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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Upper Fox Headwaters (No. 265)

Chaffee Creek

Photo by M. Brust



Marquette and Waushara County. T17N-R8E, Sections 1, 21, 22. T18N-R8E, Section 36. T18N-R9E, Section 23. 195 acres.



Upper Fox Headwaters contains three distinct units: Zinke Lake, Upper Chaffee Creek Meadow, and Caves Creek. Zinke Lake is a small hard water spring lake with a tamarack-dominated shore. The water is deep, clear, and cold with limited aquatic vegetation that includes common horsetail, common pondweed, chara, and water milfoil. The spring outlet has a soft sandy bottom and contains white water crowfoot. Other plants include marsh-marigold, lousewort, cow parsnip, ironweed, bulbet water-hemlock, showy goldenrod, and Missouri goldenrod. The lake's outlet stream is also used by brook trout for spawning. Upper Chaffee Creek Meadow contains a wetland complex of fen, wet-mesic, and wet prairie with over 100 native plant species present. Running through the site is Chaffee Creek. The creek valley varies between very wet sedge meadow through fen-like areas along the gentle slope north of the creek and grading to wet-mesic prairie. Grasses include big and little blue-stem, blue-joint grass, and slender wheat grass. Featured forbs are marsh pea, Michigan lily, western sunflower, pale-spike lobelia, Kalm's lobelia, grass-of-parnassus, marsh fern, and swamp lousewort. Caves Creek contains spring seeps and runs, a 2-acre spring pond, sedge meadow and tamarack swamp, and oak barrens. The spring seeps are floristically rich and are surrounded by a diversity of wetlands. The barrens lies on a south-facing slope and contains a good diversity of prairie species including little blue-stem, June grass, flowering spurge, and bird's-foot violet. Upper Fox Headwaters is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1998.


Driving directions

For Chaffee Creek Meadow, from the junction of Highways 21 and 39/51 in Coloma, go south on 51 3.8 miles to rest area 81. Access is available via the Ice Age Trail on the west end of the rest area. Walk northeast into the site. For Caves Creek, from the junction of County Highways A and E in Lawrence, go north on A 1.7 miles, then continue north on 4th Avenue 1.7 miles. Park along the road and walk east into the site.


Upper Fox Headwaters 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 preserve for fen, sedge meadow wet-mesic, wet prairie, oak barrens, and tamarack swamp, as an aquatic preserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed vegetation manipulation (see below) will determine the structure of the forest, barrens and wetlands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native ecosystems.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The wetland species and barrens/forest understory species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. The native dominant barrens/forest tree species (primarily oaks) are managed passively, though some thinning of the canopy may be needed. Augmentation of the barrens ground layer will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material species; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • A segment of the Ice Age Trail and associated information kiosks are located on the site and will be maintained to Department standards. Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township.


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