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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Bass Hollow (No. 270)

Large-flowered trillium

Photo by Josh Mayer



Juneau County. T14N-R4E, Sections 16, 21. 212 acres.



Located in a deep, cliff-lined coulee, Bass Hollow contains an undisturbed forested gorge of mesic hardwoods with sugar maple, basswood, and red oak. Other trees include yellow birch and black ash found in springy areas. Hemlock occupies north-facing cliffs. This site features one of the largest blocks of undisturbed southern mesic forest in the state. The topography is very steep with sandstone cliffs rising over 100 feet high in some places. The upper slopes and ridge tops support a dry to dry-mesic forest of red and white oaks, big-tooth aspen, and black cherry. The ground layer is diverse and contains herbaceous plants such as doll's eyes, blue cohosh, wild geranium, hepaticas, early meadow rue, mayapple, sweet cicely, lady fern, fragile fern, and silvery spleenwort. Bass Hollow is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1999.


Driving directions

From the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and State Highway 58 in Mauston, go southeast on 12 1.9 miles, then south on County Highway K 7.1 miles, then east on Cowan Road about 0.7 miles. The natural area lies northwest and southeast of the road. Or continue on K 0.5 mile past Cowan Road to a parking area for Bass Hollow Recreational Area.


Bass Hollow 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 mesic and dry-mesic forest reserve and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed understory manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the forest. A portion of the site has old field species and pine plantations. These will be managed over the course of time to develop contiguous forest blocks and eventually converted to hardwoods. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native southern mesic and dry-mesic forests.

Management approach

In the dry-mesic forest, the native dominant tree species (primarily oaks) are managed passively. However, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. The mostly passive canopy management and understory manipulation will determine the ecological characteristics of the dry-mesic forest. In the mesic forest, native species are managed passively, allowing nature to determine their ecological characteristics. The old field areas will be planted to southern hardwood species. The pine plantation will be managed over several years to thin the plantation and eventually convert to hardwoods. Across the entire site, allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress fires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Mesic forest species will be allowed to invade the old field, and will be augmented with planting.
  • The plantation will be thinned and harvested, and conversion to southern mesic forest will be promoted.
  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township.
  • 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.


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, October 26, 2018