The logging industry was a very big part of Wisconsin’s history. Because of how widespread it was, there are few “virgin” or old-growth forests left anywhere in the country, much less in Wisconsin.
According to the October 2004 issue of the
Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, “Surveys conclude that only about one percent of Wisconsin’s old-growth forests remain in tact. According to a 1995 study by the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Biological Service, less than five percent of the lower 48 states’ original old-growth forests remain.
But deep in the north-central part of the state, in the Chequmegon-Nicolet National Forest, there is a bit of state natural area that has been protected and contains some of the oldest trees you’ll find. They seem to stretch up forever, creating an ethereal, storybook quality to the forest.
The area is known at Cathedral Woods or Pines and it has its own State Natural Area. The story goes that Lucy Rumsey, whose husband was the president of Holt Lumber Company, brought her children to these woods to pray and worship. Mrs. Rumsey asked her husband to protect the area, saving it from being cut down.
The area covers roughly 1,800 acres in Oconto County. It is mostly a pine-hemlock old-growth forest., but there are also sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock, white ash, basswood, beech and paper birch trees.
The trees here are likely roughly 150 years old. Because there is such a strong and pronounced canopy, there's not a lot of biodiversity along the forest floor. That means there is little to distract from or mar the seemingly mile-high sight lines. There's a path through the woods that will let you experience it all.
Having grown interrupted for more than a century, standing at the base of the forest and looking straight up can make you feel a bit like you fell down the rabbit hole.
The trees feel like the stretch into the heavens and you might get a little disoriented staring up and trying to get your bearings.
You never quite understand quite how vast the trees are and how small you are in comparison. You can't help but have a bit of an existential crisis about your place in the big, wide world.
There are really no words or pictures that do this area justice. The sun streams through the canopy, dappling the forest floor and creating all kinds of interesting shapes and shadows.
It's easy to see why Mrs. Rumsey brought her children to this spot to pray. Something this beautiful and overwhelming feels like it had to have been created by a greater being.
No matter what you believe, you'll feel blessed to have gotten the chance to see and feel what it's like to stand among these massive trees and contemplate life.
Cathedral Pines State Natural Area is one of the most stunning, overwhelming and wonderful hidden gems in our great state.
You can let your imagination run wild imagining fairies or trolls or giants living in this magical spot.
Cathedral Pines State Natural Area is located at Brook Rd, Townsend, WI 54175.
Have you ever been? If you can find the words, tell us about it in the comments!
Looking for another truly magical Wisconsin spot? Check out
The Place In Wisconsin That Makes You Feel Like You’ve Stepped Through A Magical Wardrobe.
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