14006 Discovery Lane • Manitowish Waters, WI 54545 • 877-543-2085

Van Vliet Hemlocks News


July, 2017

Several activities in the Van Vliet Hemlocks SNA are of note.

First, there is an infestation of an invasive plant called “hemp nettle” that needs eradication. There have been volunteer efforts led by board member Bob Horswill to eliminate some of the infestation. DNR staff is planning further eradication efforts this summer.

Second, we are providing funding to DNR for a summer intern (from the natural resources program at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point). We will receive about 100 hours of time that will be utilized for a “biotic inventory” and other activities in management of the Van Vliet Hemlocks. The inventory should be useful as a snapshot of the current make-up of the property.

Third, we have made arrangements with Dr. Susan Knight of the UW Trout Lake Station to lead a bog-related nature hike. That hike will occur on Saturday, August 12th at 9 AM. It will start at the trailhead on E. Van Vliet Road. The hike will be limited to 20 people and is for members. Sign-ups will be through the NLDC.

Fourth, we will have our annual meeting again at Olson’s Point (12018 Rottman Drive) on Van Vliet Lake on Sunday,August 27th. There will be a meeting at 4 PM followed by a picnic. Prior to the meeting, kayaks and pontoon boats will be available for a ride on the lake and a view of the Van Vliet Hemlocks from the water. Brats and beverages supplied. 

Finally, there is a fall color hike on Saturday, October 14th led by a Discovery Center naturalist from 9 AM until Noon. Once again, register through the NLDC.




July, 2016

Thanks to all of you for your support of the Friends of the Van Vliet Hemlocks. It continues to be a beautiful treasure for all to enjoy – and your support continues to allow this to happen.

Recent activities in the Van Vliet Hemlocks include a winter snowshoe hike co-sponsored with North Lakeland Discovery Center (NLDC) and led by its staff. NLDC’s recent “Birdfest” included a walk through the Hemlocks led by Licia Johnson on which twenty bird species were identified in a few hours.

Our recent storms will require some serious trail maintenance. There is also a need to pull some invasive species along a few of the trails.

We are planning to continue to support naturalist-led field trips in the Hemlocks for area schools as we have in the past. Our adult oriented field trips continue to be well attended and two are scheduled for later in the year.

The trail system continues to get regular use and does receive some promotion from both the NLDC and the Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce. And, again this year, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is hosting a “sold out” field trip in the Van Vliet Hemlocks that provides education both about this great parcel and the State Natural Areas program in Wisconsin.

Some critical planned activities of the Friends are below:

  • Monitoring the trails for hazards and wear;
  • Watching for and managing invasive species;
  • Education about the Van Vliet Hemlocks and the Wisconsin State Natural Area program;
  • Continuing our efforts at telling the history of the Van Vliet Hemlocks;
  • Continue to be vigilant for any potential threats to the Van Vliet Hemlocks from whatever source.



September 18, 2015

Trail maintenance will be on the schedule this fall and will include replacing the metal trail signs with paint markings on trees. A workday has been scheduled for October 11 starting at 10 a.m. Sign up under “Current Volunteer Opportunities” on the website if you can help this work project.

Another work project is pulling of invasive plants.  A report from Bob Horswill who is in charge of this effort:

2015 VVH Hemp-nettle control

Four 30 gallon bags were pulled by 5 volunteers on August 31st. We pulled approximately 90% of the hemp-nettle on the south branch of the Lake View trail. Previous inspections have shown that this area had the heaviest
infestation. Infestations up to 50 yards from the trail were pulled.

The Owl trail on the west side has hemp-nettle along areas of about 50% of the trail. This area could fairly easily be pulled with a few volunteers. On this trail the weed is mostly confined close to the trail and is the only significant invasive. The surrounding plants are mainly native grasses and sedges.

Plan:  2016 spring pull before the hemp-nettle blooms.

June 30, 2015

Thanks to all of you who support the Friends of Van Vliet Hemlocks.  It continues to be a beautiful treasure for all to enjoy.  Our 2015 membership drive is underway.  Click here for the membership letter or join online.  

We are pleased to announce a mushroom identification hike led by Anne Small on August 30 starting at 2 p.m.  There is no charge to attend the hike but number of attendees is limited. Register here.

Our annual meeting will follow the hike on August 30 starting at 5 p.m. at Tom and Barbara Olson's home on Van Vliet Lake.  A potluck dinner will follow the business meeting.


