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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Mill Bluff (No. 359)

Mill Bluff State Park

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Mill Bluff State Park


Overview

Location

Within Mill Bluff State Park, Juneau and Monroe County. T17N-R1E, Sections 12,13, 24. T17N-R2E, Sections 7, 18. 485 acres.

Description

Description

Mill Bluff State Natural Area features a number of spectacular Cambrian sandstone mesas, buttes, and pinnacles that rise above the level bed of an extinct glacial lake. Long Bluff, Ragged Rock, Wildcat Bluff, Bear Bluff, Devil's Monument, Camel's Bluff, Mill Bluff, and Round Bluff are all included within the site. Many of the area bluffs contain 6-12 inches long petroglyphs (rock carvings) that are shaped like bird tracks. Similar to the petroglyphs found 25 miles east in Roche-A-Cri State Park, they date back to Upper Mississippi Indian culture about 400 years ago. The dominant plant community is a xeric forest composed primarily of Hill's oak, Jack pine, red pine, white pine, and white oak. Associated trees include big-tooth aspen, black cherry, red oak, paper birch, and red maple. Many of the sandstone outcroppings contain large red pine. On Long Bluff, the dominance of different trees varies according to aspect with oak and pine more prevalent on the western and southern exposures while red maple is more common on the east side of the bluff, especially on the lower slopes. Low shrubs including early low blueberry, huckleberry, sweet gale, plus bracken fern and Pennsylvania sedge characterize the groundlayer. A few prairie and barrens plant species are present especially on the flats at the base of the bluff's west end. Plants include big blue-stem, little blue-stem, Indian grass, wild lupine, lyre-leaved rock cress, bird's-foot violet, and common rock-rose. Birds include turkey vulture, wood thrush, rufous-sided towhee, eastern wood pewee, ovenbird, yellow-throated vireo and clay-colored and vesper sparrows. Mill Bluff is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.

Access

Driving directions

From the intersection of I90/94 and Highway 12 in Camp Douglas, go west on 12 3 miles, then north on W to the entrance of Mill Bluff State Park. Get a park map. A hiking trail encircles Mill Bluff and a stairway provides access to the top.

Ownership

Mill Bluff 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 an oak-pine barrens preserve, as a Karner blue butterfly restoration site, as a significant archaeological and geological site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed vegetation manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the barrens. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native oak-pine barrens.

Management approach

The native dominant tree species (primarily pines and oaks) are managed actively. However, some trees such as scattered northern pin oak and red pine are not harvested. After jack pine is established, thinning of the canopy and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, planting of lupine and other Karner blue butterfly nectaring plants, 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.

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.
  • Roadside and highway easement areas may be managed sporadically by designated roadside managers.

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