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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Mecan Springs (No. 370)

Mecan Springs

Photo by Tom Weisenberger



Within Mecan River System Fishery Area, Waushara County. T18N-R8E, Section 1. T18N-R9E Sections 6, 7. 111 acres.



Situated in the bottom of a moraine depression, Mecan Springs protects the large clearwater springs which are the headwaters to the Mecan River. The river is a hardwater stream that flows southeasterly through Marquette County and into Green Lake County where it joins the Upper Fox River. A Class I trout stream, the Mecan River system contains some of the finest trout streams in central Wisconsin and supports excellent natural trout reproduction in the small, upstream gravel bottom pools and long-run riffle areas. Fen vegetation is present in the saturated soils of the Mecan Springs area. Sandhill cranes, northern bobwhite quail, and bald eagle use the area. Mecan Springs is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.


Driving directions

From the junction of Highways 39/51 and 21 in Coloma, go east on 21 2.6 miles, then north on GG 2.0 miles, then west on Chicago Road 0.3 mile to an access lane and parking area on the left side of the road. The natural area lies west of the parking area.The natural area lies west of the parking area.


Mecan Springs 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 oak woodland, calcareous fen and springs, as an aquatic preserve and wetland protection area, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed understory manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the woodland. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native oak woodlands and calcareous fens.

Management approach

The native dominant woodland tree species (primarily oaks) are managed passively. However, some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Augmentation of the ground layer will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. The native fen species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Native wetland conifers and black ash may be retained at low densities. The mostly passive canopy management and understory manipulation will determine the ecological characteristics of the site. 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

  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township.
  • A segment of the Ice Age Trail is located on the site and will be maintained to Department standards. Although maintenance of the recreational trail is allowed, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance within the Natural Area 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