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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Big Bay Sand Spit And Bog (No. 156)

Big Bay Sand Spit And Bog

Photo by Drew Feldkirchner

Resource links:

Big Bay State Park


Overview

Location

Within Big Bay State Park, Madeline Island, Ashland County. T50N-R3W, Section 13. 402 acres.

Description

Description

Big Bay Sand Spit and Bog is located on an island in Lake Superior and features a long, curving baymouth bar behind which lies a lagoon, an extensive quaking sphagnum-sedge bog, and older sand ridges. The youngest bar is marked by four zones: 1) wet sand beach less than 20 feet wide; 2) dry beach stabilized by several species of beach grasses; 3) rear beach or heath zone sloping away from the beach sand, sparsely wooded with red and white pines in barrens-like openings covered with lichens, bearberry, low juniper, false heather, blueberry, and huckleberry; and 4) tall shrub zone bordering the lagoon edge of the sand spit. Total beach acreage is 34 acres. Vegetation west of the sand spit consists of submerged aquatics in the shallow water and bog shrubs on the many small islands as it grades into sphagnum-sedge bog. The floating bog contains one of the richest bog floras in the Lake Superior region. Just east of the old ridge is a conifer swamp of white cedar, black and white spruces, and tamarack. The old ridge is second-growth timber. An extensive "cordwalk" allows visitors to traverse the baymouth bar without disturbing the sensitive vegetation. Big Bay Sand Spit and Bog is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1980.

Access

Driving directions

Take the ferry from Bayfield to Madeline Island. From the ferry landing in La Pointe, turn right into downtown and then left onto Middle Road. In 4 miles, Middle Road changes to Hagen Road and will lead 2 miles to the State Park entrance. Park maps are available at the contact station. A boardwalk leads through the sand spit. A State Park sticker must be displayed on all vehicles entering the park.

Ownership

Big Bay Sand Spit And Bog is owned by:

  • WDNR

Maps

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.

Objectives

Site objectives

Manage the site as a reserve for old-growth wetland forest lake and shore fen, sand spit/dunes/beach and Great Lakes Barrens (pine savanna), and an as ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the wetland forest, and bog lake. Very light thinning of barrens trees and shrubs and a sparse applied, patchy prescribed fire program can be implemented on the sand spit. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native ecosystems.

Management approach

The native species are managed mostly passively, which allows nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Exception: In the Great Lakes barrens, very light thinning of trees and shrubs and sparsely applied prescribed fire may be implemented. Other allowable activities throughout the site include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress fires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Boardwalks may be extended to protect fragile ecosystems.
  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by county.

Recreation

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.

Allowable activities

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.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • 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
  • Geocaching

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Monday, August 14, 2017