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Wildlife Management

French Creek Wildlife Area

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French Creek Wildlife Area

French Creek Wildlife Area is a 3,506-acre property located in Columbia County. Find it six miles northeast of Portage on Highway F. Disjunct ownership in towns of Fort Winnebago and Marcellon in Columbia County and town of Buffalo in Marquette County.

Prior to the establishment of the state wildlife area in 1947, the marsh land was once devoted to the production of "wire-grass," a native plant used in the manufacturing of grass rugs and matting and later was subject to grazing and the occasional harvest of wild hay by farmers. Early settlers regularly hunted prairie chicken in the French Creek area. Today the property is primarily managed to focus on waterfowl production and hunting opportunities.


Property History

Historically, the primary management objective for French Creek Wildlife Area was to provide hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. As lands were acquired, marginal farm fields were converted to grassland to compliment the existing native grassland community and provide additional wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities. Numerous wetland restorations occurred to create the hemi-marsh habitat that is present today.

Management objective

Current management objectives focus on protecting the watersheds of French and Spring creeks and managing for pre-settlement vegetation types. This includes maintaining existing grasslands, savannas, fens, tamarack bogs and sedge meadows and seeking opportunities to increase these cover types. The property is managed on a landscape scale to create smooth transitions between cover types.

The property is monitored for invasive species such as spotted knapweed and garlic mustard. Biotic control for spotted knapweed also occurs on this property. Prairie and savanna areas are managed and maintained through prescribed burning, mowing and herbicide use to limit brush encroachment and encourage vigorous grasslands. Wetlands are managed through limited disturbance to prevent the spread of reed canary grass. Flowages will be drawn down approximately every five years to stabilize floating cattail bogs and allow vegetation to emerge as a food source for wildlife. Woodlands are managed in a manner that limits the spread of oak wilt and encourages regeneration of oak and hickory.

The Columbia County master plan was completed in 2012 and guides the long term management of this property. Progress toward achieving the goals of the master plan are tracked through annual monitoring reports.


The French Creek Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities.

  • Birding
  • Canoeing
  • Cross country skiing (no designated trail)
  • Fishing
  • Hiking (no designated trail)
  • Hunting - especially noted for deer, turkey (zone 3), pheasant, mourning doves, waterfowl, rabbit and squirrel - note the "waterfowl closed area")
  • Trapping
  • Wild edibles/gathering
  • Wildlife viewing
Master Plan

The Natural Resources Board approved a new master plan in December 2012 for this property as well as 19 other state fish and wildlife properties and associated state natural areas. These properties are mostly within Columbia County, but portions lie within Dane, Marquette and Sauk counties.

Columbia County Planning Group Master Plan [PDF]
DNR PUB-LF-066 2013

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: Tuesday March 24 2020