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WILDLIFE EDUCATION & VISITOR CENTER
Friends of Crex
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Crex Meadows Wildlife Area are one of the premier wildlife viewing places in Wisconsin and most visitors come just for that reason! It is one of 76 sites included in the Wisconsin Wildlife Viewing Guide and is marked with special signs to lead visitors here.
The extensive road system with over 60 miles of roads in Crex including twenty-two miles of dike roads, offers excellent access and great vantage points for wildlife viewing. More than 270 species of birds (download a bird checklist here) plus many species of mammals, reptiles, insects (including 92 butterfly species - download a butterfly checklist here) and amphibians can be seen on the property.
Wildlife is most abundant in spring (April-May) and fall (Sept.-Oct.) when large numbers of migrating birds stop at Crex to feed and rest. Spring offers the largest diversity of species and fall is best for sheer abundance for wildlife.
Wildlife is less visible in summer after the migrants have left and only the summer residents remain. However, this is the time of year to observe wildlife with their young. Some of the behavior you may see in summer include an osprey bringing fish to it's nest full of young, a family of otters frolicking in the marsh, or a young loon riding on its mother's back.
Wildlife viewing is also possible at Fish Lake Wildlife Area and Amsterdam Sloughs. Maps may be obtained at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Education and Visitor Center and on the Map Page within this website.
HUNTING AND TRAPPING
All of Crex Meadows, except for the refuge (Map of Wildlife Area), Fish Lake and Amsterdam Sloughs Wildlife Areas are open to the public for hunting and trapping. The seasons and bag limits can be found in the Wisconsin hunting and trapping regulations (exit to WI-DNR website).
GUIDED TOURS AND TALKS
Guided tours of Crex are available to organized groups (e.g. schools, clubs, organizations) upon request. Visitors will learn about the history and management of this unique area. Plenty of time is allowed for viewing and discussing plants and wildlife. Tours generally last one to two hours.
Groups must provide their own transportation for the tour. Most groups use school buses or charter buses. Car pooling is suitable for small groups. Tours are available at no cost to non-profit groups but donations are welcomed.
Talks are presented on and off the property. The standard program covers the history and management of the property but other topics (e.g. waterfowl, wildflowers, photography, sharp-tailed grouse, etc.) are also available. Tours and talks can be arranged by contacting us by phone.
Contact the Wildlife Educators at 715-463-2739 for more information.
HIKING AND CROSS COUNTY SKIING
For a more intimate experience with the property, you may enjoy exploring on foot. Foot travel is allowed anywhere but on the refuge (Map of Wildlife Area). Remember to "tread lightly".
While driving through Crex you will notice "Hunter Walking Trail" signs. These signs identify trails which are open to foot traffic only. Trails consist of old logging trails, firebreaks, and maintenance trails for dike and water control structures. Most of them are well maintained. It is illegal to drive vehicles on these trails, unless you have specific permission from the Property Manager at Crex. You are responsible for knowing which trails are driveable and which are not. You may be fined for driving on un-marked trails, even if it appears that others have driven the trails before you. Check with the Visitor Center if you are unsure.
Two trails were developed specifically for hiking and cross country skiing. Hiking and skiing are located on the Hay Creek Hiking Trail (behind the visitor center) and Upper Phantom Cross Country Skiing & Hiking Trail off East Refuge Road.
The Hay Creek trail begins directly behind the Visitor Center and is approximately 1.5 miles long and winds through a forested area to the Hay Creek Flowage. An observation platform is located on the south shore of the flowage. From this view you may see ducks, geese, herons, and osprey which sometimes nest on the osprey platform on the east end of the flowage.
The Upper Phantom Trail contains four loops totaling 3.7 miles. The loops are color coded and a map of the trail system is located at the parking lot on East Refuge Road just north of the North Fork Dike Road intersection.
It is best to contact us ahead to see if trails have been groomed and conditions are good for skiing.
Hiking and skiing are also available a Governor Knowles State Forest, just outside of Grantsburg.
CANOEING AND KAYAKING
Canoeing or kayaking is a great way to experience the wildlife areas, and is allowed on all flowages and water transfer ditches except those inside the refuges. The best places would be Phantom Lake and Lower North Fork Flowage, which are larger flowages where you can traverse the waters over a period of a couple hours or more. We ask that during the breeding season you stay away from the marshes away from open water where water birds nest, but once the breeding season is over and the young water birds have fledged, you may feel comfortable paddling into the marshy areas. Boat launches are available at many of the flowages, and can be located on the maps of the wildlife areas. Waterfowl hunters are on the waters during the waterfowl hunting seasons, which run from early September (early Goose) through mid-November, and we recommend avoiding paddling the marshes during this time.
WILDLIFE EDUCATION & VISITOR CENTER
Every trip to Crex Meadows should include a stop at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Education and Visitor Center first! Here you can pick up pamphlets, get answers to your questions, view the displays, and get current details on the best places to go and the variety of things to see.
The Visitor Center is located at the junction of County Rd "D" and County Road "F". You will find exhibits, bird and mammal displays, and prairie gardens containing a wide variety of local vegetation specimens. Here you can pick up a variety of pamphlets to help you better enjoy your visit. Souvenirs are also available at the Bog Shoe Gift Shop. Items including caps, shirts, mugs, books and postcards can be purchased here. The Friends of Crex sell these items to help fund the wildlife interpretive program.
