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Castle Mound Pine Forest

No. 16


Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR


Castle Mound is a long, narrow, weathering butte rising 180 feet above the surrounding sand plain and composed of Cambrian sandstone about 400 million years old. A variety of exposures and microclimates have resulted in contrasting forest communities on opposite sides of the mound. Exposed and shaded cliffs up to 30 feet high occur along the central backbone ridge, and sandstone boulders litter the sloping forest floor.

The protected northeast slope is forested with a mixed pine forest of white and red pines with Hill's oak, white oak, paper birch, red maple, and large-toothed aspen. Groundlayer species typical of the northern forest--pipsissewa, large-leaved aster, partridge berry, and wintergreen--grow here. The dry southwest face is wooded with jack pine and oak. Bird species usually found further north--red-breasted nuthatch, solitary vireo, black-throated green warbler, and pine warbler--have been seen here. A hiking trail traverses the area and there is an observation tower near the center of the mound. Castle Mound Pine Forest is owned by the DNR and was designated a state natural area in November 1952.

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. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or 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: Excepting 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 [exit DNR]. 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.

Prohibited activities: all SNAs

Although a handful of sites allow activities like primitive camping (e.g. Lower Chippewa River on sand bars) or horseback riding (e.g. S. Kettle Moraine), the activities listed below are generally prohibited on DNR-owned 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
  • Drones: Flying-related activities, including using drones, hang-gliders and model airplanes, are prohibited. The SNA Program may issue permission for the use of drones for educational or research purposes
  • 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].


Within the Black River State Forest, Jackson County. T21N-R4W, Sections 23. 118 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highway 27 and U.S. Highway 12 on the south side of Black River Falls, go east on 12 0.7 miles to the entrance of Castle Mound Park, then west on the access road to the picnic area parking lot. A trail leads to the observation tower.

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]

Castle Mound Pine Forest is owned by: Wisconsin DNR