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DNR guided tours encourage visitors to discover regional wildlife areas

If you are looking for a place to get away from it all, one of the many DNR wildlife areas in Southeast Wisconsin might be just the thing. Let me introduce you to Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area, which is located just east of the Village of Jackson in Washington County, a mere 25 miles from Milwaukee.

DNR biologist Dianne Robinson leads a guided hike in Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area.

DNR biologist Dianne Robinson leads a guided hike in Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area. Photo by Eddee Daniel.

Just off Highway 60, Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area is easily accessible from either I-41 on the west or I-43 on the east. Numerous small parking lots along Hwy G and around the periphery of the property enable access to many parts of the area. See map. (PDF)

Ice shelf overhanging Cedar Creek.

Ice shelf overhanging Cedar Creek. Photo by Noah Froh.

At 2,312 acres, the property is large enough to support a variety of terrains and habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, woodlots, streams and small ponds. Cedar Creek, a 32-mile long tributary of the Milwaukee River, runs the length of the property. In wet weather — including winter thaws like those we’ve had recently — the main creek and its feeder streams may spill over their banks and pool in the surrounding wetlands. Some trails, which are generally found atop dikes that crisscross the wetlands, can be inundated at these times.

Jackson Swamp State Natural Area.

Jackson Swamp State Natural Area. Photo by Eddee Daniel.

Robinson identifies skunk tracks in fresh snow.

Robinson identifies skunk tracks in fresh snow. Photo by Noah Froh.

The core of the Wildlife Area is the 1,571-acre Jackson Swamp, which is designated as a State Natural Area. This section features wet hardwood forests as well as white cedar and tamarack swamps, habitats that are rare across Wisconsin, particularly within the Southeast. The Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program has been called “the nation’s largest and most successful statewide nature preserve system.” (PDF) The program’s mission is to protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin’s native landscape, including natural habitats, geological formations and archeological sites, and to provide refuge for rare plants and animals.

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The area is very popular for hunting pheasants, which are stocked during hunting season, as well as turkey and deer. Other wildlife includes coyotes, mink, mourning doves, muskrats, rabbits, raccoons, waterfowl and woodcock. A wheelchair accessible hunting blind is available. Check the DNR website for complete hunting information and regulations.

Ice shelf formed by receding creek water.

Ice shelf formed by receding creek water. Photo by Noah Froh.

In addition to hunting and hiking the DNR advertises a variety of recreational opportunities, including birding, cross-country skiing (off-trail), fishing, trapping, wildlife viewing and gathering wild edibles (for which a guide is highly recommended!) There is also a designated snowmobile trail adjacent to Highway G, which bisects the Wildlife Area.

Flooded trail in Jackson Swamp State Natural Area.

Flooded trail in Jackson Swamp State Natural Area. Photo by Noah Froh.

Birders may delight in finding diverse species, including sharp-shinned hawk, broad-winged hawk, northern waterthrush, white-throated sparrow, scarlet tanager, winter wren, veery and several varieties of warblers.

Grassland matted with fresh snow.

Grassland matted with fresh snow. Photo by Noah Froh.


My recent visit to Jackson Marsh was part of a guided tour led by DNR wildlife biologist Dianne Robinson. She gives similar tours on DNR properties throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. I was accompanied by Noah Froh, who is studying photography at Bennington College in Vermont. Many of the photographs are his.

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