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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Dewey Heights Prairie (No. 10)

Dewey Heights Prairie

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Within Nelson Dewey State Park, Grant County. T3N-R5W, Section 18. T3N-R6W, Section 13. 30 acres.



Dewey Heights Prairie rests atop a southwest-facing bluff between 800-870 feet high overlooking the Mississippi River. The cap rock is Ordovician-age dolomite covered only partially by thin soil with exposed cap rocks, ledges, and cliffs. A dry, limey prairie dominated by big and little blue-stem, side-oats grama, hairy grama, June grass, Indian grass, and needle grass occupies the steep slopes. There is also a diversity of native prairie forbs from spring blooming pasque flower, wood betony, and shooting star to summer blooming butterfly weed and compass plant and asters and goldenrods in the fall. Other species include marble-seed, golden alexanders, false toadflax, smooth cliff brake, germander, and false boneset. The site is also home to numerous rare birds and butterflies. Dewey Heights Prairie is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1952.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highway 133 and County Highway VV in Cassville, go west on VV 1.2 miles to the Nelson Dewey State Park entrance. Park maps are available at the contact office. Follow park road to the bluff summit and park at the Overlook or Dewey Heights picnic areas. A hiking trail traverses the site. A STATE PARK STICKER IS REQUIRED.


Dewey Heights Prairie is owned by:

  • 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 dry prairie reserve and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The native prairie species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant oaks, hickories, and native shrubs such as hazelnut may be retained at low densities. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native prairie species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although mowing a narrow strip along the State Park road is allowed, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible. Mowing should be timed to avoid dispersal of invasive plant seeds, and mowing equipment should be cleaned if invasive plant seeds are present.
  • 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.


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
  • 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: Friday, October 26, 2018