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Contact information
For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Bluff Creek (No. 271)

Bluff Creek

Photo by T. Meyer


Overview

Location

Within the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Walworth County. T4N-R16E, Section 19. T4N-R15E, Sections 14, 23, 24. 296 acres.

Description

Description

Bluff Creek features a series of springs and elevated hard water spring runs and seepage slopes, which originate at the base of a morainal ridge. Also present are high quality mound fens, wet-mesic prairie and southern sedge meadow communities, southern dry-mesic forest, and stretches of a fast, hard, cold stream. Small tributaries enter Bluff Creek in several places offering distinct habitats for many calcium-loving plants that are unable to withstand the heavy flow in Bluff Creek itself. These small tributaries also contain many sedge species such as slender and fen star sedge. There are two substantial springs and runs that flow into Bluff Creek. The westernmost is the largest, with mats of the macro-alga Chara and aquatic species such as round-leaved monkey flower and cut-leaved water parsnip. The banks of this run are highly calcareous and contain fen and sedge meadow-wet prairie species. The more easterly spring run is smaller and emanates at nearly the same elevation as the creek; bubbling up through clayey sand that causes the run to appear milky. The large bubbling springs are the largest and least disturbed in this region. Also present is a relatively undisturbed dry-mesic woods dominated by large red oaks with bur and white oaks, black cherry, and shagbark hickory. Herbaceous woodland plants include wild geranium, mayapple, blue cohosh, and jack-in-the-pulpit. Bluff Creek harbors numerous rare plants and animals. Bluff Creek is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1993.

Access

Driving directions

From the junction of U.S. Highway 12 and County Highway P about 0.5 mile east of Whitewater, go south on P about 2.1 miles to the Bluff Creek bridge crossing and a parking area west of the road.

Ownership

Bluff Creek 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 calcareous fen, southern sedge meadow, wet/wet-mesic prairie and southern dry-mesic forest, as an aquatic reserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed vegetation manipulation will determine the structure of the wetlands and forest. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native wetland communities.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The wetland species and forest understory species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. The native dominant forest tree species (primarily oaks) are managed passively, though some thinning of the canopy may be needed. Other allowable activities across the entire site include control of invasive plants and animals, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • The old field will be regularly burned to limit brush invasion, and will be eventually converted to mesic prairie with locally-collected seed.
  • Roadside and utility easement areas may be managed sporadically by county, township and power line company.
  • A segment of the Ice Age Trail is located on the site and will be maintained to Department standards. 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.

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