Richter Lake Research Natural Area

Small ephemeral ponds occur in the low areas in the undulating topography of Richter Lake Hemlocks RNA. 2010 photo by Linda Parker, USDA Forest Service.

Medford-Park Falls
Richter Lake Hemlocks Research Natural Area (RNA) is a mosaic of natural plant communities: northern mesic forest, northern wet-mesic forest, northern hardwood swamp, and a collapsed ice-walled lake plain glacial geologic feature.  It contains a microcosm of many of the predominant natural features associated with the Perkinstown End Moraine glacial deposit.  The complex topography within this RNA permits rapid changes in tree cover over short distances promoting a heterogeneous forest of many types including old-growth pockets of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).  Two rare plants, little goblin moonwort (Botrychium mormo) and autumn coralroot (Corallorhiza odontorhiza), occur here. 

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Medford 1 SW (station no. 475255) located about 12 mi (19 km) to the southeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages 33 inches (84 cm), 71% of which falls between April and September.   Average seasonal snowfall is 40 inches (102 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Daily summertime temperatures average 59° F; average daily maximum temperatures average 51° F. Average temperature in the winter is 24° F; average daily minimum temperatures average 31° F.
Elevations range from 1,420 feet (433 m) to 1,475 feet (450 m) MSL.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the Perkinstown End Moraine includes igneous, metamorphic, and volcanic rock. Bedrock is between 100 feet and 50 feet (30 - 15 m) of the land surface. Geomorphologic processes include till and lake deposition.
The soils of this RNA are well to moderately well drained sandy loams and silt loams. Moisture regime is dry-mesic to mesic to wet-mesic. Nutrient status is medium to rich. Sandy loam, loam, and fine sandy loam occur on 5-30% slopes. These are steep rolling soils over a loamy sand glacial till and outwash complex. These soils formed within glacial till areas but show evidence of outwash influence and occupy the backslope positions of well drained loamy pitted outwash hills. On the shoulders and backslope of end moraine hills are steep, hummocky soils that are moderately well-drained. Surface textures are sandy loam, fine sandy loam, loam, and occasionally silt loam on top of ice-walled lake plain features. These soils are generally found on 10-30% slopes.
Aquatic Features:
For its relatively small size, the RNA contains numerous perennial and ephemeral woodland ponds.  The forested areas occur as low islands within a matrix of mixed conifer-hardwood swamp drained by black ash-dominated drainages. An ephemeral stream drains a marshy wetland on the southern edge.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, Northern Highland (212X) Northern Highland Section
Perkinstown End Moraine 212Xe
Landtype Association:
Perkinstown Moraine Xe05
Plant Communities:

Curtis Community Type

Kotar Habitat Types

Dominant Species initial US National Vegetation Classification

Northern mesic forest


Sugar maple, basswood, white ash, bitternut hickory, butternut

Acer saccharum - Fraxinus americana - Tilia americana / Acer spicatum / Caulophyllum thalictroides Forest;  CEGL005008

Northern mesic forest


eastern hemlock, yellow birch, paper birch, white pine

Tsuga canadensis - Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis Forest;  CEGL005044

Northern mesic forest


sugar maple, basswood

Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis - (Tilia americana) Forest;  CEGL002457

Northern wet-mesic forest


eastern hemlock, yellow birch, red maple, white pine

Tsuga canadensis - Betula alleghaniensis Saturated Forest;  CEGL005003

Northern wet forest


tamarack, black spruce, black ash, red maple, yellow birch, hemlock, white pine

Fraxinus nigra - Mixed Hardwoods - Conifers / Cornus sericea / Carex spp. Forest; CEGL002105

Northern sedge meadow


Blue-joint grass, spotted joe-pye weed

Calamagrostis canadensis - Eupatorium maculatum Herbaceous Vegetation CEGL005174
or Carex stricta - Carex spp. Herbaceous Vegetation;   CEGL002258

Open bog


leatherleaf,  Labrador tea

Chamaedaphne calyculata - Ledum groenlandicum - Kalmia polifolia Bog Dwarf-shrubland; CEGL005278

Northern sedge meadow


Carex spp.

Eastern North American Wet Meadow Group; G112

Ephemeral stream


Not inventoried


No Complete Plant List Available

Common Shrub Species:
The understory shrub layer is generally sparse but populated by a diversity of species including American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), mountain maple (Acer spicatum), and witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana).
Common Herbaceous Species:
One 2006 reporting form recorded sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii), sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), sessileleaf bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), tree groundpine (Lycopodium dendroideum), and rattlesnake fern (Botrychium virginianum).
Common Fauna:
The RNA contains suitable red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) habitat and raptor nests have been found.  The matrix of plant communities within Richter Lake Hemlocks RNA is likely to support a diversity of fauna.  Mammals that occur in this part of Wisconsin include white tailed deer, black bear (Ursus americanus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), least weasel (Mustela nivalis), several rodents and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus).
Potential Research Topics:
Surveys of ecological information are needed on this RNA including systematic flora and fauna surveys; particularly of herbaceous plants, bats, reptiles and amphibians.  The ice-walled lake plain end moraine glacial features in this area are unique because of its unmodified status.

Related link: Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Richter Lake

Related Reports and Publications

Brzeskiewicz, Marjory.  2015.  Establishment Record Richter Lake Hemlocks Research Natural Area.  Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Medford-Park Falls District, Taylor County, Wisconsin.   38 pp.

Curtis, J. T.  1959.  Vegetation of Wisconsin.  University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI.

Hoffman, R.  1999.  Natural Area Project Proposal: Richter Lake Hemlocks.  Unpublished report by Randy Hoffman, WI DNR, State Natural Areas Program, on file in Park Falls Headquarters.

Kotar, J.; Kovach, J.; Burger, T.  2002.  A Guide to Forest Communities and Habitats of Northern Wisconsin (2nd edition).  Madison: University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest Ecology and Management.

Krause, John.  1997.  Chequamegon National Forest Biological Survey: Richter Lake Hemlocks.  Unpublished report in Park Falls Headquarters.

NGDC. National Geographic Data Committee. 2012. National Vegetation Classification Standard (NVCS). Available online: Accessed 2012.

Last Modified: August 20, 2021