

Maiden, Waubee and Archibald lakes offer great musky and walleye opportunities. If you prefer panfish, the Townsend Flowage and Chute Pond are known for catching limits of crappie, bluegill and perch.

No boat? No problem! Road crossings provide access to a number of rivers and streams, where a great catch is still possible.

If trout fishing is your passion, anglers will find 132 miles of prime trout streams, 80 percent of which are strictly rated Class 1. Exceptional waters include the Thunder River forks and the first and second south branches of the Oconto River. You can hook into a trophy-sized brookie or brown wading these waters.

Along the bank of the south branch of the Oconto River is a barrier-free fishing trail. One of the few trails of its kind in the country, it’s a ¼-mile trail that parallels the river and provides access to 11 fishing sites, ranging from flat spots along the shoreline to cantilever decks that allow the angler to be out over the stream.

 

Hunting

Oconto County is abundant with wildlife and excellent hunting opportunities, specifically ruffed grouse, wild turkey and deer. Ongoing sustainable forest management programs provide a diversity of habitat types for a wide array of wildlife.

Some of the best grouse hunting in the national forest is in Oconto County. Timber cutting and young aspen growth provide optimum cover and food sources. These upland birds thrive when aspen forests are regenerated.

An established grouse management area which focuses on optimum grouse habitat is located in northern Oconto County. This area is seeded and mowed to provide enhanced prime upland game bird hunting, along with hunter walking trails gated to exclude motorized vehicles.

Looking for another type of bird to hunt? We have wild turkeys, too! The county’s ideal mix of habitat has seen increasing numbers of turkey.

Also deer hunt? Abundant public land provides excellent deer hunt opportunities. Whether waiting in a stand with your bow or experiencing the thrill of a gun hunt, our forests are home to that buck you’ve been waiting for.

With nearly 1,000 miles of ATV and snowmobiling trails and a national forest, Oconto County is every outdoor enthusiast’s dream! Take in the breathtaking fall colors on an ATV ride through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and finish it off with a stop at Sweet Memories Candy Shoppe. No matter what your interests are, Oconto County has a place for you.