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This property is sponsored by the Pheasants Forever Dane County Chapter.

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Wildlife Management

Hook Lake - Grass Lake Wildlife Area

COVID-19 Update

On Friday, May 1 and at the direction of Gov. Evers, the department reopened state parks, forests and sites within the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway with special conditions. Four State Natural Areas remain closed: Parfrey's Glen, Pewits Nest, Gibraltar Rock and Dells of the Wisconsin River. All Wildlife Areas and Fisheries Areas are open. For more information, please visit the DNR's COVID-19 information webpage for the full list of conditions, including hours of operation, admission fees and more.

Hook Lake Wildlife Area

Hook Lake Bog - Grass Lake Wildlife and Natural Area is a 1096-acre property located 4 miles south of Madison and McFarland in the Town of Dunn, Dane County. The property lies within Schneider Road on the north, Hawkinson Road on the east, Rutland-Dunn Townline Road on the south and Schuster Road on the west. Sandhill Road runs north to south through the property between Hook Lake and Grass Lake.

Hook Lake Bog ranks as one of the highest quality wetlands in Dane County and is a State Natural Area. It is a soft bog lake, which is unusual for southern Wisconsin. The lake, located in a glacial pocket, is nearly extinct with only 50-70 acres of open water remaining. The rest is covered by a floating sedge mat and emergent aquatic vegetation with tamarack swamp forest, open bog and southern sedge meadow communities. An upland island of dry-mesic forest is also present and is rich with spring wildflowers. The natural area also contains restored prairie and oak savanna along the western edge of the lake. The diversity and structure of the vegetation offers a variety of habitat and cover for wildlife, including open water, reed beds, sedge, cat-tails, shrub, deciduous and coniferous forest areas.

Grass Lake is a "biologically unique" wetland in Dane County and one of the few remaining deep water marshes in the county. It has a completely different character than Hook Lake, being alkaline and nutrient rich rather than acidic and nutrient poor. It supports the typical deep marsh aquatic plants such as water lilies, pickerel weed, spike weed and duck potato.

The property consists of oak and central hardwoods, as well as extensive prairie and grasslands.


The Hook Lake and Grass Lake WA is identified as place for managing high quality wetland communities of statewide significance within the Southeast Glacial Plains Ecological Landscape according to Wisconsin's Wildlife Action Plan [PDF]. The management goals for the property include:

  • protect and preserve a unique relic bog known as Hook Lake and its attendant vegetative communities in an undisturbed condition;
  • protect and enhance a deep water marsh known as Grass Lake and the diverse bird and animal community it supports;
  • provide a complex of wetland and upland native vegetation types which will support an abundance and diversity of wildlife; and
  • provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, nature enjoyment and research.

Prescribed burning, mowing and brushing are used to maintain an open character to the prairie and grasslands. Populations of invasive species are controlled or eliminated by cutting, pulling, burning, herbicide treatment and/or bio-control.

Sugar River Planning Group Master Plan and Environmental Assessment And Footville Public Hunting Grounds Feasibility Study [PDF]
DNR PUB-LF-083 2016


The Hook Lake Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities.

  • Birding
  • Cross country skiing (no designated trail)
  • Fishing
  • Hiking (no designated trail)
  • Hunting - especially noted for waterfowl, turkey, pheasants (stocked), deer, squirrel and rabbit
  • Trapping - muskrat, beaver and otter
  • Wild edibles/gathering
  • Wildlife viewing

We are trying to remove box elder along the roads. Contact the manager if you have an interest in a firewood permit.


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If you are interested in exploring this property further, you can access an interactive map.

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Last revised: Wednesday May 06 2020