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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Deansville Fen (No. 311)

Lesser fringed gentian

Photo by H. Iltis



Dane County. T9N-R11E, parts of sections 25, 36. T9N-R12E, parts of sections 30, 31. 604 acres.



Located on the western edge of Deansville Marsh Wildlife Area, Deansville Fen is an extensive wetland complex of native plant communities featuring a high quality calcareous fen grading into wet-mesic prairie and sedge meadow. The ground is hummocky and moderately wet with sedges such as tussock sedge, fen star sedge, and cotton grass, numerous grasses including blue-joint grass and big blue-stem, and widely scattered shrubs. The fen contains many rare and unusual plant species that thrive in the carbonate rich soils including grass-of-Parnassus, Kalm's lobelia, valerian, and Riddell's goldenrod. The area also harbors rare plants. Other species are fowl manna-grass, marsh marigold, turtlehead, spring-cress, northern bedstraw, swamp lousewort, marsh milkweed, and marsh aster. The wetland is also home to a diversity of rare and uncommon birds. Deansville Fen is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1996.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highways 73 and 19 in Marshall, go west on 19 4.7 miles, then north on Twin Lane Road 3.3 miles, then east on Greenway Road 0.7 mile to a parking area. Walk 0.4-mile east, then south and cross the Maunesha River to the fen.


Deansville Fen 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 preserve for wet/wet-mesic prairie, southern sedge meadow and calcareous fen, as a wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the wetlands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native wetland ecosystems.

Management approach

The native wetland species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant oaks and native shrubs may be retained at low densities. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native wetland species after careful review, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Ditches may be filled to restore wetland hydrology.


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