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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Sugar River Wetlands (No. 299)

Sugar River Wetlands

Photo by Josh Mayer


Overview

Location

Dane County. T6N-R8E, Sections 17, 20, 21. 266 acres.

Description

Description

Sugar River Wetlands features a diverse wetland complex including sedge meadow, calcareous fen, emergent aquatic, shrub-carr, and wet-mesic prairie. Located within the Upper Sugar River Watershed, this extensive wetland harbors numerous rare plant and animal species and contains the most diverse fishery in southern Wisconsin. The fen flora is diverse with many calcium-loving plants including Kalm's lobelia, grass-of-parnassus, and shrubby cinquefoil. The carbonate-rich groundwater that percolates up from the underlying bedrock provides high quality water to the surrounding wetlands and river. Intergrading with the fen is a wet-mesic prairie dominated by tall grasses including big blue-stem, Canada blue-joint grass, prairie cord grass, and Canada wild rye. The forb component is diverse with azure aster, shooting star, prairie blazing-star, prairie phlox, and culver's root. Also present is a southern sedge meadow with tussock sedge and a shrub-carr community dominated by tall shrubs such as red-osier dogwood, meadowsweet, and willows. Within these communities are a number of rare plants. The area is part of a larger grassland habitat restoration complex along the Sugar River, which seeks to establish landscape management areas for the benefit of declining grassland birds and animals, vegetation communities, and invertebrates that depend upon native vegetation. Sugar River Wetlands is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1996.

Access

Driving directions

Access via the Military Ridge Bike Trail. For walk-in access: From the intersection of U.S. Highway 18 and County Highway MV (Business 18) in Verona, go east on MV about 0.3 miles, then north on Country View Road about one mile to a gated access lane. Park and walk south on the access road, then go southeast on the recreational trail into the site. For bike access: Park in the lot on County Highway PB just south of County MV and ride southwest into the area. Or from the intersection of Highway 69 and County M, go south on 69 1.1 miles, then west on Valley Road 0.9 miles to a DNR parking area north of the road.

Ownership

Sugar River Wetlands 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 restoration location for wet-mesic prairie, sedge meadow and calcareous fen, and as an aquatic preserve and wetland protection site. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the wetland communities. Provide opportunities for research and education on native wetland restorations.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily restored by an intensive fire management program and a prairie seed planting program. The native wetland species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant oaks and native shrubs such as white meadowsweet may be retained at low densities. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native prairie species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although maintenance of the recreational trail is allowed, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance within the Natural Area 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