Description - All around is the imprint of the immense ice sheet that covered the upper Midwest some 20,000 years ago. Here in the area of the Kettle Moraine State Forest two finger-like lobes of the glacier met along a northeast to southwest line. At their junction, billions of tons of sand, gravel, and rock were deposited as the ice slowly melted away 10,000 years ago. The glaciers' massive size and impact is seen from the dimensions of the kames. Within the forest the largest kame rises over 350 feet above the surrounding land area.
Copyright: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Kettle Moraine State Forest
Other glacial features add to the unique landscape of the Kettle Moraine. Glacial streams deposited materials to form eskers by flowing through tunnels, within or beneath the ice sheet. Kettles, pit-like depressions in the earth, were formed when huge blocks of ice, buried under the glacial debris, melted away.
In 1937, the Legislature realized the unique character of the area and established the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Today, the forest provides an invaluable and unique outdoor recreational resource in the heart of Wisconsin's most heavily populated area. The Northern Unit, northwest of the Milwaukee area, consists of about 29,268 acres of rolling hills, lakes, forests, and grasslands internationally known for its unique glacial features. Wildlife found throughout the area include white-tailed deer, turkeys, Cooper's hawks, red squirrels, meadowlarks, bluebirds, and red-winged blackbirds.
- Kettle Morain State Forest - Northern Unit invites you to enjoy two main recreation areas: Long Lake and Mauthe Lake. Both offer camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking, hunting, and trapping. A good place to acquaint oneself with the Northern Unit is at the Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center where you'll learn about the extensive recreation offerings and nature programs held throughout the year. The center is west of Dundee on State Highway 67, 1/8 mile south of County Road G. It is open seven days a week.
The Northern Unit offers many picnic areas and more than 133 miles of trail for hikers, equestrians, off-road bikes, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. Three picnic areas offer reservable shelters. Forms are available at the headquarters. When the wildflowers are in full bloom it is an awesome time to explore the remote areas of the forest. A new hiking brochure is available that includes a map of the entire Forest, as well as sub-maps of the Zillmer, Greenbush, New Fane, Parnell and Butler Lake Loop Trail Systems. Trails are of varying difficulty, length, and permitted uses. Steep climbs or descents are common. Trail passes ($) are required for mountain bikers and horseback riders over the age of 16. Backpacking is available on the National Ice Age Trail where users find 31.5 miles of path. Backpacking is also permitted along Zillmer Trail. See contact information below for overnight hut reservations.
Horseback riders have 39 miles of bridle trail traditionally open late April through mid-November depending on trail conditions. The main bridle trail winds the linear length of the Forest of 33 miles. Two loop trails, Crooked and Forest Lake, provide shorter routes totaling 6 miles. A total of 17 miles of machine-groomed cross-country ski trails are provided for diagonal and skate skiers at the Greenbush and Zillmer Trail areas. Pets and hiking are not allowed on ski trails. A heated log shelter and sledding hill is open to the public at the Greenbush Trail Area. Off-road biking is available at the Greenbush and New Fane Trail areas. Normally these trails are opened in late April through November depending on trail conditions. A 58-mile network of snowmobile trails join county and private trails, making it possible to visit adjoining towns and villages in the three county region. Trails are groomed by local snowmobile clubs contracted by the Forest.
Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit offers family camping at Mauthe Lake Recreation Area and Long Lake Recreation Area. Mauthe Lake Campground has 137 sites, including 49 electrical sites, one shower building and pit toilets. An authentic Native American plains teepee is available for rent. Long Lake Campground provides 200 sites, flush toilets and showers. Campsites accessible to people with disabilities are available. A sanitary dump station and recycling / garbage station is provided for registered campers at each campground. Mauthe Lake is open for camping year round. Reservations are recommended from mid-May through mid-September. The Greenbush Group Camp offers nine outdoor sites which accommodate groups up to 60. Only tent camping is allowed on the actual campsite. (Note: One wheeled camper is also allowed per site; but it must be parked in the vehicle parking area adjacent to the site.) Sites are located near the Greenbush Trail where campers can enjoy hiking or biking. A shelter house, hand pumps and pit toilets are available nearby. New Prospect Horseriders Camp is centrally located on the 33-mile Bridle Trail that winds through the Forest. Campers with horses enjoy 12 family sites, 3 group sites, a picnic shelter, drinking water and pit toilets. A 48-stall horse shelter building is available for campers, and each family site includes a double tie stall. Camping reservations are available online or by calling a toll-free reservation number. Contact information is listed below.
The Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive is 33 miles in length winding through beautiful countryside. Wildlife watching is prime along the route particularly during the spring and fall migration periods. Flycatchers, warblers, meadowlarks, vireos, woodpeckers, and a variety of raptors course through the region.
There are 7 primary lakes within or bordering the Northern Unit. These lakes, ranging in size from 427 acres (Long Lake) to less than 7 acres, account for 786 acres. The major fish population in these lakes include largemouth bass, bluegill, crappies, and northern pike. Mauthe Lake and Long Lake Recreation Areas have fishing piers that are accessible to people with disabilities. Public access is provided on these lakes by either a developed boat landing or walk-in access. Lake Seven, Mauthe and Butler Lakes prohibit the use of gas-powered motors. Other boating restrictions may apply. Check at landings for posted information regarding wake / no wake rules and whether or not a state park vehicle admission sticker is required. All watercraft must be equipped with a wearable Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each person on board.
Pets are welcome on the Forest in identified areas. A new pet brochure details the areas where pets are welcome to hike and picnic with their owners. It even includes the location of two dog training areas where pets are permitted off-leash! Pets are allowed on-leash on trails: Butler Lake, Greenbush Loop Trail System (not during snowcover), Ice Age, New Fane Loop Trail System (not during snowcover), Pharnell Tower, and Zillmer Loop Trail System (not during snowcover). Call the park office for more information.
Recreation - Recreation enjoyed on the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest includes hiking, mountain biking, bridle trails, fishing, wildlife watching, camping, backpacking, hunting, nature study, and dog training.
Climate - Southeast Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. January's average temperature is above 16 degrees F (-9 degrees C). Average July temperature is 85 degrees F (29 degrees C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). The area's average yearly precipitation ranges from 32-34". Annual snowfalls in the Southeast Region can range from 20 - 50". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.
The Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest lies within the counties of Sheboygan, Washington and Fond du Lac affording accessibility off Highway 23 at Greenbush and off Highway 45 at Kewaskum. The Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center is on Highway 67, 1/8 mile south of County Highway G.