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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Nourse Sugarbush (No. 534)

Nourse Sugarbush

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Bayfield County. T50N-R4W, Sections 19, 29, 30. T50N-R5W, Sections 24, 25. 438 acres.



Nourse Sugarbush features an old-growth northern mesic forest on the northwest flank of Mt. Ashwabay, a steep-sided hill rising over 700' above Lake Superior. To the south, the land rises abruptly to the Bayfield outwash sands and supports dry forest and barrens communities. In contrast, although situated on the same glacial outwash, the sugarbush developed in the shadow of Mt. Ashwabay, which protected it from fire. Large hemlock and sugar maple, some towering 100 feet high, dominate the canopy with associated species of yellow birch, basswood, paper birch, and red oak. The understory is composed of ironwood, sugar maple, and balsam fir. The shrub layer is sparse; groundcover includes wild sarsaparilla, hairy sweet cicely, doll's-eyes, rosy twisted-stalk, intermediate wood fern, partridgeberry, and violets. Densely packed territories of the black-throated blue warbler indicate the forest contains optimal habitat for this rare species. The site has a long history of maple sugaring - for hundreds of years the Ojibwe tapped the large trees for maple syrup production and diagonal slash marks from early sap collecting are still visible on some trees. Nourse Sugarbush was purchased by the Mt. Ashwabay Outdoor Education Foundation with assistance from the Bayfield Regional Conservancy and later donated to the State of Wisconsin. It was designated a State Natural Area in 2006.


Driving directions

From Washburn, go north on Highway 13 9 miles, then west on Whiting Road about 3.8 miles, then north on Jammer Hill Road 0.5 mile. Park along the road. Follow the Bayfield County Chasta ski trail north and east 1.5 miles to the tin shed and cabin located in the heart of the sugarbush. Or from Washburn, go north on Highway 13 10 miles, then north on Ski Hill Road 2 miles to the Ashwabay Ski Center Parking lot. On foot, skis or snowshoe, follow the Sugarbush Trail about 2 miles northwest to the Nourse Sugarbush tin shed and cabin.


Nourse Sugarbush 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 old-growth northern mesic forest reserve and an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the forest. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality northern mesic forests.

Management approach

Native species are managed passively, allowing nature to determine the ecological characteristics. Portions of the site are younger forest and are designated as future old-growth that will develop through natural processes. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, and maintenance of existing facilities. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails and access roads are an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • Utility corridor management occurs sporadically within the utility easement area.
  • A deed exception allows specific individuals to use the cabin and land for private maple sugaring during their lifetimes. The activity is for personal use only and is not a commercial operation.


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: Thursday, October 11, 2018