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Paul J. Olson 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.

Paul J. Olson Wildlife Area

Paul J. Olson Wildlife Area is a 2,995-acre property. Scattered parcels are located in western Portage and eastern Wood Counties, ranging from 40 to 860 contiguous acres. The property consists of non-native, cool-season grassland and shrub-carr.


Historically, this area was a northern mesic forest. In the late 1800s, timber was logged to open up land for agriculture, which is currently the dominant land use of the area. Paul J. Olson, the father of the Dane County Conservation League, helped generate interest and funds in the 1970s to purchase land to preserve grassland habitat for the Greater Prairie Chicken. Land is still purchased by the state and managed for grassland for Greater Prairie Chickens and other grassland-dependent species.


The Paul J. Olson Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities.

  • Birding
  • Cross country skiing (no designated trail)
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Snowmobiling trail (on limited parcels)
  • Trapping
  • Wild edibles/gathering
  • Wildlife viewing

Download maps of this property: western parcels [PDF] eastern parcels [PDF]

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

Useful links
Last revised: Wednesday May 06 2020