Skip to main content

Bass Lake Fen

No. 178


Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR


Bass Lake features a 20-acre calcareous fen located on the undeveloped shore of Bass Lake. The fen is exceptionally diverse with many small springs, openings, and ponds providing a calcium-rich habitat that supports 125 species of plants. Several rare species adapted to the alkaline conditions grow here including.

Scattered shallow, marl-bottom ponds are dominated by needle spike rush, small bladderwort, grass-leaved pondweed, and Smith’s bulrush. To the east, the fen grades into sedge meadow and the two communities are bordered on the north by tamarack swamp and on the south by shrub-carr.

The five-acre Bass Lake is a clear fertile lake, some 27 feet deep, with a sandy marl bottom and a population of fern pondweed, a species not usually found in south or central Wisconsin. The lake’s outlet stream is a small tributary to Little Lunch Creek and the Fox River drainage. The lake has a good warm water fishery and is an important waterfowl area. Sandhill cranes, which nest nearby, use the area extensively. Bass Lake is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1983.

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map under the Maps tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and a detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Hunting and trapping

This SNA has multiple landowners: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the landowner. In general, most DNR-owned land allows hunting and trapping. Partner-owned land may have other rules (for example, university-owned lands do not allow hunting or trapping). Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the Resources tab. 

NOTE: Per state regulations, hunting is allowed on the DNR-owned SNA lands. However, on lands located within the Village of Rock Springs (see map), the discharge of firearms is prohibited within the village limits. See their Village Ordinance Chapter 4 [exit DNR] for details.

Allowable activities: DNR-owned land

The activities listed below are generally allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Scientific research (permit required)
  • Outdoor education
  • Wild edibles (What is this?)
  • Pets (Rules)
  • Wildlife viewing

Prohibited activities: all SNAs

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead.
  • Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use.

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR].


Waushara County. T18N-R10E, Sections 23, 26. 125 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highways 22 and 73 in Wautoma, go south on 22 4.4 for miles, then east on County Highway YY 0.9 miles to a parking area south of the road. Walk south on the access lane 0.75 miles north shore of the lake.

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities.

Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details. The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries. To create your custom map where you can zoom to a specific location, please use the DNR's Mapping Application.

Property Map [pdf]

Bass Lake Fen is owned by:

  • Wisconsin DNR
  • Private