Vernon Wildlife Area
Vernon Wildlife Area is approximately 4,300 acres located just north of Mukwonago in Waukesha County. The Fox River is the central feature of the property, which is surrounded by an extensive mosaic of wetland habitat. The adjoining uplands consist of grasslands, oak and hardwood forests. It offers excellent wildlife habitat, especially for migrating and nesting waterfowl, and provides significant conservation opportunities. In 2024, a designated walking trail is being established on the property. The 5.1-mile loop is perfect for hikers, birders and recreational users, featuring newly established boardwalks and diverse habitats throughout the property. This trail and boardwalks will be completed by August 2024.
The Fox River snaking through this property is a warm water fishery, while one of its tributaries, Mill Brook, is a classified trout stream. In 2023, the Fox River was recognized as a designated National Water Trail, The Fabulous Fox! Water Trail. Vernon Wildlife Area provides two rustic access points to the trail and offers excellent recreational opportunities for canoeing and kayaking.
Vernon Wildlife Area supports waterfowl, deer, turkey and a variety of other wildlife species, as well as stocks pheasants every fall. The property provides outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing and trapping. Vernon Wildlife Area has two no-entry waterfowl refuges of 365 and 305 acres. These refuges are closed from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, except for gun and muzzleloader deer hunting and retrieval of legally killed or crippled game. The property also features a 41-acre class 2 dog training area, and the area is closed to training from Apr. 15 through July 31.
Vernon Wildlife Area is managed to provide opportunities for public use including hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor recreation while protecting the qualities of the unique native communities and associated species found on the property. Habitat management within the wildlife area is focused on expanding and enhancing existing grasslands, oak forests and wetlands. Management of wetlands is designed to maintain and improve the emergent marsh and open-water wetland types. Wetland management will be conducted through periodic drawdowns to reinvigorate plant diversity and food sources. Other major management tools used on Vernon Wildlife Area include timber harvest, prescribed burning, mowing and invasive species control through cutting, pulling, burning, herbicide treatment and/or biocontrol.
Historically, land in the wildlife area was first leased in 1946 as a public hunting ground. The purchase of the property by the DNR began four years later, assisted by donations from Wetlands for Wildlife and other conservation organizations. It is a popular area for waterfowl, pheasant, small game, turkey and deer hunting. Accessible blinds for waterfowl hunting are available off Frog Alley Road.
For more information on master planning for this and other wildlife areas around the state, visit the property planning page.
The Vernon Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities:
Note: No entry allowed for any reason in the refuges from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, except for gun deer hunting.
- Boating (no gasoline-powered motors except on Fox River, and trolling motors may not exceed 5 mph)
- Cross-country skiing (no designated trail)
- Dog trial grounds (training permits required)
- Hiking (no designated trail)
- Hunting (especially noted for waterfowl, deer, turkey and pheasant, with noon closure, and hen-rooster area rules apply — no waterfowl hunting in waterfowl refuges)
- Snowmobiling trail
- Wild edibles/gathering
- Wildlife viewing
- Bathroom: No
- Parking lot: Multiple, see Maps tab
- Campground: No
- Trails: Coming soon! Will be completed in mid/late 2024
Download a map of this property.
If you are interested in exploring this property further, you can access an interactive map.
Parking lots are located off of State Highway 83, Frog Alley Road, County Highway I, County Highway NN and Benson Avenue. A boat launch can be found off Frog Alley Road.
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