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Mud Lake Wildlife Area

Mud Lake Wildlife Area

Mud Lake Wildlife Area is a 2,283-acre property located in Columbia County. Find it south of Rio, 1 mile on Highway C, then west on Drake Road 1 mile. The property consists of approximately 1,450 acres of wetland, 590 acres of upland and 220 acres of wooded habitat.

The Mud Lake area has long provided excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife and migratory birds. Action to acquire lands in and around the Mud Lake marsh commenced in 1948. In 1940, a ditch to drain the marsh was constructed by private landowners. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission responded to complaints of the marsh drainage and ordered that normal water levels of Mud Lake be reestablished. The Wisconsin Conservation Department (now the Wisconsin DNR) constructed dikes and installed water control structures to manipulate water levels in the Mud Lake basin.

In 1958, through the cooperation of the Rio Conservation Club, an artesian well was reopened on the south side of Mud Lake to allow continuous water flow into the marsh. The amount of flow appears to be dependent on groundwater recharge. Three flowages (about 50, 110, and 800 acres) have been developed and maintained for waterfowl and furbearer use, as well as to provide hunting, trapping and non-consumptive recreation opportunities. The wildlife area includes a 160-acre refuge that is closed to all entry from Sept. 1- Nov. 30 except for deer hunting during the gun and muzzleloader seasons.

Management Objectives

Historically, the primary management objective for Mud Lake Wildlife Area was to provide hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. As lands were acquired, marginal farm fields were converted to prairie or grassland to complement the existing native prairie and grassland communities and provide additional wildlife habitat and hunting opportunity. Numerous wetland restorations occurred to create the semi-marsh habitat that is present today.

Current management objectives focus on managing for presettlement vegetation types. This includes maintaining existing prairies, grasslands and savannas and seeking opportunities to increase these cover types. The property is managed on a landscape scale to create smooth transitions between cover types.

The property is monitored for invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard. Prairie and savanna areas are managed and maintained through prescribed burning, mowing, and herbicide use to limit brush encroachment and encourage vigorous grasslands. Wetlands are managed through limited disturbance to prevent the spread of reed canary grass. Woodlands are managed in a manner that limits the spread of oak wilt and encourages regeneration of oak and hickory while removing invasive species such as buckthorn and honeysuckle.

Master Plan

The Natural Resources Board approved a new master plan in December 2012 for this property as well as 19 other state fish and wildlife properties and associated state natural areas. These properties are mostly within Columbia County, but portions lie within Dane, Marquette and Sauk counties.


The Mud Lake Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities:

  • Birding;
  • Canoeing;
  • Cross-country skiing (no designated trail);
  • Fishing;
  • Hiking (no designated trail);
  • Hunting (especially noted for deer, waterfowl, pheasant [12 p.m. closure rules apply], turkeys [Zone 3], squirrels, rabbits and furbearers);
  • Columbia County shooting range
  • 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

This wildlife area has been adopted by the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association.