Namekagon Barrens State Wildlife Area

The 6,450-acre Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area (NBWA) is one of the last remnants of pine/oak barrens. It lies in the northeast corner of the county, adjacent to the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers. At one time this habitat extended from northwest Polk County to the Bayfield Peninsula. Historically this habitat was maintained through naturally occurring wildfires and by fires intentionally set by Native Americans. Today the barrens habitat is preserved through prescribed fires set by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife, fire control and forestry professionals. The NBWA is commonly referred to as the “Barrens”, but it is anything but barren. It has a high diversity of native grasses, flowers, butterflies and wildlife. The dry uplands of the pine/oak barrens are interspersed with lowlands, potholes, and the headwaters of a small trout stream. The NBWA is most known for the highest population of sharp-tailed grouse and the best spring dance viewing opportunities in Wisconsin. By managing for sharp-tailed grouse, which require at least 5,500 acres of open landscape, the DNR ensures a home for more special concern species such as the upland sandpiper, Blanding’s turtle and gray wolf. The NBWA is designated as an Important Bird Area and is a part of the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail network. The NBWA is separated into a North and South Unit, which is separated by almost three miles. The North Unit is flat to gently rolling and be can be accessed by driving Highway 35 north of Danbury and then east on St. Croix Trail for 7 miles. After visiting the North Unit, drive west on St. Croix Trail and south on Namekagon Trail to get to the South Unit. The South Unit is characterized by steep topography with a scenic overlook. To get back to Highway 35, take Spring Brook Trail west. Go to for more information about this unique jewel and events open to the public, including how to sign up to view sharp-tailed grouse dancing in the spring. If you have not seen sharp-tailed grouse dance, you have not lived!