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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Kinnickinnic River Gorge And Delta (No. 162)

Kinnickinnic River Gorge And Delta

Photo by Aaron Carlson



Within Kinnickinnic State Park, Pierce County. T27N-R20W, Sections 13, 14. 88 acres.



Kinnickinnic River Gorge and Delta contains an undisturbed river gorge with a diversity of plant communities and features one of the finest examples of river delta in Wisconsin. The deep river valley, cut into glacial drift, sandstone, and limestone, contains dry-mesic forest on the sheltered north-facing slope and xeric oak-cedar woods and small prairie openings on the exposed south-facing slope. The steep south bank contains large beds of Canada yew and walking fern under a forest of sugar maple, ironwood, and white pine. The steep, thin-soiled slope contains hepatica, common polypody fern, walking fern and other mesic woodland plants. Dripping to dry cliffs are found intermittently throughout the valley. On the south side of the river is the Devil's Mixing Bowl - a series of cascades originating in a deep box canyon and emptying into a small pool. A spectacular example of dripping cliffs is found within this canyon. At the head of the canyon the sheer walls support a ribbon of bulblet ferns growing along a high shelf. From this shelf, water falls 10 feet to the canyon floor and down the cascades. The lower waterfall is dry except in wet seasons. Numerous mosses and lichens blanket the canyon floor. Of special geomorphologic interest is the large semi-open delta deposited by the Kinnickinnic River as it flows into the St. Croix River. The delta and river lowlands are used by waterfowl. Kinnickinnic River Gorge and Delta is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1980.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Hwy. 29 and County Hwy. FF just south of River Falls, go west on County Hwy. FF 5.5 miles, then north on County Hwy. F slightly less than 1 mile, then west on Cedar View Road 1 mile to the park entrance. Get a park map. Hike south into the area. A STATE PARK STICKER IS REQUIRED.


Kinnickinnic River Gorge And Delta 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 reserve for dry prairie and shaded cliff, as a significant geological feature, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the delta. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie and associated gorge and cliff communities. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies and depositional delta features.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the native prairie will be primarily shaped by a 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. The native dominant tree species in the gorge are managed passively. However, some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Other allowable activities throughout the entire site include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native prairie species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, access to suppress wildfires, and salvage of trees after a major wind event.

Site-specific considerations

  • 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.
  • Litter deposited by boat users of the delta beaches is a constant management problem.


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