McCarthy Lake and Cedars Research Natural Area

McCarthy Lake & Cedars RNA. USDA Forest Service photo by Lucy Tyrrell.

This RNA site contains a 42 acre shallow, softwater drainage lake, essentially undisturbed, as well as a large northern white cedar old growth (Thuja occidentalis) swamp, which is the largest of its type known in the Chequamegon National Forest. Two slow, softwater streams and the headwater portion of a third such stream are also present. A large ericade bog, a good quality northern sedge meadow, and a five acre stand of old-growth eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) are also present. Animal diversity within the site is high and includes the American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Federally Threatened and State Endangered; the red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), State Threatened; and the black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), State Special Concern.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
The nearest weather station is in Mellen, Wisconsin, located approximately 8 miles (12.8 km) to the northeast.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
The mean annual precipitation is 33.9 inches (84.8 cm). Average snowfall is 85 inches (212.5 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
The mean annual temperature is 39.5 ºF. The maximum summer temperature is 101 ºF. and winter minimum temperature -49 ºF. The mean annual temperature is 39.5 ºF. The maximum summer temperature is 101 ºF. and winter minimum temperature -49 ºF.
The RNA has an elevation of 1450 feet (435 m).
Geology and Soils:
Precambian granite bedrock underlies this area. The landscape is young in geologic age and characterized by a deranged type of drainage pattern. The Soil is Tawas and Padus series.
Aquatic Features:
Aquatic features include a 42 acre shallow, softwater drainage lake; two warm, slow softwater streams (3 acres), and headwaters of a third stream. The two softwater streams flow into McCarthy Lake. The lake’s outlet flows through a field of large boulders and is, to some extent, subterranean.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Southern Superior Uplands (212J)
Winegar Moraines (212Jc)
Plant Communities:
Quercus prinus, Quercus velutina, Sassafras albidum, Carya spp.

SAF Cover Types (list acres):

Kuchler Types (list acres):

12 Black spruce (42) 85 Conifer Bog (165)
13 Black spruce-tamarack (21) 86 Great Lakes Pine (11)
15 Red pine (6) 97 Northern Hardwoods-Spruce (13)
16 Aspen (55) 99 Northern Hardwoods-Spruce (14)
21 Eastern white pine (5)  
24 Hemlock-yellow birch (14)  
25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch (13)  
37 Northern white cedar (106)  

Complete Plant List

Common Shrub Species:
Speckled alder (Alnus rugosa), Mountain maple (Acer spicatum).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Aquatic species include: pondweed (Potamogetonaceae sp.), coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), yellow water lily (Nuphar variegatum). Terrestrial flora include: Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), bead-lily (Clintonia borealis), goldthread (Coptis trifolia var. groenlandica), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis).
Common Mammal Species:
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
Common Bird Species:
Canada goose (Branta canadensis), north American black duck (Anas rubripes), blue-winged teal (Anas discors), wood duck, (Aix sponsa), American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), Nashville warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla), hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus), black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia), parula warbler (Parula americana).
Potential Research Topics
Any research topic requiring a large complex of relatively undisturbed lowland bogs, conifer swamps and wild lake shores is encouraged. The area needs a complete flora, fauna, bryophytes, and lichens inventory.  Research investigating the prolific eastern hemlock regeneration capacity comparing associated mammalian herbivory and its effect on hemlock regeneration could be of interest.  Also, study of the biology of Northern water snakes, common in Wabasso lake, could be of interest.

Related link: Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program McCarthy Lake And Cedars

Related Reports and Publications

Last Modified: August 19, 2021