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Muddy Creek Wildlife Area

Muddy Creek Wildlife Area is 4,100 acres and is often referred to locally as the "Elk Mound Swamp." It is located near the village of Elk Mound, between Menomonie and Eau Claire, approximately 1 mile west of exit 52 off of I-94. This is an expansive wildlife area that generally follows the course of Muddy Creek and County Highway E for approximately 5 miles (1 mile north of the Interstate and 4 miles south). This assemblage of properties includes Muddy Creek Wildlife Area as well as several small scattered parcels. Access to the property is plentiful and can be gained through numerous parking lots along the county and town roads as well as three lots off of U.S. Highway 12/State Highway 29.

Muddy Creek and the associated marsh and sedge meadow are the predominant features of this property. Within this marshy landscape are numerous "islands" that are either wooded or prairie. The periphery of the property, including the scattered parcels, are predominantly former farm fields that have been converted to warm season, tallgrass prairies. Numerous restored wetlands also exist within this group of properties. A small percentage of the property is wooded with a great deal of species diversity, including white pine, red and white oak and aspen.

The Muddy Creek Sedge Meadow State Natural Area has been established on the south end of the property to recognize the 195-acre sedge meadow that occupies this portion of the wildlife area. This area is exceptional because it is in a transitional zone where plant species common to both northern and southern sedge meadows can be found in one place.

In addition, lying just to the south of the wildlife area is the 200-plus-acre Old Elk Lake. This shallow lake is fed by runoff and springs and is reminiscent of the prairie pothole lakes found in the Dakotas. This is a rare water resource in this part of Wisconsin that provides tremendous waterfowl production and valuable hunting and trapping opportunities. There is DNR ownership around part of the lake with carry-in access possible from a parking lot on County Highway E.


Muddy Creek Wildlife Area was officially established in 1969. At that time, nearly 1,400 acres were already protected through state ownership. Several attempts by landowners to drain the marsh were evident by the 10,000-plus linear feet of ditches that were present throughout the marsh. Beaver took full advantage of these ditches, creating numerous impoundments. Adjacent farmland was considered marginal at best. Acquisition goals have yet to be met for this property, and new acquisitions have occurred as recently as 2017.

Management objective

Initial management of this property consisted mostly of restoring drained wetlands, including the creation of a 560-acre closed area. There are currently no closed areas in the wildlife area. Another key objective was converting agricultural lands back to their presettlement vegetation types, primarily prairie and savanna. Currently, the management focus is on protecting the Muddy Creek watershed and maintaining the wildlife habitat that has been created or restored over the last 40 years.

Management prescriptions on this property include seasonal drawdowns on impounded wetlands to create shorebird feeding opportunities and food for migrating waterfowl in the fall. In addition, grasslands are managed through prescribed burning, mowing and herbicide treatment to prevent brush encroachment and to maintain vigorous areas of dense nesting cover for grassland wildlife. Wooded areas are managed through the use of various forestry techniques to ensure the future of healthy, productive woodlands. Approximately 12 acres of wildlife food plots are also planted annually to provide supplemental food for pheasants and other wildlife during the winter.

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

Conservation Groups

Several conservation clubs and organizations — including Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Dunn County Fish and Game Association — have been instrumental in the development of the Muddy Creek Wildlife Area. These groups have not only provided funding for habitat work but have also purchased lands and subsequently donated those lands to the state for inclusion in the wildlife area.


The Muddy Creek Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities:

  • Birding
  • Boating  (non-motorized carry-in only)
  • Canoeing (Old Elk Lake)
  • Kayaking (Old Elk Lake)
  • Cross-country skiing (no designated trail)
  • Fishing
  • Hiking (no designated trail)
  • Hunting (especially noted for deer, turkey, pheasant, waterfowl and small game)
  • Trapping
  • Wild edibles/gathering
  • Wildlife viewing


  • Bathroom? No.
  • Parking Lot? Yes, see the maps section.
  • Campground? No. 
  • Trails? Non-designated.


Download [PDF] a map of this property.

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


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