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Kickapoo River Wildlife Area - Bell Center Unit


Kickapoo River Wildlife Area-Bell Center Unit is a 1,550-acre property located within the Lower Kickapoo and Kickapoo Conservation Opportunity Area in Wisconsin's Wildlife Action plan [PDF] and is of continental significance for its driftless area features. The property is also an Important Bird Area [exit DNR] because the forests in the southern portion of this site are among the largest and most intact in the whole driftless area and contain significant populations of forest interior birds such as red-shouldered hawk, Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, cerulean warbler and Kentucky warbler. Prairie and savanna habitats host Bell's vireo, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler, field sparrow, bobolink and eastern meadowlark. Thousands of migrants use the area, particularly in spring. The northern units of the Hogback Prairie State Natural Area are found within the Bell Center Unit.

Kickapoo River Wildlife Area-Bell Center Unit began as a perpetual hunting and fishing easement unit of the lower Wisconsin River Wildlife area in 1968. In 1975, the Kickapoo River Wildlife Area was separated from the lower Wisconsin River project and conversion of easements to fee ownership was begun. Gradually about 1,100 acres have been converted to DNR fee ownership. About 300 acres remain under easement. Many croplands have been converted to upland cover.

Find it 2 miles south of Gays Mills along state Highway 131.

Management Objectives

The Bell Center Unit is managed to provide opportunities for public hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor recreation while protecting the qualities of the unique native communities and associated species found on the property. The upland forests are primarily southern dry-mesic forest types with management focusing on maintaining oak as a viable forest component, incorporating oak savanna habitat adjacent to bluff prairie sites and minimizing conversion to northern hardwood types. Bottomland hardwoods are managed passively. Cropland is slowly being converted to prairie, with prescribed fire, mowing and brushing used to maintain the open grassland. Populations of invasive species are controlled or eliminated by cutting, pulling, burning, herbicide treatment and/or bio-control.

For more information on master planning for this and other wildlife areas around the state, visit the property planning page.


The Kickapoo River Wildlife Area-Bell Center Unit offers many recreational opportunities:

  • Birding;
  • Canoeing;
  • Cross-country skiing (no designated trail);
  • Fishing;
  • Hiking (no designated trail);
  • Hunting (especially noted for waterfowl, woodcock, deer, wild turkeys, pheasants and furbearers);
  • Trapping;
  • Wild edibles/gathering; and
  • Wildlife viewing.


Download [PDF] a map of this property.

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

Adopt a Fish or Wildlife Area


Find out more about how to adopt this wildlife area.