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

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Bear Bluff (No. 529)

Bear Bluff

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer

Resource links:

Jackson County



Jackson County. T20N-R1E, Section 7. 186 acres.



Bear Bluff SNA is situated within an extensive, wetland complex that occupies a significant portion of the bed of the extinct Glacial Lake Wisconsin. It is a small remnant of the "Great Swamp of Central Wisconsin", much of which has been altered for cranberry cultivation. Of note is the presence of a forested community dominated by white pine and red maple, which occupies a landscape position between wet, acid forested wetlands of black spruce and tamarack, and dry forests comprised of pine and oak. This community type is uncommon in the state with a high percentage occurring in and around the bed of Glacial Lake Wisconsin. Associated trees include yellow birch, black ash, and tamarack. Common understory shrubs are alder, winterberry, dewberry, and poison sumac. Ground flora includes skunk cabbage, cinnamon fern, and three-leaved gold thread. A small portion of the site contains a more open wetland. And in contrast to many of the poor fens that are common within this landscape, this open wetland is an acid peatland dominated by sphagnum mosses, leather-leaf, blueberry species, few-seeded sedge, northern yellow lake sedge, blue-joint grass, and bog birch. Other characteristic species include cotton-grass, pond sedge, manna grass, bog rosemary, bog laurel, and black chokeberry. Birds breeding here and within the surrounding environs include American bittern, sharp-shinned hawk, Wilson's snipe, yellow-bellied flycatcher, least flycatcher, eastern wood-pewee, sedge wren, golden-winged warbler, Nashville warbler, pine warbler, Canada warbler, red-breasted grosbeak, purple finch, clay-colored sparrow, Lincoln's sparrow, and LeConte's sparrow. Bear Bluff is owned by the DNR and Jackson County. It was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.


Driving directions

From the town of Mather in northeast Juneau County, go west on County H 0.7 miles, then north on County HH 5 miles, then continue north on Goodyear Road 2.8 miles. The site lies east and west of the road.


Bear Bluff is owned by:

  • Jackson County
  • WDNR


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.


Site objectives

Manage the site as a northern wet forest reserve, as a wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the forest. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native northern wet forests.

Management approach

The native species are managed passively, which allows nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Exceptions 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 area may be managed sporadically by township.


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.

Hunting and trapping

This SNA has multiple landowners: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the land owner. In general, most DNR-owned land allows hunting and trapping. Partner-owned land may have other rules (for example, university-owned lands do not allow hunting or trapping). Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the "Resource links" heading above. More details regarding allowable uses on the non-DNR land may be found under the "Access" tab above, if available.

Allowable activities: DNR-owned land

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: all SNAs

  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use
  • 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
  • Camping and campfires
  • Geocaching

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

Last revised: Tuesday, March 21, 2017