The Center is staffed by volunteers on weekends from late March into early November from 10 am to 4 pm. During the week the Center is generally open from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Pamphlets are always available from the rack outside the Center.
GETTING AROUND CREX
One of the reasons Crex is popular is because of the excellent access it provides visitors. More than sixty miles of township roads wind through the interior of the property. A few roads are just sand, but most are gravel or paved. The gravel and paved roads are well maintained and suitable for all passenger vehicles. The sandy roads may be impassable for short periods in spring and during wet weather.
There are also several miles of trails open to licensed vehicles. These trails are marked by routed signs. Most are two-rut, sand trails which end at parking lots. Use caution on trails, they are narrow and may be muddy and rutted. Trails that are not specifically marked as trails are not open to vehicles, even if they are not marked closed. Some of them are fire breaks, some are simply hunter walking trails. You are responsible for knowing which trails are driveable and which are not. You may be fined for driving on un-marked trails, even if it appears that others have driven the trails before you. Check with the Visitor Center if you are unsure.
The self-guided auto tour route is a nice way to go if you are new to Crex. A pamphlet is available at the Visitor Center or on our website - Here is the link. It brings you through a wide variety of habitat past most of the must-see spots in the Wildlife Area.
The spring display of prairie flowers can be spectacular. Entire hillsides may be covered with brightly colored bird's-foot violet, lupine, and prairie phlox. Summer promises landscapes dominated by prairie larkspur, rough blazing star, new jersey tea, leadplant, prairie clovers, and milkweeds. Wet meadows are commonly filled with boneset, water hemlocks and bidens in the late summer. The asters are spectacular in the fall. The colors change continuously throughout the summer and fall as one species fades and another blooms.
At the time of settlement nearly 1/3 of Wisconsin, approximately twelve million acres, was covered by prairie type plant communities. Almost all of it is now gone. It's no wonder that very few people are familiar with prairie plants. Crex offers a great opportunity to observe and study these little known plants. More than two hundred species of prairie plants are found on the property.
WHERE TO FIND PRAIRIE FLOWERS
Prairie flowers are found throughout the seven thousand acres of restored brush-prairie habitat on Crex. Most of the brush-prairie is located on the northern half of the property. The area in and around the refuge is almost all brush-prairie and an excellent area to view prairie flowers.
Take time for a stroll through the prairie. Investigate the flowers and tall, flowing grasses which few people see. Feel what it must have been like to visit the area two hundred years ago when prairie dominated the landscape. Treat the plants with respect and leave them for others to enjoy.
A plant list is available on this website. Wildflower ID guides are extremely useful, and locally appropriate ones can be purchased at the Wildlife Education Center or any good bookstore.
BITING INSECTS & TICKS
Crex is well populated by biting insects. Mosquitoes and deer flies can be very bothersome during the summer. Insect repellents are effective against mosquitoes but headnets and gloves are needed to ward off deer flies.
Ticks, including the bear or deer tick which carry Lymes' disease, are common throughout the forested areas but are much less common in the open areas. The common wood tick is most abundant from snow melt until mid summer. The bear or deer tick is most abundant during cool weather in spring and fall. Look below for tips on identifying these two species.
(This Identification Card is Not To Scale)
The rest area on North Refuge Road is a great place to have lunch or just stop for a break. It occupies a hillside overlooking Riesinger Lake and the vast Crex Refuge. Geese, sandhill cranes and deer are often seen from this vantage point. Picnic tables, benches, fire grates, grills, and pit toilets are available for you use.
Camping is permitted at the rest area from September 1 through December 31. This is the only place on Crex where camping is permitted. Tents may be placed on the lawn and camping vehicles may be parked in the corners of the parking lots. There are no specific sites, and space is first come, first served. Reservations are not available. Campers should register at the Visitor Center either before they set up camp or the next morning if they arrive after the center closes. The camping fee is $5 per vehicle, or $4 for members of the Friends of Crex or hunters with a valid Wisconsin hunting license. Camping is NOT allowed anywhere else on the properties.
SPRING BIRDING TOURS
One of the biggest attractions at Crex Meadows is the excellent birding opportunities. Over 270 species of birds have been identified within the properties, and spring and fall migrations are spectacular. In honor of the birds, we host a series of birding tours each spring with our expert birders to get you out to the best birding spots in the Wildlife Areas. The tours are generally the last 2 weekends of April and the first weekend of May from 8am to 10am. More information can be found on our Events Page
FALL BIRDING TOURS
Sandhill Cranes gather in large numbers at Crex Meadows in the fall. Here, they feed in the crop fields by day and return to the wildlfie areas in the evening to roost. The crane tours bring you where the cranes are flying in. See groups fly overhead and land nearby. Tours are generally the first three Saturdays in October from 5pm to dusk. More information can be found on our Events Page .
ANNUAL FALL WILDLIFE FESTIVAL
The Crex Meadows Fall Wildlife Festival is held each fall in early October. This event attracts several hundred people each year and coincides with the peak migration of eagles, geese, ducks, and sandhill cranes. It is designed to acquaint the general public with the wildlife and wildlife management activities of the area.
Go to Events page for more information.
***This website is brought to you by the Friends of Crex, a non-profit organization
dedicated to SUPPORTING WILDLIFE AND WILDLIFE EDUCATION at the crex meadows complex***
FRIENDS OF CREX, INC. 102 EAST CREX AVENUE, GRANTSBURG WISCONSIN 54840 (715) 463-2739 www.crexmeadows.org
All photos are used by permission and are the sole copyright of the photographer