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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Dunbar Barrens (No. 104)

Dunbar Barrens

Photo by E. Epstein



Marinette County. T37N-R18E, Sections 16, 17, 20, 21, 28. 1,412 acres.



Dunbar Barrens features a Pine Barrens community that is part of a large, open landscape located on a gently rolling pitted glacial outwash plain. The site is similar in composition to presettlement barrens with broad sweeping prairie vistas and a distinctive panorama. Logging, grazing, and periodic fires have maintained the open character of the barrens in addition to the action of frost in low pockets. Today, aspen, oak, and jack pine forest surround the opening and low granitic outcrops are found scattered through the area. The dominant vegetation consists of grasses and sedges, and a well-developed shrub layer is present including blueberry, bearberry, prairie willow, and sweet fern. Herbaceous plants include rice grass, poverty oat grass, wintergreen, barren strawberry, and hawkweeds. The area also harbors a diverse and unusual lichen flora. Originally recognized as being attractive habitat for sharp-tailed grouse, the bird is today absent from the barrens after a population peak in the 1950's. The last recorded observation was in 1976. Common barren birds include the eastern bluebird, eastern towhee, field sparrow and clay-colored sparrow. Dunbar Barrens is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1973.


Driving directions

From the intersection of U.S. Highway 8 and County U west of Dunbar, go west on 8 2.0 miles, then north on an unimproved access road (marked with fire number 12902) 1.3 miles, then west 0.4 miles to the southeast corner of the site.


Dunbar Barrens 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 pine barrens reserve and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed vegetation manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the savanna. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native pine barrens.

Management approach

The native dominant tree species (primarily jack pine) are managed actively. However, some trees such as scattered northern pin oak and red pine are not harvested. After jack pine is established, thinning of the canopy and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. 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 can occur if the volume of woody material inhibits fire prescriptions.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near permanent firebreaks and state-approved snowmobile trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • A road system is found throughout the site that has been historically used by local persons, predominantly. These past usage patterns indicate that people will use newly established fire breaks as roads; this type of use is discouraged by signs.


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, July 06, 2018