Gateway to the Northern Great Lakes Region

A Great Place to Start Your Adventure!


Discover the Beauty of Northern Great Lakes

The David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is located on County Highway G just off US Highway 2, two miles west of Ashland, Wisconsin, in and west of the roundabout intersection of Highways 2 and 13. Make sure we are your first stop in Northern Wisconsin!

Free Parking and Admission

Hosted or sponsored programs at our center may require a registration fee. We are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM. (Federal permits and passes sold between 9:00am and 4:30pm.)

(Administrative and Archives hours differ) Please check our Facebook page for any closures or changes.

Closed During These Holidays

November 23 and 24

December 24, 25, 26, 31, January 1,

Easter Sunday

Our Vision

The David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center will be a leader in advancing the sustainability of the region's culture, history, and natural resources through innovative partnerships that engage people and communities in positive change.

Our Goal

The David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center's goal is to be a leader and partner in delivering regional education, information, and tourism services.

Our Mission

The David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center helps people connect with the history, culture, and natural resources of the Northern Great Lakes Region through customer-based information, services, and educational programs.

Our Partners

We operate through a unique federal, state, and local partnership.

Our partners include the US Forest Service, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Historical Society, UW-Madison Division of Extension, and the Friends of the Center Alliance Limited.

These federal, state, and local organizations align their missions to bring specialized services to our visitors and communities.

US Forest Service logo

The US Forest Service personnel are responsible for the overall management, administration, and coordination of the visitor center’s operations. Primary duties include:

Operations Oversight

Budget Formulations

Execution and Tracking

Board of Directors Interface


Coordination of Special Events and Celebrations

Balancing Partner Needs and Interests

Sales of Federal Passes/Permits between 9:00am and 4:30pm

National Park Service logo

National Park Service

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore provides seasonal front desk volunteers at the center.


US Fish and Wildlife Service logo

Staff manages the adjoining Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The personnel continues to work on conservation and restoration issues on the refuge.

They also regionally help landowners interested in improving the management of their land for fish and wildlife by assisting them with forest, wetland, and stream restoration projects.

Additionally, the staff assists with education, outreach programs, and special events. Together, the refuge and our visitor center offer an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities and outdoor activities.

Wisconsin Historical Society logo

The WHS operates the Ashland Area Research Center, the state repository for 8 northern Wisconsin counties providing researchers with access to public records and manuscripts. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 1pm-4:30pm, and by appointment. The archivist also curates the art gallery located on the second floor. 

The WHS offers the assistance of the Northern Outreach Coordinator and can assist you with local history questions, youth education programs, and research field trips for the northern region. Staff organize a Local History Book Club and the Ojibwe Storytelling Series.

They also provide visitor services and coordinate group usage at the center.

Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center logo

Friends of the Center Alliance Limited

The role of Friends of the Center Alliance Limited (FOCAL) has changed dramatically since it first opened.

In 2000, FOCAL began managing the Spirit of the North gift shop. With the proceeds from the profits, FOCAL has been able to award education grants, busing grants, matching snowshoe grants, and sponsor several programs and events at the center.

New Project (11)

Center-based Extension staff coordinate environmental and natural resource education and outreach to address emerging issues and opportunities with the Lake Superior Basin and beyond. Current programming is centered on connecting Wisconsin residents with education and volunteer opportunities through the Master Naturalist Program and supporting collaborative watershed work through the Lake Superior Collaborative.

County-based Extension educators host events, trainings, workshops, and meetings at the Center on topics ranging from agriculture, community development, 4-H, youth, and family development, finance, health, and well-being.

COVID-19 Protocols in Place

Our visitor center is a federal, USDA Forest Service-owned building that follows a national COVID-19 workplace safety plan. Health guidelines are implemented in accordance with the USDA Forest Service policies and procedures.

When COVID-19 community levels are high, visitors and staff are required to wear masks inside the center. The status of masking is evaluated weekly, based on the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels tool.

Signs will be posted if masks are required prior to entering our center.

Talk to Our Staff Today

Reach out to us if you have questions or want to schedule a visit. We’d love to hear from you soon.