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Powell Marsh 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.

Powell Wildlife Area

Powell Marsh State Wildlife Area is approximately 4,303 acres located in Vilas County. Find it in western Vilas County, 3 miles south of Manitowish Waters and 10 miles north of Lac du Flambeau. The Wildlife Area is on Powell road between Highway 51 and Highway 47.

Powell Marsh is not a true marsh, but is a large peatland complex containing several wetland types and plant communities. The primary plant communities include:

  • Open water flowages with submerged and floating aquatic plants
  • Unforested wetlands, comprised of sedge meadows; alder and willow fens; and bogs with low shrubs, sphagnum moss and stunted spruce and tamarack.
  • Forested wetlands of black spruce and tamarack
  • Grassy upland islands
  • Upland forest of aspen, white birch, red maple, red oak and white pine


The open wetland system currently seen at Powell Marsh was maintained by wildfires for thousands of years. The last of the wildfires were in the 1930s and 1940s. These fires stimulated new vegetation growth that attracted large flocks of migrating geese. Sportsmen recognized the potential to attract geese to the area and petitioned the Wisconsin Conservation Commission to establish a goose management project. In 1955, the Powell Marsh State Wildlife Area was established to produce more geese for hunters.

Early management at Powell was one of the pioneering efforts to manipulate an extensive northern sedge leatherleaf bog for geese. Managers used prescribed fire to stimulate new growth for fall waterfowl migrations, similar to conditions that resulted from historic wildfires. A system of ditches and dikes was constructed to provide water level control, enable prescribed burning and allow limited farming.

Large, open peatland habitat is rare in northern Wisconsin. Powell Marsh is a regionally important wetland because of its large size and open character.

Today, Powell Marsh Wildlife Area provides significant, local wildlife-based recreation, particularly waterfowl hunting and birding opportunities. Management emphasizes habitat for waterfowl and species that require open wetland and grassland habitat. A combination of prescribed fire, hand cutting, mowing and shearing is used to limit the growth of shrubs and tamarack, while increasing the abundance of grasses and sedges.

Powell Marsh Wildlife Area Master Plan (2016) [PDF]


Many people visit Powell Marsh each year. They include hunters, trappers, berry pickers, bird watchers and photographers. The most common hunting activity is for waterfowl. Deer hunters primarily use the upland edges of the marsh. The marsh also is an important resource for local trappers. The property is a great place to birdwatch and find non-game species, to date over 213 different bird species have been spotted at Powell.

A scenic overlook is located at the north end of the marsh. There are four designated parking areas. There are no designated trails on the wildlife area but roads and dikes provide walking access throughout much of the wildlife area. A designated hike and ski trail is adjacent to the western boundary of the marsh on the NHAL State Forest.

Naturalists from the Northern Highland State Forest and private naturalists offer guided interpretive programs at Powell Marsh. The most common programs include birding and wildflower hikes.

The Powell Marsh Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities.

  • Birding
  • Cross country skiing (no designated trail)
  • Fishing (limited potential)
  • Hiking
  • Hunting - 850 acre No entry wildlife refuge from September 1 - OCTOBER 31. Refuge area is posted
  • Trapping
  • Wild edibles/gathering
  • Wildlife viewing

Download [PDF] a map of this property.

Download [PDF] a map of this property.

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

Useful links
Last revised: Wednesday May 06 2020