- Natural areas
- Contact information
- For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
- Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist
Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Parfrey's Glen (No. 1)
Within Devil's Lake State Park, Sauk County. T11N-R7E, Sections 14, 15, 22, 23. 508 acres.
Parfrey's Glen, Wisconsin's first State Natural Area, is a spectacular gorge deeply incised into the sandstone conglomerate of the south flank of the Baraboo Hills. The exposed Cambrian strata provide excellent opportunities for geological interpretation. The walls of the glen - a Scottish word for a narrow, rocky ravine - are sandstone with embedded pebbles and boulders of quartzite. The moss-covered walls are moist from seepage, cool and shaded. As a result, they support a flora more typical of northern Wisconsin with yellow birch, mountain maple, and red elder and several rare plant species, including a federally threatened species. Parfrey's Glen Creek, a fast, cold, hardwater stream flows through the gorge and harbors a very diverse insect fauna including rare species of diving beetles and caddisflies. Parfrey's Glen is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1952.
From the intersection of Highways 78 and 113 in Merrimac, go west on Hwy 113 0.1 mile, then north on Baraboo Street (Bluff Road) 2.5 miles to County Highway DL, then west 0.3 mile to a parking area on the north side of the highway. A trail leads north into the natural area. A short segment at the beginning of the trail is wheelchair accessible. NOTE: Catastrophic floods in 2008 and 2010 destroyed the boardwalk and bridges that once provided access to the scenic cliffs and waterfall in the heart of the glen. They were not replaced. Hikers must now walk along the rocky creek bed and ford the shallow stream in one place in order to see these features. Visitors may not venture past the waterfall. The round-trip hike into the glen is 1.6 miles.
Visitation Guidelines: Parfrey's Glen is open daily 6:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Visitors must remain on the designated trail. At the point where the designated trail ends, visitors may proceed into the glen but must remain within 20 feet of the bed of the creek and may not venture past the base of the waterfall. Pets, food, and beverage are not allowed in the natural area. A State Park sticker is required to park in the parking lot.
Parfrey's Glen is owned by:
The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.
The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.
Manage the site as a reserve for southern dry-mesic forest and cliff communities, as a rare plant protection site, as a significant geological and archaeological site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will primarily determine the structure of the forest and cliff communities. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native southern dry-mesic forests and cliff communities.
The native dominant tree species (primarily yellow birch and oak), are managed passively, and will convert over time to a more mesic forest condition. Passive canopy management will determine the ecological characteristics of the site. The old field areas at the base of the hill will be allowed to succeed naturally to a forested condition. Augmentation of the ground layer in the old field will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material species; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires.
- Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near state-approved trails and field roads is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance must be minimized, and must have no impact on the rare species found at the site
- Roadside easement areas may be managed sporadically by the designated local, county or state managers
Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.
In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.
- Cross country skiing
- Horseback riding
- Rock climbing
- Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use
- Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
- Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
- Camping and campfires
For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]