Skip to main content

Mill Bluff

No. 359


Photo by ?


Mill Bluff State Natural Area features several spectacular Cambrian sandstone mesas, buttes, and pinnacles that rise above the level bed of an extinct glacial lake. Long Bluff, Ragged Rock, Wildcat Bluff, Bear Bluff, Devil's Monument, Camel's Bluff, Mill Bluff, and Round Bluff are all included within the site. Many of the area bluffs contain 6-12 inches-long petroglyphs (rock carvings) that are shaped like bird tracks. Similar to the petroglyphs found 25 miles east in Roche-A-Cri State Park, they date back to Upper Mississippi Indian culture about 400 years ago.

The dominant plant community is a xeric forest composed primarily of Hill's oak, Jack pine, red pine, white pine, and white oak. Associated trees include big-tooth aspen, black cherry, red oak, paper birch, and red maple. Many of the sandstone outcroppings contain large red pine. On Long Bluff, the dominance of different trees varies according to aspect with oak and pine more prevalent on the western and southern exposures while red maple is more common on the east side of the bluff, especially on the lower slopes.

Low shrubs including early low blueberry, huckleberry, sweet gale, plus bracken fern and Pennsylvania sedge characterize the ground layer. A few prairie and barren plant species are present especially on the flats at the base of the bluff's west end. Plants include big blue-stem, little blue-stem, Indian grass, wild lupine, lyre-leaved rock cress, bird's-foot violet, and common rock-rose. Birds include turkey vulture, wood thrush, rufous-sided towhee, eastern wood pewee, ovenbird, yellow-throated vireo and clay-colored and vesper sparrows. Mill Bluff is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.

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. 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.

Allowable activities: DNR-owned land

In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted below and posted with signs on the property site.

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].


Within Mill Bluff State Park, Juneau and Monroe County. T17N-R1E, Sections 12,13, 24. T17N-R2E, Sections 7, 18. 485 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of I90/94 and Highway 12 in Camp Douglas, go west on 12 for 3 miles, then north on W to the entrance of Mill Bluff State Park. Get a park map. A hiking trail encircles Mill Bluff and a stairway provides access to the top.

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]

Mill Bluff is owned by: Wisconsin DNR