Wisconsin State Natural Area
The 3-acre Mary Lake is one of very few known meromictic lakes in Wisconsin. Meromixis, the permanent thermal stratification of the water, results from the lake having an extremely small surface area in comparison to its depth. Mary Lake has a small 3-acre surface area but is disproportionately very deep - 67 feet. Due to the extreme relative depth in relation to surface area, watershed soils, and its protection from surrounding uplands, Mary Lake never "turns over" and circulates as the water temperature changes in the spring and fall as is typical of most other Wisconsin lakes. Instead, the lake stays stratified creating unusual chemical and biological layers. Internationally known to limnologists, extensive research has been conducted on the physical, biological, and chemical properties of the lake since the 1920's. Mary Lake is second in a chain of five interconnected lakes and is primarily fed by land runoff and inflow from a small stream that connects Mary Lake to nearby Lake Rose. Mary Lake is nestled in a small basin and surrounded by dense forest, which helps shelter the lake from wind action. The surrounding forest is primarily second-growth northern hardwood forest, swamp hardwoods, and swamp conifers. Dominant species include white cedar, spruce, white pine, and balsam fir. Mary Lake is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1999.
Hardwoods and Hemlock Wisconsin State Natural Area
Catherine Lake Hemlock-Hardwoods features an extensive stand of mature, mesic forest on rolling moraine located on the east side of Catherine Lake. Although the forest varies in quality and composition, the eastern half contains a relict old-growth stand dominated by large hemlock, yellow birch, and sugar maple with the largest trees averaging near 50 inches in diameter. Super-canopy white pine occur near the lake. With some trees estimated at 250+ years in age, it is likely that the least disturbed areas of the SNA were never clear-cut during the cut-over era. These areas contain old-growth characteristics including snags, tip-up mounds, coarse woody debris, and a multi-layered canopy. The groundlayer is diverse and includes species such as red baneberry, maidenhair fern, wild sarsaparilla, American starflower, Canada mayflower, early coral-root, sharp-lobed hepatica, lycopods, naked miterwort, large-leaved shinleaf, and twisted stalk. Wetter areas contain an understory that includes bog rosemary, grass pink, wild calla, pitcher plant, round-leaf sundew, mountain wood-sorrel, bunchberry, three-leaved goldthread, and yellow blue-bead lily. Scattered ephemeral ponds offer good habitat for amphibians. Associated with the extensive uplands forests are five small undeveloped lakes, a complex of wetland communities including open bog, black spruce swamp, emergent marsh, sedge meadow, and alder thicket. The site supports numerous rare plants and animals including black-throated blue warbler, cape may warbler, gray jay, giant rattlesnake plantain, and northern black currant. Catherine Lake Hemlock-Hardwoods is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.
North Lakeland Trail System
Other Close Area Attractions
With the exception of the Van Vliet Hemlocks they are mostly undeveloped. Van Vliet has a wonderful trail system but the rest are available to hike but hikers are on their own. Dogs are allowed but care should be taken so that they don’t disturb nesting birds or other wildlife. And hikers should please take precautions to not spread invasives.
The other ones near Winchester are: