Explore Crex Meadows with the right tools
We have equipment rentals at our visitor center. No reservation is required.
We have equipment rentals at our visitor center. No reservation is required.
The tour route is 24-miles long. Drive slowly, about 15-20 mph. Look and listen for wildlife. Most animals are secretive and will go unnoticed if you don't watch carefully. Look for the numbered Auto Tour signs. Stop and read the corresponding description in this guide. You can also follow the arrows marked on the map on pages 10-11. Have a pleasant drive.
Crex Meadows Archery Course is located on the trail behind the Crex Meadows Wildlife Education & Visitor Center. With (20) bale targets, (20) 3D targets, (2) large box targets and (3) elevated shooting platforms, all skill levels are welcome. 3D targets are available during events and scheduled dates only.
Crex Meadows is listed as one of the top 500 birding spots to visit in the United States. There are over 280 species that use the property, and many are seen consistently each year. Stop by the visitor’s center for up-to-date bird sighting information.
Hunting and Trapping
Many people enjoy the area for hunting and trapping, which is allowed on all three Glacial Lake Grantsburg wildlife areas.
Kayaking and Canoeing
If you're looking for a new wildlife viewing experience in Crex Meadows, try kayaking or canoeing on one of our flowages.
Bring your bike to Crex Meadows for a quieter way to explore the area.
Crex Meadows is host to a wide variety of wildflowers, all of which bloom at different times. You never know what wildflowers you might find on your next visit!
Pass the long winter days at Crex Meadows and view winter wildlife from your snowshoes.
Other than birds, there are a variety of species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects that visitors can view throughout the properties.
Several hiking trails are offered on Crex Meadows for visitors to enjoy. They vary in length, ranging from about 1 mile to 3.5 miles, but all are easy to walk. Stop by the visitor center and get a trail map before you begin!
From September 1 to December 31, visitors can camp at the rest area at Crex Meadows. It is a great option for those who hunt on the property, but it can also be an exciting experience for early-rising wildlife watchers and photographers.
Are you looking for a new way to experience wildlife? You're in luck! Crex Meadows, Fish Lake and Amsterdam Sloughs are great places to look for animal tracks. Get off the beaten path and see what you can find.
Crex Meadows is an excellent place for wildlife photography. There is a wide variety of wildlife and landscape throughout every season for photography enthusiasts to capture.
History of Crex Meadows
The famous marshes and large, sandy plains of Crex Meadows were created from a retreating glacier over 13,000 years ago. The wildlife area is part of a larger system known as the Northwest Wisconsin Pine Barrens which extends from northern Polk County to southern Bayfield County.
The mid-1800s brought settlers who tried farming the sandy soil with not much success.
Large-scale drainage of wetlands in the 1890s, caused a decline in the number of nesting and migrant waterfowl and other wetland animals.
In 1912, the Crex Carpet Co., an eastern corporation that produced grass rugs, purchased 23,000 acres in the location we now know as Crex Meadows. When linoleum floor covering became popular, the Crex Carpet Co. went bankrupt in 1933 but the name Crex remained. After a series of failed drainage and agricultural attempts, the state of Wisconsin purchased 12,000 acres to start the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area. Today, Crex Meadows sees over 100,000 visitors a year who enjoy the refuge for hunting, trapping and recreational use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wildlife areas are different from other state-owned properties, such as state parks and state forests. They are managed to provide habitat for wildlife.
Section 23.09 (2) (d) 3., State Stats., provides legislative authority and direction for the acquisition and management of state wildlife areas. The primary purpose of state wildlife areas as stated in this statute is to provide "areas in which any citizen may hunt, trap or fish". Section 23.11 (1), Stats., provides for the general care, protection and supervision of state lands. Section 23.30, Stats., deals with the provisions of the outdoor recreation program.
The management and uses of state wildlife areas are further defined in NR 1.51. WI Admin Code. While hunting and trapping are the primary public uses for wildlife areas; other uses, such as walking, nature study, berry picking, and other low-impact recreational activities are also allowed. Other compatible open-space uses may be allowed under the property's Master Plan when they do not detract from the primary purpose of the property; however, they may be limited in time and location to avoid interference with wildlife production or survival and public hunting and trapping.
The wildlife areas are open all day (and night) every day. There is no charge to enter the wildlife area.
Yes. Dogs are allowed. They must always be under the control of the owner, and between April 15th and July 15th they must be on a leash. Be advised that there are wolves and other wild animals within the wildlife areas, and if your dog gets lost, it may become prey. Also, there are various traps set during the trapping season, so keep your pets close. Dogs are also not allowed to kill any wild animal - please see the Wisconsin Hunting regulations for more information.
Wisconsin state policy is that horses are allowed only on the roads that cars are allowed on state wildlife areas. Crex Meadows, Fish Lake, and Amsterdam Sloughs Wildlife Areas are owned by the state of Wisconsin. Horses are NOT allowed on the hiking and hunter walking trails or the firebreaks within the wildlife areas. The nearby Governor Knowles State Forest has several miles of dedicated horse trails. For more information, click here.
As long as you are not within the no-entry refuge areas, you are free to set up a temporary portable blind anywhere in the wildlife area. If you intend to use a ground photography blind during any gun or muzzleloader deer hunting season (except waterfowl blinds), you must have a minimum of 144 square inches of solid blaze orange material visible from all directions. You may not leave your blind up overnight, and all unoccupied blinds must have the owner's name and address displayed in a visible and conspicuous location near the entrance.
