Crystal Lake Nature Center
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest Visitor's Guide 2020, P. 12.
Lakeland Times
Original Date

Text shown below is limited to the history of the Nature Center.

  • Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake

The Crystal Lake Nature Center is nestled in the heart of Wisconsin's largest state forest, the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

Historically, the nature center holds a unique connection to our past. In 1933 a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp planned for the shores of Crystal Lake was, for some reason, developed instead on White Sand Lake to the north. Called "Camp Crystal,” 154 men stationed there pioneered in forestry and conservation work. They established a tree nursery, planted trees by the thousands, fought wildfires, maintained fish hatcheries and rearing ponds and constructed roads, bridges, and phone lines.

The CCC camp fell idle during the years surrounding World War II, but later found life as the Region 7 National Boy Scout Canoe Base from 1940 to 1983. At full capacity 250 boys from throughout the Midwest practiced outdoor skills at the camp. In the late 1980s, following a life-time of use, most well-worn, half-century old buildings were removed.

During the mid1990s, as a fitting tribute to “Camp Crystal,” a Wisconsin Conservation Corp crew rescued a remaining, but more recently built structure from the old CCC camp. It was carefully deconstructed, then transported and re-assembled timber by timber at Crystal Lake for public use as the Crystal Lake Nature Center.

Today, Crystal Lake Nature Center is a favorite stop for visitors of all ages and interests, from campers and sight-seekers, to hikers, bikers and picnic goers. Located within the Crystal Lake Campground and Picnic Area, the nature center is a short walk from picnic facilities and the beach....