Description - Governor Knowles State Forest acts as a resource protection zone for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The forest is a winding linear park 55 miles long and up to two miles wide encompassing 32,500 acres of which 19,343 acres are currently state owned. As one of the least developed and least visited state parklands in Wisconsin, the area makes for a fabulous remote destination along one of the Midwest's most famous canoeing rivers. Adjacent to the forest boundary are over 100,000 acres of county forests and two large wildlife areas; Fish Lake Wildlife Area and Crex Meadow Wildlife Area. Beautiful forestland is comprised of ash, cedar, aspen, basswood, maple, and several varieties of pine and oak thus creating a favorite fall foliage destination. Mammals inhabiting the region include timber wolf, beaver, bobcat, otter, fisher, and porcupine. Birdlife is abundant on the forest. Over 300 species of birds have been identified along the river valley. Fifty species are forest residents. Common sights include osprey, Canada goose, mallard, wood duck, teal, and an occasional bald eagle.
- Governor Knowles State Forest offers its guests the Marshland Visitor Center open 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM Thursday through Monday. In addition to the typical park brochures, the center features an interesting diorama depicting the St. Croix River and its 11 tributaries leading into the Mississippi River.
Camping on the forestland is limited to group tent camping in designated areas at the Sioux Portage Group Campground. Drinking water and toilet facilities are provided. Primitive camping is permitted at the Trade River Campground. Contact the forest office for details and backpacking permits.
Trailblazers coming to Governor Knowles State Forest will find 38 miles of hiking path, 8.5 miles of groomed cross-country ski path, 32.5 miles of snowmobile route, and 35 miles of horseback riding trail (undeveloped horse camping available). Two linear undulating trails parallel the St. Croix River with each offering trailhead parking and similar scenic views. The northern segment is approximately 22 miles in length while the southern segment extends 16 miles in length. Two interpretive trails enlighten visitors about their natural surroundings. Found near Norway Point Landing, Cedar Interpretive Trail has an accompanying park brochure describing its lush and ancient cedar habitat. To the south is Brandt Pines Natural Area where interpretive signage tells about the unique plant life, birdlife and area's geologic history.
Paddling the St. Croix River is extremely popular particularly from Highway 70 to Taylor Falls. The state forest headquarters offers detailed maps, remote campsite information, and other pertinent facts about the river. Anglers pursuing the St. Croix River find excellent catches of walleye, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, northern pike, muskie, and pan fish. The river's tributaries support both brook and brown trout.
In winter, Governor Knowles State Forest remains open for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Cross-country skiers ($) use the trails in Brandt Pines; the Sandrock Cliff Trail is a five-mile groomed ski route. Snowmobilers use the southern half of the forest where they enjoy over 30 miles of marked route.
Just south of the forest is a featured Wisconsin Rustic Road. R-15 offers beautiful vistas of coniferous and hardwood trees with access to several hiking trails.
Recreation - Visitors enjoy fishing, paddling, hiking, horseback riding, viewing wildlife, cross-county skiing, snowmobiling, backpacking, group camping, auto touring, and hunting.
Climate - Northwest Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. Great Lakes Michigan and Superior tend to make summers cooler and winters milder close to shore. January's average temperature is in the single digits F (-teens C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F for several days (32 degrees C). Nighttime summer temperatures occasionally dip below freezing. The area's average yearly precipitation ranges from 32-34". Annual snowfalls in the Northwest Region have a wide range; the southern areas may receive 20" while the northern areas may receive in excess of 200". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.
Governor Knowles State Forest is located in Northwest Wisconsin in Polk and Burnett counties along the scenic St. Croix River. Visitors can find the state forest headquarters in Grantsburg along Russell Road.