Echo Lake Research Natural Area

A forested hill reflected in the waters of Echo Lake and the bog mat that surrounds the lake. Photo: Mari Dallapiazza, 2012, USDA Forest Service.

Forest and Vilas
Eagle River-Florence
Echo Lake RNA protects several eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and hardwood stands (yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum)) that are among the oldest, least disturbed, structurally and compositionally intact communities on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The principal features of Echo Lake RNA are a soft-water seepage lake with a surrounding bog mat, and several stands of mature hemlock/hardwood forest situated on rolling moraine. The RNA also contains a mosaic of wetland types that includes northern wet forests dominated by black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina), white cedar swamp, alder thicket, and open bog.  The mix of community types in this RNA supports several rare species including the gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Eagle River (station no. 472314) located about 13 mi (21 km) to the west of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages 30 inches (76 cm), 69% of which falls between April and September. Average seasonal snowfall is 53 inches (134 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Daily summertime temperatures average 57° F; average daily maximum temperatures average 51° F. Average temperature in the winter is 23° F; average daily minimum temperatures average 30° F.
Elevations range from 1,680 feet (512 m) to 1,750 feet (533 m) MSL.
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the area includes igneous, metamorphic, and volcanic rock. Bedrock is greater than 100 feet from the land surface. Geomorphologic processes were glacial meltwater deposition with a surface of collapsed outwash plain.
A large area of the central and southern portion of Echo Lake RNA includes the Stambaugh soil series. Other soils include Carbondale, Greenwood, Pence, and Padus series.
Aquatic Features:
Aquatic features include Echo Lake, a 13-acre (5 ha) slightly acidic, very clear, soft-water seepage lake with a maximum depth of 12 feet (3 m). There is no development along the 0.57 mile (0.9 km) lakeshore but there is an unimproved carry-in boat access.  A small tributary of Ninemile Creek flows from a conifer swamp through the northern part of the RNA into Upper Ninemile Lake impoundment.  It is a soft-water stream with slightly alkaline, light brown-stained water and is likely inhabited by brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The stream bank is predominantly sedge mat or alder but a portion is shaded by boreal-like forest.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, 212X Northern Highland
Brule and Paint Rivers Drumlinized Ground Moraine
Land Type Association(s):
Nicolet Hills Xc04
Plant Communities:

Curtis Community Type

Kotar Habitat Types

Dominant Species initial US National Vegetation Classification

Northern wet-mesic forest


hemlock, yellow birch

Tsuga canadensis - (Betula alleghaniensis) Forest; CEGL002598

Northern wet-mesic forest


white cedar, tamarack

Thuja occidentalis - Larix laricina / Sphagnum spp.; CEGL005225

Northern mesic forest


hemlock, sugar maple, yellow birch

Tsuga canadensis - Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis Forest; CEGL005044

Northern mesic forest


sugar maple, white ash, basswood

Acer saccharum - Tilia americana / Ostrya virginiana / Lonicera canadensis Forest; CEGL002458

Northern mesic forest


white pine, red pine, quaking aspen

Pinus strobus - (Pinus resinosa) - Quercus rubra Forest; CEGL002480

Northern mesic forest


quaking aspen (succeeding to mixed hardwood forest)

Populus tremuloides - Betula papyrifera / Acer saccharum - Mixed Hardwoods Forest; CEGL002468

Northern wet forest


black spruce , tamarack, white cedar

Thuja occidentalis - Larix laricina / Sphagnum spp. Forest; CEGL005225

Northern dry-mesic forest


red pine, white pine

Pinus strobus - (Pinus resinosa) - Quercus rubra Forest; CEGL002480

Shrub Carr


willow/red-osier dogwood/meadow sweet

Salix sericea Shrubland;  CEGL006305

Open bog


leatherleaf, Labrador tea, bog laurel

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

Northern sedge meadow


(blue joint grass/tussock sedge)

Calamagrostis canadensis - Eupatorium maculatum Herbaceous Vegetation; CEGL005174

Stream: fast, cold, soft (un-named tributary of Ninemile Creek)


needs survey

not determined 

Lake soft, seepage (Echo)


needs survey

not determined

Complete Plant List

Common Shrub Species:
The understory is open with few shrubs and contains small canopy gaps filled with sugar maple saplings. Shrubs present include beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), leatherwood (Dirca palustris), American fly-honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis), and velvet-leaf blueberry (Lonicera canadensis).
Common Herbaceous Species:
The groundlayer is dense in some areas and supports American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) which is a species of viability concern on the CNNF. Characteristic species include jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), shining club-moss (Huperzia lucidulum), intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia), three-leaved goldthread (Coptis trifolia), and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides).
Common Fauna:
Echo Lake RNA has not had a detailed faunal inventory, however two Nicolet Breeding Bird Survey points are located within the RNA.  The RNA provides nesting habitat for numerous neotropical migrant birds, habitat to rare birds such as the yellow-bellied flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris) and several protected bat species. This site is embedded within an area recognized by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative as an Important Bird Area, which by definition provides essential habitat to one or more species of breeding or non-breeding birds.
Potential Research Topics:
Echo Lake RNA contains two long-term monitoring plots in the Nicolet Breeding Bird Survey, providing a useful baseline for studies of bird population dynamics.  It also provides opportunity for studies of old growth northern mesic forests, wet mesic forests, acid bog lake systems, and rare plants including the economically important ginseng.

Related link: Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Echo Lake

Related Reports and Publications

Anderson, Craig, L. 2007.  Biodiversity in selected natural communities related to global climate change, annual summary for 2007 submitted to Wisconsin Focus on Energy Environmental Research Program.  21 pp.

Brzeskiewicz, Marjory.  2014.  Establishment Record for Echo Lake Research Natural Area.  Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Eagle River District, Forest County, Wisconsin.   42 pp.

Curtis, J. T.  1959.  Vegetation of Wisconsin.  University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI.
Epstein, E.  1981.  Scientific and Natural Area Data Sheet.  Unpublished inventory report of Echo Lake Hemlock Hardwoods.

Epstein, E.  1989.  Site Survey Summary of Echo Lake Hemlock Hardwoods.  Unpublished report on file in Park Falls Chequamegon-Nicolet Office.

Fields, D.; Janke, S.  1996.  Community Surveys of Echo Lake Hemlock Hardwoods RNA.  Unpublished reports on file in Park Falls Headquarters.

Hoffman, R. 1999.  Unpublished project report on Echo Lake Hemlock Hardwoods.

Howe, R.W.; Roberts, L.J. 2005. Sixteen Years of Habitat-based Bird Monitoring in the Nicolet National Forest. Pages 963-973 in Ralph, C.J. and T.D. Rich, editors. 2005. Bird Conservation Implementation and Integration in the Americas: Proceedings of the Third International Partners in Flight Conference. 2002 March 20-24; Asilomar, California, Volume 2. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-191. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 643 pp.

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.

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

Nicolet BBS. 2004.  Nicolet National Forest Breeding Bird Survey. Bird Records on file in Park Falls Headquarters.

Steele, Yoyi. ed. 2007. Wisconsin Important Bird Areas: Critical Sites for the Conservation and Management of Wisconsin’s Birds, published by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. Website:

Last Modified: August 20, 2021