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Bill Cross Wildlife Area


Bill Cross Wildlife Area is a 1,522-acre property located in Lincoln County. It was purchased in 1997 from Wisconsin Public Service. The property is split into two pieces from north to south by 2.5 miles of the Wisconsin River. The dominant habitat is northern hardwood forest. There is a small flowage on the southern end of the property on the west side of the river.

The property encompasses 3.75 miles of Wisconsin River frontage and is mostly undeveloped with forested uplands adjoining the river. The east-facing river bank tends to be steep, dropping some 100 feet in elevation to the river's edge. The dominant habitat types are aspen and northern hardwoods. Several pine plantations are present within the property. Small kettle wetlands are scattered on the property west of the river. Wetland types include open water with emergent wet meadows or river meander scars with forested and emergent wetland types and shrub-carr.

It is approximately 8 miles northwest of the city of Merrill. The property can be accessed on the east side of the Wisconsin River from Highway 107. The property can be accessed on the west side of the Wisconsin River from Tesch Road.


Unpublished writings by a local historian named George Gilkey, on or about 1970, documented that William Henry Harrison Cross operated a fur trading post with Martin Lynch for Hudson Bay Trading Co. at the mouth of the New Wood River (just below the rapids) in the early 1800s. The ruins of the old post run by Cross and Lynch at the mouth of the New Wood River were visible as late as the 1930s. Bill Cross homesteaded for many years on the east bank of the Wisconsin River where an old military tote road crossed the river — hence, the name of the rapids today.

Management objective

The Bill Cross Wildlife Area is managed to provide opportunities for public hunting, trapping, fishing and other outdoor recreation while protecting the qualities of the unique native communities and associated species found on the property. Timber sale activities will strive to improve the health and quality of the forest resource while maintaining and enhancing the property's aesthetics and wildlife habitat values. Management activities include maintenance of the aspen cover type through timber harvest and selective-thinning of overstocked northern hardwood stands. Coniferous forest types will be encouraged through selective thinning of the red pine plantations and natural white pine stands. Shrub-carr is maintained and improved, where feasible, through mowing and prescribed fire. Populations of invasive species are controlled or eliminated by cutting, pulling, burning, herbicide treatment and/or bio-control.


The Bill Cross Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities:

  • Birding;
  • Canoeing;
  • Cross-country skiing (no designated trail);
  • Fishing;
  • Hiking (no designated trail);
  • Hunting;
  • Snowmobiling (on designated trail only);
  • Swimming;
  • Trapping;
  • Wild edibles/gathering; and
  • Wildlife viewing.


Download [PDF] a map of this property.

Lincoln County grouse/woodcock habitat map [exit DNR]

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

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