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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
Thomas Meyer
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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Mirror Lake Pine Oak Forest (No. 406)

Mirror Lake Pine Oak Forest

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer

Resource links:

Mirror Lake State Park


Overview

Location

Within Mirror Lake State Park, Sauk County. T13N-R6E, Sections 29, 30, 31.

Description

Description

Mirror Lake Pine Oak Forest features a mature dry-mesic forest dominated by white pine and oaks, with dry sandstone cliffs, alder thicket, and scattered vernal ponds. The gently undulating sandy uplands west of Mirror Lake support the forest, which is dominated by white pine, white oak, red oak, and black oak. Red pine is co-dominant above the sandstone cliffs flanking the lake and is locally present elsewhere. The sapling layer is composed primarily of white pine, red maple, and a few scattered white oaks. Huckleberry dominates the shrub layer with American hazelnut occurring at various locations. Other characteristic low shrubs and herbs include early low blueberry, swamp dewberry, pipsissewa, creeping snowberry, wintergreen, princess'-pine, spinulose wood fern, narrow-leaved loosestrife, sessile-leaved bellwort, long-awned wood grass, and maidenhair fern. Locally, there are pockets of moister, somewhat richer forest in which red maple is an important component of the forest. The groundlayer contains enchanter's nightshade, wild sarsaparilla, and Jack-in-the-pulpit. An extensive shrub swamp dominated by speckled alder borders a small perennial tributary of Dell Creek. Characteristic flora includes skunk cabbage, marsh marigold, orange jewelweed, blue marsh violet, American golden saxifrage, and rough bedstraw. Also present is the rare bog bluegrass (Poa palustris). Numerous seepages occur along the tiny, clear, sandy-bottomed stream. Several short, cliff-enclosed dry ravines open to Mirror Lake with vertical rock exposures of nearly 12 meters in height. Nearer to Mirror Lake, red pine becomes more important as a canopy species. Bird life includes ruffed grouse, American woodcock, gray catbird, pileated woodpecker, barred owl, tufted titmouse, pine warbler, brown creeper and the state-threatened cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulea). Mirror Lake Pine Oak Forest is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2003.

Access

Driving directions

From the intersection of I-90/94 and State Highway 12 in Wisconsin Dells, go west on 12 0.5 mile, then west on Fern Dell Road 1.5 miles to the park entrance. Get a park map at the contact station. The natural area is situated in the northwest corner of the park.

Ownership

Mirror Lake Pine Oak Forest 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 dry-mesic forest and alder thicket, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed understory manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the forest. Manage property's ephemeral pond depressions as aquatic reserves and ecological reference areas.

Management approach

The native dominant tree species (primarily pines and oaks) are managed passively. However, forest understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns; this management system also applies to alder thicket areas. The mostly passive canopy management and understory manipulation will determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress fires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Roadside easement areas may be managed sporadically by township or state.

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