Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of State Natural Area © Thomas Meyer

Ridgeway Pine Relict in Iowa County
© Thomas Meyer

August 2011

Wisconsin, naturally

Ridgeway Pine Relict

Notable: Ridgeway Pine Relict harbors spectacular Driftless Area topography with remnant pine forests set among soaring sandstone cliffs, eroded rock outcrops and shallow caves. "Pine relicts" are dominated by red and white pines that have persisted in southern Wisconsin since the last glacier receded 12,000 years ago when cooler conditions favored the growth of conifer forests. As vegetation patterns were shaped by the warming post-glacial climate and wildfire, prairie and oak woodlands replaced the fire-sensitive pines in the south, leaving small islands of pines only on steep, rocky cliffs protected from fire. The relicts are unlike northern pine forests in that they contain both northern and southern Wisconsin understory plant species. The ground flora includes such northern species as pipsissewa, wintergreen, huckleberry, goldthread, Canada mayflower and a high diversity of ferns including bracken, bulblet, bladder, and interrupted fern. Surrounding the pine stands are more typical southern forests.

How to get there: The natural area lies north and west of the village of Ridgeway, Iowa County. Three units of the site are accessible to the public via Ridgevue Road and County Trunk Highway H. Visit Ridgeway Pine Relict for specific access information and site maps.