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

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Great River Trail Prairies (No. 357)

Great River Trail Prairies

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer

Resource links:

Great River State Trail


Overview

Location

Along the Great River State Trail, La Crosse and Trempealeau County. T17N-R8W, Sections 14, 15, 16. T18N-R9W, Section 21. 33 acres.

Description

Description

Great River Trail Prairies features two very diverse sand prairie remnants located an old railroad right-of-way. Unintentional fires started by the sparks of passing locomotives helped maintain the prairies through time. Today, management such as brushing and prescribed burning helps sustain the prairies. One of the last remnants of the Trempealeau Prairie, they feature grasses such as big and little blue-stem, and flowering plants including lead-plant, blazing-star, wild bergamot, vervain, spiderwort, hoary puccoon, prairie rose, and white sage. The prairies also harbor a healthy population of the rare clustered poppy mallow (Callirhoe triangulata). Great River Trail Prairies is owned by the DNR as part of the Great River State Trail and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.

Access

Driving directions

In La Crosse County: From the southernmost intersection of State Highway 35 and County Highway OT in Midway (north of Onalaska), go west on OT 0.6 mile to County Highway ZN, then west on ZN 1.1 miles to County Highway Z, then north on Z 3.5 miles to Lytle Road, then NE on Lytle Road 0.3 mile to its end and the Lytle's Landing Canoe Launch parking area. Walk/ride southeast along the trail into the natural area. The best prairie is located 0.7 mile southeast. In Trempealeau County: From the junction of Third Street (Highway 35) and Main Street in Trempealeau, go north on 35 0.1 mile, then northwest on Park Road 1.4 miles to the intersection of West Prairie Road (just past the cemetery). Park along W. Prairie Road and walk east or west along the recreational trail into the State Natural Area.

Ownership

Great River Trail Prairies 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 sand prairie reserve and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native sand prairies.

Management approach

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 oaks, hickories, and native shrubs such as hazelnut may be retained at low densities. The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. 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