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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Jefferson Tamarack Swamp (No. 389)

Jefferson Tamarack Swamp

Photo by Joshua Mayer



Within Jefferson Marsh Wildlife Area, Jefferson County. T6N-R15E, Sections 5-9, 16, 17, 18. 1,633 acres.



Jefferson Tamarack Swamp harbors the largest forested wetland in Jefferson County and one of the most extensive in southeastern Wisconsin. The wetland is dominated by large stands of mature tamarack with extensive patches of sedge meadow, and thickets of willow and dogwood along the periphery. Associated with the tamarack are American elm, red maple, and black ash. A hummocky cover of sphagnum moss blankets the ground and poison sumac is abundant throughout the site. Other common shrubs include red osier dogwood, common winterberry, and willows. Bog birch is found in more open areas. Groundlayer species include cinnamon, royal, crested shield, sensitive, and spinulose wood ferns, skunk cabbage, and pitcher plant. Southern sedge meadow and emergent marsh of cat-tails and arrowhead border the tamaracks. The meadow is dominated by bluejoint grass, tussock sedge, lake sedge, spotted Joe-pye-weed, marsh fern, and marsh bellflower. The extensive acreage of the site makes it an important refuge for many bird and animal species. Located within the site is a 10-acre upland oak island containing one of the largest Native American mounds in Wisconsin. Jefferson Tamarack Swamp was originally purchased by Pheasants Forever and later transferred to the DNR in 2004. The site was designated a State Natural Area in 2003.


Driving directions

From the intersection of Highways 26 and 18 in Jefferson, go east on 18 1.2 miles, then south and east on County Y about 3.1 miles. Park along the road and walk north into the site. Or from the intersection of Y and 18, continue east on 18 1.1 miles to an old farm driveway. Park and walk southeast 0.3 mile into the natural area.


Jefferson Tamarack Swamp 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 reserve for tamarack (rich) swamp and southern sedge meadow, as a wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the forest, along with prescribed fire in the wetlands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native tamarack (rich) swamps and southern sedge meadows.

Management approach

The native species are managed passively, which allows nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Exceptions include prescribed burns, control of invasive plants and animals, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives. Archaeological sites and historic structures are managed according to Department policy and existing state and federal legislation. This especially includes avoiding disturbance of the burial sites with the establishment of a "no disturbance" buffer zone within 15 feet of their perimeter or base. Vegetation on and around these features is generally managed in the same manner as the natural communities within which they occur. However, removal of trees and shrubs from burial areas (without any ground disturbance, e.g., stump pulling or vehicle use) and within the 15-foot buffer zone is generally desirable to protect them from windthrow, and to encourage growth of groundcover that helps prevent erosion. Selected trees may be retained for forestry purposes, or when unavoidable mound damage would occur during tree removal, or for other management purposes. Sites covered by grasses may be periodically mowed, burned and sprayed to maintain existing groundcover and to limit woody succession. The Departmental Archaeologist reviews all proposals for DNR-proposed activities within the buffered burial area.

Site-specific considerations

  • Ditch closing cannot occur until all land in the drainage district is publicly owned.


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, July 06, 2018