Headwaters Naturalist Guide Service 

Canoeing, nature walks, birding, and wildlife tracking


the magic and mystery of the Headwaters Wilderness, the Sam Campbell Trail, the Thunder Lake Wildlife Area — or your own lake or special patch of woods. Hike a nearby trail and see the wonders of nature that you never knew existed. Learn how to paddle a canoe like it was your second skin. Identify birds, wildflowers, and edible-medicinal plants. Schedule a special nature-immersion experience for yourself, or along with family, guests, and friends. Children are welcome.

THE HEADWATERS WILDERNESS is the largest of Wisconsin’s untouched wilderness, where wolves and bears scout the shorelines along with beaver, muskrat, and otter. Expanses of marsh grass, wild rice, and cattails blanket the shallows, while golden water lilies dapple the surface of the deeper waters. The Headwaters is characterized by forested swamps and muskeg, bog lowlands, hardwood ridges, and the largest and oldest trees of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

The Pine and Popple Rivers run through the heart of this region and are among Wisconsin’s more wild and remote river systems. The Pine River is 89-miles long and the Popple River is just short of that at 62 miles. Access is limited to hiking and paddle canoes. In 1965, the Wisconsin legislature designated the Pine and Popple Rivers wild rivers to protect them from development. Canoeing on the Pine River is a wild experience for any nature enthusiast that holds many opportunities to see the natural inhabitants up close.

Explore the Nicolet National Forest

HALF-DAY HIKES (3 to 4 hours)

Scott-Shelp Lake Natural Area: Features a floating bog you can walk on and a breathtaking white pine-yellow birch climax forest.

Sam Campbell Trail:  Explore diverse forest types while Abel describes the unique plants and animals that make each their home.

Thunder Lake Wildlife Area: Immerse yourself in one of the state’s premier wetlands, with an impressive variety of birds, mammals and wildflowers.

$150 + $25 per additional person

DAY HIKES (8 to 9 hours)

Headwaters Wilderness: The crown jewel of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the largest untouched wilderness in Wisconsin. It is the source of the Pine, Wolf, Popple, and Peshtigo rivers and offers a wild experience for any nature enthusiast.

$300 + $25 per additional person

Canoe the Headwaters Wilderness

HALF-DAY PADDLES (3 to 4 hours)

Choose your favorite lake or stream, or ask Abel for a recommendation.

$150 + $25 per additional person

DAY PADDLES (8 to 9 hours)

Pine River: Enjoy one of the most beautiful canoe trips in the area as you meander through the spectacular Headwaters Wilderness on a designated State Wild River.

Julia Creek – Thoroughfare: Explore Julia, Virgin, and Whitefish Lakes up-close as you quietly glide through wild rice beds on your way to the headwaters of Eagle River. Take in little-known scenic vistas and abundant wildlife right here on our own chain of lakes.

$300 + $25 per additional person

About Abel

Abel Bean is a master canoeist, wildlife tracker, and naturalist. With 16 years of experience as a wilderness guide, he is passionate about sharing his knowledge of the Northwoods’ ecology, plants, and wildlife. His warm and engaging style of teaching make him a favorite with both children and adults. Abel is the Senior Wilderness Guide at Teaching Drum Outdoor School. He is also a father, mentor, teacher, and Three Lakes High School soccer coach. You can learn more about Abel on our Staff Bio page here.

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