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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Buckhorn Barrens (No. 360)

Buckhorn Barrens

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer


Buckhorn State Park



Within Buckhorn State Park, Juneau County. T17N-R4E, Sections 14, 15, 16, 22, 23, 27. 1,680 acres.



Buckhorn Barrens is a large expanse of sand barrens and sand blows, flooded wetlands with shrub-carr and northern sedge meadow, and a second-growth forest. The barrens contains dense patches of Jack pine and oak with scattered openings of characteristic prairie grasses and forbs. Species include little bluestem, flowering spurge, puccoon, and lead-plant. Ant lions, mottled sand grasshoppers, and the uncommon little white tiger beetle can be found on the sand blows. Osprey use the adjacent Castle Rock Flowage for nesting. Buckhorn Barrens is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.


Driving directions

From the intersection of Highways 21 and 80 in Necedah, go east on 21 about 1 mile, then south on G 8.1 miles to the park entrance. Get a park map. Go south on the park road 0.35 miles to a sandblow vista or continue south 1.2 miles to a parking area. Numerous hiking trails traverse the natural area. Access to the site is also available via a canoe interpretive trail.


Buckhorn Barrens 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 an oak/pine barrens reserve, as an aquatic reserve and wetland protection area, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed vegetation manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the savanna. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native oak/pine barrens.

Management approach

The native dominant tree species (primarily jack pine and black oak) are managed actively. However, some trees such as scattered black oak, white oak, and red pine are not harvested. After jack pine is thinned, additional shrub control via brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event can occur if the volume of woody material inhibits fire prescriptions.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails and park roads is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • An interpretive nature trail has signs describing the features that will be changing as the savanna develops a more open character and new species enter the system.


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