- Natural areas
- Contact information
- For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
- Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist
Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Kettle Moraine Oak Opening (No. 229)
Within the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Jefferson and Walworth Counties. T4N-R16E, Sections 3,4. T5N-R16E, Sections 27, 33, 34. 659 acres.
Kettle Moraine Oak Opening lies in the heart of the jumbled and rugged landscape of the interlobate moraine, an area of glacially-formed kettle holes, kames (conical mounds), and gravelly hills and ridges. The area is a mixture of oak opening and oak woodland dominated by open-grown bur and black oaks. Small dry prairie openings occur on gravel knobs and steep south and west-facing ridges. Bald Bluff, the largest and most diverse of these, contains short grasses such as little blue-stem, side-oats grama, and prairie drop-seed. Forbs include pasqueflower, silky aster, grooved yellow flax, and rough blazing-star. It also has historical significance: it was visited by Abraham Lincoln when he was in the U.S. Army and it is thought to be a Native American signal hill.The best area of oak opening lies southeast of Blue Spring Lake. It features big blue-stem, Indian grass, purple prairie-clover, white camass, lead-plant, Illinois tick-trefoil, and a large population of the state-threatened kitten tails (Besseya bullii). Intensive management, including prescribed fire and woody species removal, is being used to restore degraded portions and link high quality areas. Kettle Moraine Oak Opening is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1991.
From the intersection of State Highway 59 and County Highway H in Palmyra, go south on H 2.7 miles to the Bald Bluff parking area east of the road. Access is also available from Young Road and Bluff Road. The Ice Age Trail loops through the site.
Kettle Moraine Oak Opening 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 preserve for dry prairie, oak opening and open oak woodland, as a significant geological site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie and savanna. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies and oak savannas.
The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The native prairie species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant woody species may be retained at low densities (oaks, hickories, and native shrubs such as hazelnut). The native dominant savanna tree species (primarily oaks) are managed passively. However, some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Augmentation of the ground layer will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. The mostly passive canopy management and understory manipulation will determine the ecological characteristics of the savanna. Other allowable activities throughout the site include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event can occur if the volume of woody material inhibits fire prescriptions.
- 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 and utility easement areas may be managed sporadically by township, county and pipeline company.
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, 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]