July 16, 2014

The Friends of the Van Vliet Hemlocks will hold its annual meeting on Sunday, August 24th at 3:30 PM. The meeting will be held at Olson’s Point, 12018 Rottman Drive, Presque Isle.(directions – Crab Lake Road to Baer Road to Rottman Drive to the end of the drive or call (715) 686-2053)
The agenda will include:
• Election of Directors (nominees are Phil Sobocinski, Vice President; Larry Gorrilla, Board Member; and Bob Horswill, Board Member – additional nominations can be made the meeting).
• A very brief report on activities
• A Treasurer’s report
• A presentation by Jim Bokern on his progress regarding ancient and Indian cultures in the Presque Isle area and also on culturally modified trees (primarily surveyor’s witness trees).
After the meeting, there will be a potluck picnic. Brats, buns and beverages will be supplied. Please bring a dish and folding chairs.
Pontoon boats will also be available for those wishing to view the Van Vliet Hemlocks from the water. Click here for agenda >

June 15, 2014

The Van Vliet Hemlocks has officially been designated as a State Natural Area with passive management. The Friends continue in our role to support and protect the property. Our 2014 membership drive is underway. Click here for the membership letter or join online.

We are pleased to sponsor a fern identification hike on Saturday, July 26 at 9 a.m. meeting at the East Van Vliet Lake Rd entrance. WDNR Forestry Specialist Colleen Matula will lead the hike. There is no charge to attend the hike. Register Online.

January 7, 2014

Public input played a role in revising the DNR recommendation for future management of the Van Vliet Hemlocks. Passive management of the entire site was written into proposed amendment to the Northern Highland – American Legion State Forest master plan and in October the Natural Resources Board approved that revised amendment. Thank you to all our supporters who submitted comments to the DNR.

The Friends of Van Vliet Hemlocks are sponsoring a snowshoe tour of our newly protected state natural area on January 25 from 1 – 3 p.m. Register Online


July 29, 2013

Join us on August 25 at 1:30 p.m. for a water tour of the Van Vliet Hemlocks. Take a ride in a pontoon boat to view the undeveloped shoreline on the Presque Isle chain or paddle your own kayak or canoe. After the boating expedition, enjoy a picnic at Tom and Barbara Olson’s home and learn about the work of the Friends as we hold our annual meeting. Sign up for the water tour by 8/18 using the Discovery Center Programs and Events Calendar.

The Friends have been working to get the word out about the proposed Northern Highland – American Legion State Forest Master Plan Amendment which affects the Hemlocks property. The amendment can be viewed on the WDNR website and public comment is accepted until August 9. Click here to read the email the Friends sent out about the amendment.  The Friends would like the amendment revised to designate the entire Van Vliet Block as a State Natural Area that will be passively managed. Click here to read the letter the Friends sent in as public comment. 

A new sign was installed on the Hemlock Lake Loop in May. “From Hemlocks to Hides” describes how hemlock bark was used in the leather tanning industry in Wisconsin.


December 21, 2012

2012 has been an eventful and successful year for the Friends of the Van Vliet Hemlocks.

The DNR closed its purchase of Van Vliet Hemlocks from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. The property was purchased to become a state natural area. Although it has not yet been formally designated as such, we are reassured that it will occur – hopefully as the result of an update to the master plan for the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest to be completed during 2013.

Our project to develop media to use for expanded understanding of the Van Vliet Hemlocks was completed by students at UW-Stevens Point. The students did a great job. We have already begun using a brochure and a piece intended for use by children as they explore the Hemlocks. These are available at the Discovery Center, at area chambers and at the Presque Isle Library. We intend to install two additional large signs during 2013 with additional information.

The Friends sponsored three naturalist-led field trips into the Hemlocks for Friends members. In addition, the Discovery Center hosted several trips into the Hemlocks. During 2013, we plan to coordinate trips more closely with the Discovery Center.

Members of the Friends have been active performing trail maintenance during 2012 and this will continue in 2013. Also, we have a newly formed Invasive Species Committee to monitor and plan for any needed actions in this regard. We also have committees working on education and membership.

We have expanded our Board to ten members and welcomed new members during 2012 – Glenn Doering, Al Drum, Larry Gorrilla and Phil Sobocinski. We want to thank Jill Wilm and Paul Specht for their service as Board members of the Friends of the Van Vliet Hemlocks.

September 4, 2012

Have you ever walked on an esker?  Would you recognize a kettle?  What is a moraine?

Join the Friends of Van Vliet Hemlocks for a hike focusing on the geology and glacial history of the site.  Jay Gallagher of the DNR will lead the walk on October 6 starting at 9 a.m. at the east side trailhead.  Register for the hike on the Event List of the Discovery Center.  There is no fee but donations from nonmembers will be accepted.

August 10, 2012 - Annual Meeting

Join us for a recap of the year at the North Lakeland Discovery Center on Friday, August 10 9:30am. The morning will highlight the year's accomplishments, as well as look forward to what lies ahead. Member input is desired. The morning will be accompanied by light pastries, coffee and fruit. PLEASE JOIN IN!!

August 1, 2012

A note from Tom Olson –

On Saturday, July 28th, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin hosted a field trip at Van Vliet Hemlocks.  27 individuals participated in the hike that was led by Randy Hoffman of the DNR’s Bureau of Endangered Resources. Randy ably demonstrated his broad and nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the Wisconsin Outdoors. The field trip was titled “The Awe of Old Growth” and it served to show off Van Vliet Hemlocks in a very positive light. The participants learned a great deal and came away raving about the beauty and variety of the Van Vliet Hemlocks. Participants came from all over the state, northern Illinois and the state of Washington – many built trips to the northwoods specifically around this field trip. Thanks to Steve Petersen (who was in attendance), we handed out drafts of our brochures to all attendees. Also, Ruth Oppedahl, the newly named Executive Director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, attended this field trip – her first in her new role. I am also told that there was a substantial waiting list for this field trip.