In the fall, Sandhill Cranes gather at Crex Meadows and the surrounding areas (15-20 percent of the entire world-wide population of Greater Sandhill Cranes are present here in western Burnett County in October and early November), where they feed in the crop fields during the day and roost in the sedge marshes of the wildlife areas at night. They remain in the area until the marshes ice over - usually by the middle to end of November. They then head south, stopping over in Illinois and Indiana, and finally arriving along the gulf coast in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle where they spend the winter. Sandhill Cranes nest from southern Wisconsin north, into the upper peninsula of Michigan and as far north as central Canada, south of Hudson Bay, in sedge meadows. There are many pairs nesting at Crex Meadows and Fish Lake wildlife areas each summer.
The cranes at Crex Meadows are the Greater Sandhill Crane, and there are about 80,000 of them in North America (we count 15,000 - 20,000 in the fall at Crex Meadows). The Lesser Sandhill Crane is another sub-species that winters on the Texas coast, migrates through Nebraska and the Dakotas, and nests on the Arctic tundra far to the north. They stand about a foot shorter than the Greater Sandhill Crane and their population tops several hundred thousand.
Hunting is allowed throughout all wildlife areas on state-owned land, with the exception of the refuge areas within Crex Meadows and Fish Lake wildlife areas (the Fish Lake refuge is closed only during the migrating waterfowl hunting seasons but opens after that time for other species). Hunting regulations can be found here.
Except for winter snowmobile use on designated trails, ATVs are not allowed within wildlife areas. Some townships allow ATVs on paved roads, but they are not allowed on township roads that go through state property within those townships. This means that ATVs are not allowed even on paved roads within the wildlife areas even if the township allows ATVs. Roads within the townships that allow ATVs are clearly marked with signs stating that ATVs are allowed. The only exception to this is when a hunter with a handicapped hunting permit uses an ATV to hunt from allowable areas as designated by the Wildlife Area Property Manager.
If it is determined that an animal is injured, sick or truly orphaned, contact the DNR or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own. Wild animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and pets. They are also capable of inflicting injury to themselves or others as they fight to defend themselves against a perceived threat (humans or pets). They have very specific dietary and housing requirements that are not easily met in captivity. Plus, rehabilitating wildlife without a license is against the law in Wisconsin. More information about Wisconsin's “Keep Wildlife Wild” policies can be found here.
You may hike anywhere in the wildlife areas, on or off trail, with the exception of the refuge areas, which are clearly marked with signs. There are many hunter walking trails as well as designated hiking trails. There is a one-mile trail behind the visitor center, and a 1.5 mile trail at the rest area. You may also walk on the roads. The trails are generally groomed throughout the year. Hunter walking trails are mowed in the fall.
Yes, but be aware that most of the roads are gravel, and thin street tires will not work well on these roads. There are several miles of paved roads as well. Fat tire and mountain bikes are allowed on the hiking trails throughout the wildlife areas.
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. We ask that during the breeding season, you avoid the marshes where water birds nest. Once the breeding season is over and the young water birds have fledged, you may paddle the marshy 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.
Camping is allowed only at the rest area on the north end of Crex Meadows Wildlife Area. The camping season is from September 1 through December 31. 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. There are other places to camp in the region, including the Governor Knowles State Forest and canoe/walk-in sites along the St. Croix River.
As long as you are not within the no-entry refuge areas, you are free to access any portion of the wildlife area by foot for the purposes of wildlife and plant viewing and study, berry picking, wild edible food gathering, hunting, trapping, photography, etc. Motorized vehicles and horses are restricted to roadways, ATVs and snowmobiles are not allowed anywhere within the wildlife areas except on marked and groomed snowmobile trails during the snowmobile season. Dogs must be leashed during the waterfowl breeding season (April 15-July 31).
In the spring, Sandhill Cranes return to the meadows in mid-March to early April to begin building their nests. They may be found in pairs, or sometimes with last year's young. Once these pairs begin to nest, the young from previous years leave and find other "bachelor" cranes to hang out with for the summer. Once the eggs hatch, the parents will lead their young further into the sedge meadows to evade predators while their colts grow. In the fall, the cranes gather in the meadows at night and fly to the crop fields nearby to feed during the day. A great place to see the cranes at Crex Meadows during the fall gatherings is along Main Dike Road in the mornings and evenings as the cranes depart or arrive back to the sedge meadows to roost.
Trapping is allowed throughout all wildlife areas on state-owned land, with the exception of the refuge areas within Crex Meadows and Fish Lake wildlife areas. Trapping regulations can be found on the Wisconsin DNR website.
Motorized boats are allowed in the wildlife area on all navigable waters, except within the boundaries of the refuge areas. Please keep in mind that Wisconsin has wildlife harassment laws, and it is illegal to chase or intentionally disturb wildlife. We discourage the use of motorized boats during the breeding season (April-June). Wild ricing season typically occurs in early September. Individuals may be difficult to see, please use caution during this time.
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Visitor Center Hours
Closed most holidays.
SPRING (April-Mid June)
Weekdays: 8:00 am-4:30 pm
Weekends: 10:00 am- 4:00 pm
SUMMER (Mid June-Labor Day)
Weekdays: 8:00 am- 4:30 pm
Weekends: 10:00 am-4:00 pm
FALL (Labor Day-October 31st)
Weekdays: 9:00 am- 5:30 pm
Weekends: 10:00 am- 4:00 pm
Weekdays: 8:00 am-4:30pm