CABLE, Wis. – Forest Lodge has been called many things during the past century – a playground for the wealthy, a private nature retreat and a family oasis. But in the past couple of years it’s been called something new – open to the public.
In the 1990s the 872-acre private estate was added to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest through an act of Congress. Congress also created an endowment for the restoration of historic buildings at Forest Lodge. A dozen historic buildings on-site have been undergoing restoration to ready them for public use. Forest Lodge is beginning a new era as an ecological campus. It's expected that by 2020 all buildings will be available for public use.
The change is the result of a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service and the Northland College of Ashland, Wisconsin. The Forest Service and Northland College in 2017 entered into a long-term historic-preservation lease under the provisions of the Historic Preservation Act of 1964. Northland College manages day-to-day operation of the site and coordinates maintenance. The Forest Service continues the work of historical restoration of the buildings and site.
Forest Lodge includes more than a mile of coastline on Namekagon Lake, one of the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Heavily wooded old-growth and second-growth forest cradles what has been called the best surviving collection of rustic buildings in the Midwest. Visitors and students of all ages travel down country highways, a winding tree-canopied road and finally gravel drives. They shed the modern world for a place that transports them back in time. The nature of Forest Lodge provides many visitors with a transformative experience available only in the deep embrace of northern woodlands.
“The site provides a window into the past, an opportunity to get away from it all to connect with oneself in the present, and a place to be inspired about the future,” said Deb Proctor, interim director of Forest Lodge for the Forest Service. “It’s a destination that is open to folks of all ages and backgrounds. The setting provides a connection between people and their environment, where they can learn about or gain a deeper understanding of what really matters and why it’s important to devote time and resources to environmental stewardship.”
Sarah Szymaniak, an employee and graduate of Northland College, serves as the Forest Lodge site manager.
“When students get here they feel transported,” she said. “The green, the lake – they can’t escape from the outdoors surrounded by beauty. The programming we do inspires wonder and connects people to this place. People leave with a spark in their eye.”
Northland College offers programming at Forest Lodge in a wide variety of subjects including art, geology, forest ecology, conservation, carnivore tracking and yoga. The unforgettable experience is located 8 miles east of Cable. There visitors can muse about life a century ago or an aeon ago. Either way they will be transported to the natural world outdoors.