restricted access Introduction: A North Woods Transformation
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xi xi introduction A North Woods Transformation For centuries, Ojibwe people enjoyed dense green forests, abundant wildlife, and waters teeming with fish on land that the United States later labeled northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and Michigan ’s Upper Peninsula. By the end of the nineteenth century, mining and logging had stripped this land of much of its natural wealth and splendor. Today, it is again recognized for its forests and lakes as well as its history of extractive industry that attracted immigrants and capital to the region. For many residents and visitors, it offers a natural paradise with more wildlife than people. While Ojibwe continue to call this land home, it is a changed place. During the twentieth century, vacationers arrived at housekeeping cabins, state parks, and family-owned resorts like northern Wisconsin’s Ross’ Teal Lake Lodge, where they discovered “not city conditions, but the pleasingly novel conditions attending sojourns in the North Woods” and “an ideal vacation for all the family.” For the Tobin family, paved roads led them north from Illinois to Teal Lake Lodge, where rustic cabins lacking running water reinforced the escape from city life. The family enjoyed hay fever relief in the crisp air and explored lakes and forest trails. Writing during winter in Illinois, L. M. Tobin recalled the benefits of summer days in a place called the North Woods. Another Teal Lake Lodge visitor, B. A. Claflin, praised the accommodations and food as better than other area resorts. He also noted the previous destruction of the region’s trees and how a new forest emerged to offer an appealing and scenic landscape for tourists. Teal Lake Lodge promotional materials, Claflin’s remarks on forest regeneration, and Tobin’s reflections on his family vacation demonstrate how the North Woods was increasingly viewed and experienced from a consumer perspective.¹ introduction introduction xii The North Woods that Tobin, Claflin, and many other vacationers enjoyed was a new creation. Geographically and ecologically, the North Woods describes a forested landscape encompassing northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is also one of the most concentrated lake regions in the world. In this sense, it is a place that can be marked on a map. During the interwar and postwar years, the North Woods moniker came to define the broad region, although places within it emerged with distinct names. Today, vacationers to the Upper Peninsula still discuss visiting the “UP,” and residents often call themselves Yoopers; whereas in Minnesota, a commonly heard refrain involves being “up at the lake” or “up north.” Minnesota’s Arrowhead is part of the North Woods and includes Carlton, Cook, Lake, St. Louis, Aitkin, Itasca, and Koochiching Counties. But counties bordering the Arrowhead also developed as important North Woods destinations and are included in this story. Today, the North Woods moniker resonates most strongly in northern Wisconsin. But perhaps more than geography and labels, the North Woods also describes an abstract idea and conceptual realm forged by a range of actors during the twentieth century. This book tells the story of how this particular place came to be known and experienced as the North Woods. Far more complicated than simply a story of outsiders imposing their will, this book shows how vacationers at places like Teal Lake Lodge interacted with local tourist providers and residents, private and public tourism advocates, and fellow consumers to create the North Woods. Hunters and anglers formed organizations to advocate for limits on logging and improved fish and game propagation. Ojibwe challenged policies that conflicted with their subsistence hunting and fishing practices, but they also provided for tourists at places like northern Wisconsin’s Lac du Flambeau reservation. Local boosters viewed the forested landscape as a commodity to sell to consumers seeking escape from daily life. Timber and mining companies valued trees and minerals, while state conservation agencies managed natural resources and promoted recreation. The U.S. Forest Service pursued Gifford Pinchot’s conservation vision, which grew to include outdoor recreation aided by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) young men carving trails, building campgrounds, and planting trees on public lands. While numerous studies exist on how other industries changed the region, tourism’s influence in transforming cutover forests into the North Woods remains less understood. This story thus contributes to both a broader understanding of the region as well as the history of American xiii introduction tourism and its connections to consumer society and modern environmentalism .² The market’s intrusion into the nineteenth-century countryside established...


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