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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Fort McCoy Barrens (No. 228)

Fort McCoy Barrens

Photo by E. Epstein



Within the Fort McCoy Military Installation, Monroe County. T17N-R2W, Sections 16, 17, 18. T17N-R3W, Sections 1, 2, 13. T18N-R3W, Sections 35, 36. T19N-R2W, Sections 6-9. 690 acres.



Fort McCoy Barrens consists of three distinct sites: Silver Creek, Clear Creek and an Oak Barrens community. The Oak Barrens community is one of the least disturbed oak barrens remaining in Wisconsin. Much of the area is open prairie with scattered black and Hill's oaks with bur and white oak less common. The understory is highly diverse with species including little blue-stem, June grass, poverty oats grass, goat's-rue, bird's-foot violet, lance-leaved loosestrife, and wild lupine. Populations of at least four uncommon plants occur in the area: prairie fame-flower, large-flowered penstemon, and prairie larkspur. Animal life is also diverse within the Fort McCoy natural areas and includes several uncommon or declining speciest. Both Silver and Clear Creeks are spring-fed, headwater riparian communities in pristine condition. Silver Creek is a fast, cold, hard water stream fed by two major springs that emanate from sandstone caves and seepages along its length. Sedges dominate the open areas along the creek with speckled alder and winterberry. Clear Creek is a soft, alkaline stream with a sandy bottom. The narrow creek is fed by numerous seepages and numerous rare species occur within the area. Fort McCoy Barrens is owned by the U.S Department of Defense and was designated a State Natural Area in 1990 and 1991.


Driving directions

From the intersection of Highways 21 and B in Sparta, go east on 21 8 miles, then south into Fort McCoy on S. J. Street (about 1/2 mile west of the main gate) 1.2 mile to 18th Lane and park along the road. The site lies south of road. Visitors must call the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office in advance for permission to access the natural area (608) 388-2407. Vehicles must display a 5x8 card in the passenger-side windshield with name, purpose of visit, and emergency contact number.

Hunting, fishing, and trapping information.


Fort McCoy Barrens is owned by:

  • US Department of Defense


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.


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.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Non-DNR lands

Entrance fees: For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

Hunting and trapping

This is a non-DNR owned SNA: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the land owner. 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 "Resources" heading above. More details regarding allowable uses of this non-DNR owned SNA may be posted, if available, under the "Access" tab above.

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Other activities

Other allowable activities such as - but not limited to camping, geocaching and bicycling are determined by the landowner. Please contact them directly or visit their websites for details.

Last revised: Tuesday, September 08, 2020