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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Devil's Lake Oak Forest (No. 27)

Devil's Lake Oak Forest

Photo by Joshua Mayer



Within Devil's Lake State Park, Sauk County. T11N-R6E, Section 24. T11N-R7E, Sections 19, 30. 66 acres.



Devil's Lake Oak Forest features a southern dry-mesic forest with an overstory of red oak and a nearly pure understory of red maple. The natural area is part of a deep, scenic gorge incised into the Baraboo Hills by an ancestral Wisconsin River, and later abandoned and partially filled with glacial debris. The forest is dominated by an even-aged stand of red oak, which originated between 1856 and 1872 according to tree core data. Open-grown white oaks, substantially older and larger than the other canopy trees, are also present. Understory species include American hazelnut, round-leaved dogwood, yellow honeysuckle, and maple leaved viburnum. The groundlayer contains maidenhair fern, wild sarsaparilla, tall milkweed, blue cohosh, sweet-scented bedstraw, wild geranium, and meadow-rue. The forest is situated on top of the terminal moraine of the Cary Glacier, which blocked the ancient river channel. Forest soils are Baraboo and Skillet silt loams; many quartzite and igneous boulders are strewn over the forest floor. Several rare forest-interior birds breed here. Devil's Lake Oak Forest is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1953.


Driving directions

From the intersection of US Highway 12 and State Highway 136 in West Baraboo, go east (south) on 12 3.8 miles, then east on Ski Hi Road 1.2 miles, then south (right) on South Shore Road to the South Shore main gate and parking/campground area. The natural area lies east of the south shore day use area. Access is provided via Grottos hiking trail.


Devil's Lake Oak Forest 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 southern dry-mesic forest reserve and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the forest. Note: It is understood that over the course of time, the oak component will decrease under a passive management regime. Other State Natural Areas, however, are managed to maintain an old-growth oak cover type. Both management scenarios are needed as ecological reference areas.

Management approach

The native species are managed passively, which allows nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. The dry-mesic forest will be allowed to convert over time to a more mesic forest condition. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Utility corridor management occurs sporadically within the utility easement area.
  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails and roads 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: Thursday, October 11, 2018