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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Buffalo River Trail Prairies (No. 358)

Buffalo River Trail Prairies

Photo by Aaron Carlson



Jackson and Trempealeau County. T24N-R6W, Sections 5, 6. T24N-R7W, Sections 1, 2. T24N-R8W, Sections 15, 16, 17. T24N-R9W, Section 7. T24N-R10W, Section 12. 153 acres.



Buffalo River Trail Prairies contains four high quality remnants located along the Buffalo River State Recreation Trail. Once an old railroad right-of-way near the meandering Buffalo River, the trail now harbors diverse stretches of prairie that were historically maintained by the unintentional fires sparked by passing railcars. The four prairie remnants stretch between Eleva and Osseo. One is located west of Eleva, two east of Strum and the largest --a five-mile stretch east of Osseo. The prairies contain numerous species with grasses including big and little blue-stem and Indian grass. Showy forbs include stiff goldenrod, prairie coreopsis, spiderwort, and flowering spurge. Buffalo River Trail Prairies is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.


Driving directions

From the junction of I-94 and Highway 10 in Osseo, go east on 10 3.9 miles to a parking area on the north side of the highway. The largest section of prairie runs about 3 miles west and 2 miles east of the parking area. The other three natural area remnants are all accessible via the recreational trail.


Buffalo River Trail Prairies 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 dry-mesic prairie reserve and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies.

Management approach

The native prairie species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant oaks, hickories, and native shrubs such as hazelnut may be retained at low densities. The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native prairie species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by state.
  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near the recreational trail 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