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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Dalles Of The St. Croix River (No. 164)

Dalles Of The St. Croix River

Photo by Josh Mayer

Resource links:

Interstate State Park


Overview

Location

Within Interstate State Park, Polk County. T34N-R18W, Sections 30, 31. T34N-R19W, Sections 25, 36. 87 acres.

Description

Description

The Dalles of the St. Croix River features an L-shaped segment of the St. Croix River gorge cut through Precambrian basalt by meltwater drainage from Glacial Lake Duluth. Erosion, frost, and gravity acting on the bedrock have resulted in vertical cliffs, unusual pinnacle forms, and rocky talus slopes. The site is well known for its cylindrical potholes, which were formed by the grinding action of sand and small stones swirling in strong currents. Some of the potholes are quite spectacular in size - up to 6 feet wide and 12 feet deep. Vegetation on the rocky gorge is relatively sparse and dry. Numerous exposures of rounded rock, cliffs, and boulders are barren, while similar sites with more moisture contain polypody fern, fragile fern, rusty woodsia, mosses and lichens. Areas of sparse dry forest of red cedar, basswood, white pine, and bur, white, and black oaks occur throughout the site. Big blue-stem, blueberry, sumac, long-leaved bluets, bearberry, and poverty oats grass are characteristic plants of the rocky area. Dalles of the St. Croix is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1980.

Access

Driving directions

From the junction of U.S. Highway 8 and State Highway 35 in St. Croix Falls, go south on 35 0.3 mile to the Interstate Park entrance. Park maps are available at the visitor center. The natural area is reached via the Summit Rock Trail, River Bluffs Trail, and Pothole Trail.

Ownership

Dalles Of The St. Croix River 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 bedrock glade, as a significant geological site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and limited prescribed fire will determine the structure of the natural communities of this site. Provide opportunities for research and education on a high quality native bedrock glades and geological features.

Management approach

The native species on the bedrock glade (primarily oaks) are managed in a mostly passive manner. However, some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via brushing or a limited application of fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Other allowable activities across the entire site include control of invasive plants and animals and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • 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.
  • The bedrock glade is fragile (particularly the lichens that are found there). Since trampling of lichens presents a threat to this community, public use is preferably limited to researchers and small education groups. Other visitors are encouraged to observe the bedrock glade from trails only.

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

  • Camping and campfires
  • 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
  • Drone use, unless authorized by a SNA research permit
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

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: Thursday, October 19, 2017