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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Rice Lake (No. 40)

Rice Lake

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Within the Thunder Lake Wildlife Area, Oneida County. T38N-R10E, Sections 3. T39N-R10E, Sections 27, 33, 34. 1,242 acres.



Rice Lake is a large, shallow, soft water drainage lake, with outstanding wild rice production which varies from year to year depending on the lake level. Surrounding the lake are a sedge meadow, well-anchored in muck and composed mainly of blue-joint grass, sedges, cat-tail, and bulrushes and an alder thicket dominated by alder, willow, and bog birch. A poor fen with black spruce islands is located north of Rice Lake; black spruce, tamarack, black ash, and alders are present to the south and west. Also present is a 50-acre upland island south of Rice Lake containing red maple, white birch, and balsam fir with scattered hemlock and white pine. Birds found here are typical of sedge meadows and marshes: sedge wren, common yellowthroat, swamp sparrow, and red-winged blackbird. The area is also a waterfowl refuge. In spring, large numbers of mallards, black ducks, and ring-necked ducks use the lake and in fall, large concentrations of diving ducks can be observed. In addition, bald eagles and osprey nest and feed in the area. Other inhabitants include muskrat, mink, beaver, and otter. Rice Lake is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1965.


Driving directions

From the intersection of U.S. Highway 45 and County Highway A in Three Lakes, go north on Highway 45 1 mile, then west on Rice Lake Road 2.4 miles to the east shore of Rice Lake. Best access is by canoe.


Rice Lake 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 poor fen, sedge meadow and alder thicket, as an aquatic and wetland reserve, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and the application of fire in the sedge meadow will determine the structure of the wetlands and lake. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native ecosystems.

Management approach

The native species are managed mostly passively, which allows nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, ditch closure, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress fires. Also, brush control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns in the sedge meadow. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • The area is a year-round waterfowl refuge and no hunting of waterfowl is allowed.
  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails and boardwalk is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • Augmentation of the wild rice population can be considered after scientific review.
  • Stream meanders may be restored by plugging ditches, moving soil, and revegetating with appropriate native wetland species.
  • Boat dock may be permanently removed.


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