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Straight Lake Tamarack Fen

No. 593


Photo by Wisconsin DNR


Situated at the west end of Straight Lake is a diverse wetland complex that includes a hardwood swamp, sedge meadow, alder thicket, and areas of tamarack swamp (fen). The hardwood swamp is relatively undisturbed, with a moderately closed canopy of 14-18" diameter black ash and yellow birch. The sub-canopy is dense black ash and yellow birch with a very sparse shrub layer. The herb layer is moderately dense, dominated by brome-like sedge, cinnamon fern, and orange jewelweed.

A few localized areas support the sedge meadow surrounded by alder thicket, much of which occurs on a highly fragmented floating mat, possibly due to water level fluctuations, with firm mucky areas and numerous periodically open water channels. Characteristic plants include lake sedge and blue-joint grass. The tamarack fen is situated on a floating mat that is separated from the uplands by a small channel. The fen is dominated by tamarack with lesser amounts of black spruce, which is locally dominant in some areas. The sub-canopy is sparse but includes winterberry, mountain holly, and alder. Sphagnum and ericaceous shrubs are present throughout. Sedges, especially cotton-grass and Carex species are dominant with other plants including marsh fern, marsh cinquefoil, great water dock, and small patches of skunk cabbage. Straight Lake Tamarack Fen is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2009.

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: 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 [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 the use of drones, hang-gliders and model airplanes, are prohibited. Permission may be issued by the SNA Program 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 Straight Lake State Park and Wildlife Area, Polk County. T36N-R17W, Sections 13, 14. 85 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of Highway 35 and 48 in Luck, go east on 48 for 4 miles, then north on 120th Street for 1 mile, then west on 270th Avenue for 0.35 miles to a small pull-off north 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]

Straight Lake Tamarack Fen is owned by: Wisconsin DNR

Management objectives and prescriptions

Straight Lake Wildlife Area

Straight Lake State Park