The Magic of Cranberry Harvest


'Tis the season for cranberry harvest, considered by many to be the "world's most beautiful harvest". Cranberry tours are available in Manitowish Waters during the growing season (July to October), but there's many ways to experience the magic of the crimson red berry. After a short history lesson on the cranberry, read our suggested once-in-a-lifetime experiences for celebrating cranberry season in the Northwoods. 


a bit of history

One of only three fruits native to North America, the cranberry, an antioxidant rich “superfruit”, can be found in juices, sweetened dried cranberries, and other products around the world. Cranberry marshes were first built in northern Wisconsin during the 1940’s. Being a perennial plant, some cranberry vines are over fifty years old and contrary to popular belief, they do not grow in water. A pillar of cranberry marsh management is the protection of water, wetland, and wildlife resources. Cranberry marshes are located on the south side of Manitowish Waters, along the shores of Little Trout Lake and Alder Lake.

In late September, cool nights + short days cause the berries to ripen to a crimson red, signaling the start of harvest. Cranberry beds are flooded with up to 18 inches of water and berries are gently knocked off the vine with machinery. Each nutrient-dense berry has tiny pockets of air that allow it to float to the water’s surface. Workers then corral the berries to be removed + cleaned by equipment. 

Bartling's Manitowish Cranberry Co. is just one of several cranberry marshes in the Manitowish Waters area that has been growing berries for generations. Now on their 4th generation, Steven and David Barting share their family farming story here (Northerly Collective curator, Becca, is married to David). The beauty and magic of cranberries haven't gone unnoticed, check out this Red Bull video - Back to the Cranberry Bog - as they literally skate across the bog, filmed a few years ago on Bartling's farm.  


from the air

Experience cranberry harvest from the air. Nestled in between gin-clear lakes and endless pine trees, cranberry marshes filled with floating berries are one of the more spectacular sights. Hire Lauer Aviation to take you to the sky; land or sea float plane rides available. If you're already a pilot, log hours in a sea float plane. 


put on an apron

Buy a pound (or ten!) of cranberries and get cooking. Fresh cranberries are available for purchase from Cranberry Square Market in Manitowish Waters and from Snow's Family Market in Mercer. Our favorite recipes are: 

Cranberry Cilantro Salsa
Cranberry-Lime Pie
Cranberry Wild Rice Salad with Craisins
Cranberry-Rosemary Stuffed Pork Loin
For more recipes visit Ocean Spray or US Cranberries.


bucket list opportunity

Check off this bucket list opportunity and get paid doing it? Sign up to work cranberry harvest! Be a farmer for a month; spend your day corraling berries in the cranberry bed, driving tractor, filling bins, and just enjoying the sunshine of northern Wisconsin. Some farms have sweetened the experience by offering hot lunches, fresh cranberries, and other berry benefits. Get your name on the waiting list for next season, contact Steven Bartling,


gather with friends  

Start a new tradition with your group of friends, host Friendsgiving. It's all about celebrating Thanksgiving with your closet group of amigos, either before or after the real holiday. New to the scene? Read about Friendsgiving in these handy guides: here, here, and here. As you sit down around the table, snap a few pictures and make sure to use the hashtag for a chance to win, #FriendsgivingCranberryContest.  


Dinner by the berries

Wade through the berries with a cocktail in hand, dine bogside with a gourmet dinner, experience the sun setting behind the floating red blanket, and tour a 4th generation family farm. If this experience sounds magical, buy tickets for Northerly Collective's Dinner by the Berries. 

*Event is sold out for 2017, follow Northerly Collective on social media (Facebook or Instagram) and sign up for The Current Collective newsletter to get the scoop for next year! 


From your wine glass

Sip a blend of berries from your wine glass. Visit Three Lakes Winery to sample + tour their Northwoods facility. Tours are only available seasonally, so call ahead. You've never tasted a fruit wine like this before, so celebrate the harvest season by cheering another glass. Other cranberry wines are available for sample + purchase at Cranberry Square Market in Manitowish Waters.


Take a tour

Marsh tours, sponsored by the Manitowish Waters Chamber of Commerce, run the first Friday after July 4th through the first Friday in October. The one-hour tour, starts at 10:00am at the Manitowish Waters Community Center before guests head out for an up-close look at the bogs. All ages are welcome; pre-registration is not required.

During Cran-A-Rama in Manitowish Waters (held October 7th, 2018), free shuttle buses are offered from the Community Center to the marsh. Call the Chamber of Commerce for details (715) 543-8488. Pontoon rides are also offered, complementary, beginning from the Blue Bayou Inn on US Hwy. 51. Rides run 9:30am to 2:30pm. 

As part of cranberry fest the Manitowish Waters Lake Association give free pontoon rides.  The rides originate from the Blue Bayou Restaurant on Manitowish  Lake and Hwy 51.


Get cooking

Participate in the Cran-A-Rama Cooking Contest, held on October 7th, at the Manitowish Waters Community Center. Categories are (1) Desserts, Muffins, + Breads; (2) Main Dishes, Appetizers, + Salads; (3) Jellies, Jams, Sauces, + Misc. Whether you're an expert at cooking with cranberries, or mastering a recipe for the first time, we suggest you join. The best overall recipe wins a scenic airplane ride over Manitowish Waters.


From the shopping bag

Visit our local retailers to pick up cranberry treats, unique gifts, and other food products. In Manitowish Waters, stop at Cranberry Square Market, we love their Bogberry salsa + cranberry ice cream. In Boulder Junction, visit Alder Lake Cranberry. Their cranberry glass items make the best gifts.   


For Northwoods adventure suggestions, sign up for our newsletter, The Current CollectiveExplore northern Wisconsin with the Northerly Collective Adventure Guide

Thanks to Stephanie Jolin Photography for the cranberry photo.