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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Rice Creek (No. 504)

Rice Creek with Keego and Rice Lakes

Photo by R. Eckstein



Within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Vilas County. T42N-R6E, Section 4. T43N-R6E, Sections 28, 33, 34, 35. 435 acres.



Rice Creek SNA features a two-mile stretch of creek surrounded by a large wetland complex of conifer swamp, boreal rich fen, sedge meadow, and northern wet-mesic forest. White cedar dominates the forest but cover is variable with balsam fir, black spruce, tamarack, black ash, red maple, white spruce, yellow birch, paper birch, and hemlock all present in the canopy. Thickets of mountain maple and alder are found in some areas. The understory is diverse and includes heart-leaf twayblade, blunt-leaved orchid, naked miterwort, three-leaved goldthread, yellow blue-bead lily, early coralroot, and striped coralroot. The slow, warm, hard-water Rice Creek has extensive lush beds of aquatic macrophytes including dense stands of wild rice. Just west of Keego Lake are two small, but high quality stands of old-growth hemlock with super-canopy white and red pines. The undeveloped, 24-acre lake is a deep, soft-water seepage lake with a maximum depth of 18 feet. Situated between Rice Creek and the rich conifer swamp is an undisturbed, diverse boreal rich fen, which is fed by a small seepage flowing through the westernmost portion. Characteristic species include American woolly-fruit sedge, bog birch, pitcher plant, bog buckben, three-leaf Solomon's-seal, alpine cotton-grass, and marsh cinquefoil. Orchids are well-represented with at least seven species present. Birds include barred owl, red-breasted nuthatch, pine siskin, and winter wren. Rice Creek is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.


Driving directions

The area is best accessed by canoe. From the intersection of County M (Cut-off Road) and County K in Boulder Junction, go west on County K 4.3 miles, then north on Bear Lake Road 2.3 miles, then north on Round Lake Road 1.2 miles to a boat access. The site is located between Round Lake and Big Lake.


Rice Creek 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 boreal rich fen, old-growth northern wet/wet-mesic/mesic forest, as an aquatic preserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes will mostly determine the structure of the forest, aquatic communities and wetlands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality boreal rich fens, northern wet/wet-mesic/mesic forest and aquatic communities.

Management approach

The native species are managed passively, which allows nature to determine the ecological characteristics of the site. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, wild rice management, and maintenance of existing facilities. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township.
  • Wild rice is managed via harvest and supplemental planting.


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
  • Drone use, unless authorized by a SNA research permit
  • 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, December 15, 2017