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Wisconsin State Parks

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USA Parks
Great Northwest Region
Governor Knowles State Forest
Governor Knowles State Forest Trade River Water Crossing © Mary Elliott
Jewel and I coming down the bank from the Campground to the day use area. Oct 2011
Governor Knowles State Forest Trade River Brown Trail © Mary Elliott
Jewel and I coming through the pine trees on the brown trail. Oct. 2011
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325 State Road 70 P.O. Box 367
Grantsburg, Wisconsin   54840

Phone: 715-463-2898
Email: park email button icon
Established in 1970 as the St. Croix River State Forest, the forest was re-designated the Governor Knowles State Forest in 1981 to recognize former Governor Warren P. Knowles for his administration's progress in conservation.

The forest acts as a resource protection zone for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The forest is 55 miles long and up to two miles wide, and encompasses 32,500 acres of which 19,343 acres are currently state owned. 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.

Canoeing the St. Croix River winds the canoeist through a wild and scenic countryside. This is an excellent way to view geologic formations left by two ice ages.

Wildlife is the focus of attention for both the hunter and sightseer. Hunters will find whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, black bear, snowshoe hare, squirrel and woodcock on the forest. For visitors more interested in watching wildlife, the varied habitat on the forest afford opportunities to see a wide variety of birds and animals such as sharp-tailed grouse, common yellow throat, bald eagles, pocket gopher, mink and muskrat.
History of the Area
Governor Knowles State Forest is located in northwestern Wisconsin, covering parts of Burnett, Polk, and Washburn counties. The forest was named after Warren P. Knowles, the 35th Governor of Wisconsin, who served from 1965 to 1971. Here is a brief history of Governor Knowles State Forest:

1. Establishment: The forest was officially established in 1947 when the Wisconsin State Legislature authorized its creation. The intent was to acquire and protect degraded lands in northwestern Wisconsin, which had been severely impacted by logging and other forms of natural resource extraction.

2. Land Acquisition: Over the following years, the state forest gradually acquired thousands of acres of land, primarily through purchases from timber companies and private landowners. The objective was to restore and rehabilitate the area's natural resources, including forests, wetlands, and wildlife habitat.

3. Renaming: In 1984, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) renamed the Governor Knowles State Forest to honor Governor Knowles' conservation efforts and contributions to the state. His emphasis on environmental conservation and emphasis on sustainable forestry practices aligned with the goals of the state forest and its management.

4. Sustainable Forestry: Today, Governor Knowles State Forest is managed by the WDNR, with its primary management objective being sustainable forestry. The forest's ecosystem is carefully regulated to ensure timber production, while also protecting and preserving natural values, outdoor recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat.

5. Outdoor Recreation: Governor Knowles State Forest offers various recreational activities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, camping, and cross-country skiing. It also has numerous trails, including the Gandy Dancer State Trail, which is a popular 98-mile long trail for snowmobiling, biking, and other non-motorized activities.

6. Cooperative Efforts: The WDNR works in collaboration with other agencies, organizations, and local communities to manage and protect the forest's resources. These partnerships aim to foster sustainable development, provide educational opportunities, and enhance the recreational experiences for visitors in the area.
A Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker is required on all motor vehicles stopping in state parks, forests and recreation areas, please visit the VEHICLE ADMISSION STICKERS web page.
1. The Brandt Pines Campground offers primitive camping with picnic tables, fire rings and vault toilets.
2. St Croix Family Campground provides electric hookups for RVs along with a playground and fishing opportunities.
3. Trade River Equestrian Group campsite is ideal for horse riders, offering hitching posts, water access and pit toilets.
4. Primitive backpack campsites are available throughout the forest on first:come-first-serve basis without any amenities or facilities provided.

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1. Brandt Pines Trail: A 4-mile loop trail, featuring a mixed forest of red pine and hardwoods with wildlife sightings.

2. Ridgeview Trail: This is an easy-to-moderate 5-mile hiking path that offers scenic views from the ridge overlooking St Croix River Valley.

3. Fox Run Loppet: An intermediate level, approximately 6 miles long trail through dense forests ideal for cross-country skiing in winter months.

4. Grass Lake Segment - Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT): Approximately a mile-long segment within Governor Knowles State Forest offering beautiful lake views and birdwatching opportunities.

5. Trade River Equestrian Campground Trails: Over ten miles of horseback riding trails winding through diverse landscapes including wetlands, prairies and woodlands; not exclusively for hikers but open to them as well.

6. Tamarack Nature Loop Trial: Easy one mile hike around Tamarak Bog which features interpretive signs about local flora & fauna.

7. Pine Cliff Hiking Area - IAT Access Point: Offers access point to longer segments of the Ice Age National Scenic trial.

8. Sandrock Cliffs Trial- IAT Section: Moderate difficulty, four mile section along Saint Croix river showcasing sandstone cliffs formations.

9. Cattail Pond Loops Trials: Two separate loops each under two miles circling Cattail pond providing peaceful woodland walks.

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Use Mapquest and the address provided below to create a custom set of directions from your location to the Forest:

Governor Knowles State Forest

325 State Road 70 P.O. Box 367

Grantsburg, WI 54840-0367


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Wisconsin State Parks