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Bear Bluff

No. 529


Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR


Bear Bluff SNA is situated within an extensive, wetland complex that occupies a significant portion of the bed of the extinct Glacial Lake Wisconsin. It is a small remnant of the "Great Swamp of Central Wisconsin", much of which has been altered for cranberry cultivation. Of note is the presence of a forested community dominated by white pine and red maple, which occupies a landscape position between wet, acid-forested wetlands of black spruce and tamarack, and dry forests comprised of pine and oak.

This community type is uncommon in the state with a high percentage occurring in and around the bed of Glacial Lake Wisconsin. Associated trees include yellow birch, black ash, and tamarack. Common understory shrubs are alder, winterberry, dewberry, and poison sumac. The ground flora includes skunk cabbage, cinnamon fern, and three-leaved gold thread. A small portion of the site contains a more open wetland. And in contrast to many of the poor fens that are common within this landscape, this open wetland is an acid peatland dominated by sphagnum mosses, leather-leaf, blueberry species, few-seeded sedge, northern yellow lake sedge, blue-joint grass, and bog birch.

Other characteristic species are cotton grass-grass, pond sedge, manna grass, bog rosemary, bog laurel, and black chokeberry. Birds breeding here and within the surrounding environs include the American bittern, sharp-shinned hawk, Wilson's snipe, yellow-bellied flycatcher, least flycatcher, eastern wood-pewee, sedge wren, Nashville warbler, pine warbler, Canada warbler, red-breasted grosbeak, purple finch, clay-colored sparrow, and Lincoln's sparrow. Bear Bluff is owned by Jackson County and was designated a State Natural Area in 2007.

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.

Entrance fees: Except for Parfrey's Glen, the Cambrian Outlook in the Dells of the Wisconsin River, SNAs within State Parks and some within State Forests, all other DNR-owned SNAs do not have any admission fees. For more information, see Wis. Admin. Code NR 45. For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

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 above and posted with signs on the property 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].


Located in the Jackson County Forest, Jackson County. T20N-R1E, Section 7. 186 acres.

Driving directions

From the town of Mather in northeast Juneau County, go west on County H for 0.7 miles, then north on County HH for 5 miles, then continue north on Goodyear Road for 2.8 miles. The site lies east and west of the road.

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]


Bear Bluff is owned by:

  • Jackson County