LRP - Licenses

LRP - Regulations

LRP - Permits

Recreation - Statewide

Recreation - Trapping

Recreation - Fishing

Recreation - Hunting

Env. Protection - Management

Env. Protection - Emergency

Env. Protection - Resources

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.


Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Bass Lake Fen (No. 178)

Bass Lake Fen

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Waushara County. T18N-R10E, Sections 23, 26. 125 acres.



Bass Lake features a 20-acre calcareous fen located on the undeveloped shore of Bass Lake. The fen is exceptionally diverse with many small springs, openings, and ponds providing a calcium-rich habitat that supports 125 species of plants. Several rare species adapted to the alkaline conditions grow here including. Scattered shallow, marl-bottom ponds are dominated by needle spike rush, small bladderwort, grass-leaved pondweed, and Smith’s bulrush. To the east, the fen grades into sedge meadow and the two communities are bordered on the north by tamarack swamp and on the south by shrub-carr. The five-acre Bass Lake is a clear fertile lake, some 27 feet deep, with a sandy marl bottom and a population of fern pondweed, a species not usually found in south or central Wisconsin. The lake’s outlet stream is a small tributary to Little Lunch Creek and the Fox River drainage. The lake has a good warm water fishery and is an important waterfowl area. Sandhill cranes, which nest nearby, use the area extensively. Bass Lake is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1983.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highways 22 and 73 in Wautoma, go south on 22 4.4 miles, then east on County Highway YY 0.9 mile to a parking area south of the road. Walk south on the access lane 0.75 mile to the north shore of lake.


Bass Lake Fen is owned by:

  • WDNR
  • Private


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 calcareous fen reserve, as a sand prairie and oak barrens restoration site, as an aquatic reserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the fen and associated wetlands and uplands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native calcareous fens.

Management approach

The native species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Native wetland conifers and black ash may be retained at low densities on the fen. The native dominant savanna tree species (primarily black oaks) form the basis for an oak barrens restoration, while the old field can be restored to sand prairie. Some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Augmentation of the ground layer will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. An intensive fire management program will be used in the restoration areas and occasionally applied to the fen area. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, and access to suppress wildfires.


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.

Hunting and trapping

This SNA has multiple landowners: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the land owner. In general, most DNR-owned land allows hunting and trapping. Partner-owned land may have other rules (for example, university-owned lands do not allow hunting or trapping). Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the "Resource links" heading above. More details regarding allowable uses on the non-DNR land may be found under the "Access" tab above, if available.

Allowable activities: DNR-owned land

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: all SNAs

  • 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]

Last revised: Friday, October 26, 2018