For anyone interested in Wisconsin wildlife, and in watching springtime fully regain it’s hold in the upper-Midwest, I can think of no better destination than Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg.
For those unfamiliar with Crex, I can tell you that it is 30,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat consisting of vast shallow wetlands, dry uplands, and tall-grass prairie, with unparalleled access. The access comes courtesy of a system of dike roads which traverse the entirety of the massive wetlands complex.
Because of the extensive road system, you don’t have to leave your vehicle to see much of it–but I certainly suggest you get out of your car. An hour or two spent sitting quietly at the edge of a waking marsh, or walking through a prairie, will give you perspective on many things.
Crex has fascinated me for a long time, largely because much of northwestern Wisconsin looked just like the Crex landscape when settlers first arrived a couple hundred years ago. Today, it’s hard to imagine that northwest Wisconsin wasn’t always heavily forested, but from Frederic to Bayfield, our state used to be mostly prairie and pine barrens. I’m an unabashed nostalgist, and for me, Crex is a look back in time.
Although Crex has prime wildlife viewing year-round, if you are interested in seeing sheer numbers of wild things, there is no better time than now. The ice is long gone and the marshes are alive.
You’ll rarely get closer to the large flocks of waterfowl, eagles, hawks, Trumpeter swans, cranes, and other migratory birds than you will right now at Crex.
A wide variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are out and active now too. Just this week I watched a short-tailed weasel catch a frog on the edge of Phantom Flowage at Crex. (See photo above.)
A couple years ago, I was lucky enough to find a gray wolf on the road near Dike Five. I keep hoping for a repeat, but the odds are long, I know.
Go, if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
And, as always, clicking on any photo will take you to a larger gallery of images from Crex: