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Established in 1957, the Black River State Forest encompasses

approximately 68,000 acres of public land in Jackson County.

The property also contains about 12 miles of the large and fast

moving Black River as well as three miles of the Black River’s east fork.

Area geography

The Black River State Forest landscape lies within an area that was

strongly influenced by glaciation during the Ice Age. The Wisconsin Glaciation

was responsible for creating many of the surface formations found in the vicinity

of the forest. Eroded Cambrian sandstone, forming buttes, hills, knolls, ridges

and pediments.


Castle Mound and Wildcat Mound are examples of landscape features formed by Upper Cambrian sandstone.

The original area within the Black River State Forest--which consisted primarily of white and red pine--was heavily logged between 1880 and 1895 and was later settled by homesteaders seeking farmland.

Today the forest consists of a mix of jack pine, oak and aspen as well as several rare and unique forest communities including white pine-red maple swamps, pine and oak barrens and moist cliff

Historic return of elk to the Black River State Forest

After a 125+ year absence from the landscape, elk are roaming free

again in the Black River State Forest. Elk were released from their quarantine

pen in late August. There are also several rare and endangered plant and animal

species including gray or timber wolf (Canis lupus), Kirtland’s warbler

(Dendroica kirtlandii), Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis),

beak grass (Diarrhena obovata) and sand violet (Viola fimbriatula).

Dike 17 Wildlife Area

The Dike 17 Wildlife Area consists of more than 5,000 acres of open land, with approximately 1300 acres classified as a waterfowl protection area. This area was originally created to provide waterfowl resting areas through creation and maintenance of thirteen flowages and to provide an open landscape within the state forest for sharp-tailed grouse habitat. Recently, wild rice was planted in some of the flowages in the hopes of providing a natural recurring food source for waterfowl as well as to provide recreational harvesting opportunities for the public.

Fishing is allowed on the flowages outside of the refuge boundary. Sucker, bullheads, northern pike, largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappies are the most common species. The entire property is also open during the gun deer season.


Karner blue butterfly

Female Karner blue butterfly

In 1992, the Karner blue butterfly was listed as a federal endangered species. Although rare nationwide, this butterfly is relatively common in central and northwestern Wisconsin, especially where pine barrens, oak savannas and mowed corridors support growth of wild lupine, the only food of the Karner blue caterpillar. With its sandy soils and wild lupine populations, all of the Black River State Forest falls into the Karner blue's documented habitat range.

Recognizing how important maintaining a resilient and diverse ecosystem is to protecting native species, the DNR decided that preserving and enhancing the butterfly’s habitat on the property was a priority.



  • 1992 - Karner blue was added as an endangered species to the Federal Endangered Species list.

  • 1994 - 38 acres of oak and jack pine were cleared and site preparation was made for the planting of lupine seed.

  • 1995 - In the fall, 20 acres were hand-planted with lupine.

  • 1996 - Lupine plants were observed during the growing season.

  • 1999 - The Wisconsin Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) was created to protect populations of Karners in the state.

  • 2002 - Monitoring for the Karner during the summer showed the butterfly was present.

  • Today - Annual monitoring has shown that Karner blue continues to use this site, with a slight increases in numbers.

By protecting the Karner blue butterfly, the state forest and its HCP partners are not only protecting the globally imperiled barrens ecosystem but other rare species that also depend on this system, including the Kirtland's warbler, slender glass lizard, eastern massasauga rattlesnake, wood turtle, yellow gentian and Hill's thistle.

information provided from the Black River Falls State Forest website


The signs are blue posts, each with two red numbers. The top number identifies the specific segment of the trail system, while the bottom number represents the mileage marker for that trail. When calling in an emergency, you should read the numbers to the dispatcher from top to bottom. For example, "Trail 94, mile 1.5." This will help EMS and law enforcement personnel to pinpoint your position and speed the arrival of emergency services.