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Buckhorn State Park Nature

Buckhorn State Park includes a number of different environments, ranging from floodplain forest to prairie, savanna and desert-like areas. We encourage you to explore these areas. Personal experience with nature has no substitute.

Wildlife

Face-to-face encounters with resident wild animals are the rule, rather than the exception. The Buckhorn Wildlife Area is managed to encourage and preserve wildlife and plant communities typically found in central Wisconsin. Canada geese, herons, sandhill cranes, ducks, muskrats, beavers, otters and mink all frequent the marshes and sloughs. Uplands are home to whitetail deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and even an occasional black bear. Hawks and owls hunt remnant prairies and mixed oak-pine stands in search of mice, snakes, insects and other prey.

Scenic vista

A boardwalk and observation platform give visitors a view of the sandblow area.The Sandblow Walk leads you out onto a typical central Wisconsin sandblow. This desert-like area recalls the park's ice age history when the region was covered by glacial Lake Wisconsin. There are two interpretive signs at this site.

State Natural Areas

Two State Natural Areas were designated in 2002. The 2000-acre Buckhorn Barrens State Natural Area overlays the park and Buckhorn State Wildlife Area.

The 820-acre Yellow River Oxbows State Natural Area overlays a portion of Yellow River Wildlife Area. This area consists of oxbows and floodplain forests.

Threatened bird calls Buckhorn home

Osprey generally nest in large trees or on rocky cliffs, but they will accept nest platforms on top of tall trees. A few such man-made nest sites are along the shoreline in Buckhorn State Park.

OspreyThe osprey has never been common, but the use of DDT and other "hard" pesticides caused a drastic decline in their numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. Since the banning of DDT in 1972 the species has slowly increased in number, but remains on the Wisconsin threatened species list. Osprey are seen here on a regular basis, so keep your eyes on the sky while visiting Buckhorn.

This may be your only chance to see one in the wild. The osprey is mostly white underneath, but its back is brownish-black. A conspicuous dark "stripe" runs across its cheeks. These birds often spotted gliding above the river in search of their next meal. Watch for these "fishers;" they're real experts.

Prairie and barrens restorations

Juneau County was part of the original major region of prairies and open savannas in Wisconsin. Oak barrens and oak savannas were the most typical types of prairie in the central sands area. Oak savannas/barrens are grasslands with occasional large oak trees predominating, while prairies are large grasslands without trees.

Without fire and grazing, forests replaced the open savannas and prairies. The change in habitat meant the loss of habitat for grassland songbirds, certain game birds, such as grouse and ring-necked pheasants, other insects and reptiles.

Buckhorn State Park has several areas of prairie restoration. Several large areas in the northeast section of the park were planted some years ago and have a beautiful growth of big bluestem and Indian grass, as well as some flowering forbs such as bergamot, goldenrod, asters, flowering spurge and round-headed bush clover.

Several areas along the main park road are marked for barrens restoration. Many park visitors wonder about the large number of dead oaks in this area. A fungus called "oak wilt" that spreads quickly through the roots killed the oaks within a short time.

In spring, when weather permits, prescribed burns are used to remove brush, leaves and dead grasses. Studies have shown that doing this encourages the re-establishment of prairie grasses and plants whose root systems and seeds are in the soil.

Last revised: Friday October 17 2014