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For information about Sandhill Wildlife Area, contact:
Sandhill Wildlife Area
1715 County Hwy X
Babcock, WI 54413
715-884-2437

Observation towers and Trumpeter Trail of Sandhill Wildlife Area

The Trumpeter Trail is a 14-mile auto tour that takes about two hours to complete. A short-cut road can be taken if you don't have that much time to spend at Sandhill. The Trumpeter Trail will help you understand and appreciate how the forces of people and nature affect wildlife and their habitat in Central Wisconsin.

The trail is free to enter, although a kind donation from you is very much appreciated. A donation box is located at the chalet near the Sandhill entrance gate.

The Trumpeter Trail is open are from sunrise to sunset April (usually mid-April) through the end of October. The trail is closed and unplowed during the winter. Just because the Trumpeter Trail is unplowed in winter and closed to auto travel doesn't mean you have to give up wildlife watching adventures in the winter. Bring your cross-country skis and experience the quiet cold of winter at Sandhill.

Sandhill Trumpeter Trail Guide [PDF]

As you travel the Trumpeter Trail, be sure to stop and climb our three observation towers that will provide you with unique views of Sandhill, the surrounding landscape and its wildlife. All observation tower steps are steep and can be slippery when wet. Use hand railings and take your time!

Bison Barrens Tower

The first observation tower you come to on the Trumpeter Trail overlooks our fenced-in, 260-acre bison range home to a small herd of bison, a gift from Wallace and Hazel Grange. Wildlife Management staff maintain the herd at 12 to 20 animals because any more of these large grazers would quickly outstrip their food supply-- the grasses and wildflowers that grow in our actively managed oak barrens habitat. Throughout the growing season, the Bison Barrens is colored in hues of blue, yellow, white and orange from the blooms of various prairie wildflowers. Notice the various burn units mentioned earlier.

Check out our Bluebird Nest Box Trail at Bison Barrens. In addition to our bison and bluebirds, watch for badger, red-tailed hawks, eastern kingbirds, coyotes and deer that thrive in this oak barrens habitat.

North Bluff Tower

The second observation tower along the Trumpeter Trail offers an impressive panoramic view of several nearby bluffs and the breathtaking countryside - a sweeping view that takes in a twenty-mile vista. The trail that leads from the parking lot to the summit of North Bluff is rugged and can be slippery when wet. The trail is not recommended for people with heart conditions or those who must avoid strenuous exercise. North Bluff, a lone sentinel in an expanse of flat land, rises 200 feet above the surrounding land. Its weather-beaten brow has withstood an assault by weather and water for more than a billion years! The volcanic rock (called rhyolitic rock) was forged by the same forces that formed the Baraboo Hills to the south and Rib Mountain to the north. Its bulk gradually sank under hundreds of feet of sea water that flooded Wisconsin's landscape for 300 million years. Sandy sea sediments slowly piled up, totally burying North Bluff. Finally, the earth's crust heaved giving rise to a land smoothed by ocean sediments.

Wind, water and glaciers attacked, liberating North Bluff from its sandstone tomb, grain by grain. North Bluff stands triumphant today surrounded by a landscape teeming with life. It serves as a beacon, guiding birds in their yearly migrations. From the observation tower, you may gaze at the sandstone escarpment to the south and west and scattered - outliers: remnants of an ancient sea floor that once imprisoned the old bluff.

Thermal updrafts created almost daily by the sun-heated rock, provide air currents favored by carrion-eating turkey vultures. These great blackish-colored birds, with wingspans in excess of 6 feet, have weak breast muscles and they rely heavily on winds for soaring. They are frequently seen circling North Bluff.

Gallegher Marsh Tower

The third observation tower is tucked into a corner of the 2,200 acre Gallegher Marsh. Those wishing to view the expansive Gallagher Marsh can park at the small parking lot and take a short hike to the Observation Tower which provides an unobstructed view of Sandhill's marshlands. During spring and fall, you will see impressive flocks of Sandhill cranes, geese, ducks and many other forms of wetland wildlife. The homestead near the tower was originally settled by the Gallagher family. They were unable to afford the property taxes, so they lost their farm which reverted to the county around 1930. The house was later moved to a Babcock townsite. Rare cliffbreak ferns now cling to the inner surface of the Gallegher's house foundation, demonstrating the hardiness of Nature in reclaiming her wild things from the hand of people. Salamanders and other creatures seeking cool, dank environments use these old foundations to hibernate.

Last revised: Friday September 28 2012