Thanks to Ed Brodsky, Al Eschenbauch, Ronie Jacobsen and Mike Czarny for their efforts in assuring the trails were cleared of downed trees and trash (in my walk through, I saw no trash – which was encouraging). I should also note that the mosquitoes, though present, were quite tolerable – we even witnessed a young man running through the forest with a bare chest and bare legs – maybe that’s where all the mosquitoes went to.

It is really encouraging to see this kind of utilization by the Van Vliet Hemlocks and the support of all in assuring that this group didn’t encounter difficulties.

I would hope that NRF includes this field trip again next trip.


May 12, 2012 - First Member Event Held
On May 12th, a dozen member of the Friends of the Van Vliet Hemlocks hiked with Randy Hoffman, the Natural Areas Ecologist for the Wisconsin DNR. We met at trailhead on East Van Vliet Road. The weather was perfect and the trip was enjoyed by all.

Randy explained the nature of old growth and importance of the Van Vliet Hemlocks as an important old growth forest as a piece in maintaining ecological diversity. As we observed decaying woody debris on the forest floor, he discussed in its role in giving life to both new plant and animal life – sometimes providing life for 150 years after falling to the forest floor.

At the request of one member, he identified many bird calls as we were hiking. Among others, we heard winter wrens, black throated warblers, blue headed vireos, oven birds, least flycatchers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, and northern parulas. We learned that the chimney swift was historically the most common bird of old growth hemlock-yellow birch forests due to all the hollowed out “chimneys” left from decaying trees – and that old yellow birch are important nest sites for brown creepers because of the very shaggy bark.

Another member requested seeing a salamander and Randy was able to locate a blue spotted salamander for us all to view.

We also found a project to work on – forget-me-nots are growing along one of the trails and will take over slowly if not eradicated. We also saw another invasive specie – nightcrawlers – that can be harmful to old growth.

Thanks to Randy for a very enjoyable 2 hours.

Next Event
A joint event with the Discovery Center’s Bird Club will be held on Thursday, June 7th at 7 AM. Meet at the trailhead on East Van Vliet Road. Please bring your binoculars (and probably your mosquito repellent) but leave your dog at home this time.

January 17, 2012

We are delighted to announce that Governor Walker approved the acquisition of Van Vliet Hemlocks by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on January 12, 2012. We have already begun working with staff of the WDNR on our progress toward final designation of the area as a “State Natural Area” and on plans for trail maintenance and signage at the property. We are looking forward to a very positive working relationship with the WDNR.

On another front, a committee of the Board of Directors of the Friends, along with the WDNR and the North Lakeland Discovery Center, will be working with a group of students and their professor from UW Stevens Point on the development of information and educational materials for Van Vliet Hemlocks. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance our knowledge of this special land.


December 16, 2011
On Thursday, December 14, 2011, the Board of the Department of Natural Resources approved the acquisition of the Van Vliet Hemlocks from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. The transaction should close sometime in the next few months. The Board acted on a recommendation from staff that reads in part as follows:

The Van Vliet acquisition embodies the intent of the master plan [for the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest] by adding to the old-growth goal and protecting undeveloped wetlands and shoreline. Local landowners have sponsored the development of a nature and interpretive trail that is heavily used by local schools and nature centers. In addition, to meeting the several NHAL goals, this parcel and the Lehto Bog parcel would also become State Natural Areas, which would continue progress in achieving goals for the State Natural Areas program.

The next step will be to work with the DNR to achieve statutory designation of Van Vliet Hemlocks as a State Natural Area. We are already in touch with DNR staff regarding this process. We believe that we are close to achieving the goal of State Natural Area Protection for Van Vliet Hemlocks.

We want to express our gratitude to the leadership and staff of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands for both its stewardship and its cooperation in making this possible. We look forward to working closely with DNR staff as we move forward.

November 27, 2011
On November 14, 2011 the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands approved the sale of 432.5 acres of Trust Lands in Vilas County (Van Vliet Hemlocks) to the WI Department of Natural Resources. The next step is for the DNR Board to act on the staff recommendation to purchase the parcel. A board meeting is scheduled on December 14, 2011 in Madison for the DNR to consider the acquisition. The meeting is open to the public and members of the board of the Friends of Van Vliet Hemlocks are planning to attend. Tom Olson will give a short presentation in favor of the acquisition. The board of the Friends is also sending a letter in favor of the parcel becoming a State Natural Area.

This is exciting news for our group since State Natural Area status would advance our purpose to preserve and protect the parcel. We encourage our members to express support for this acquisition to the DNR.