Crex Calling

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.

A ring-neck drake swims in placid water on Phantom Flowage at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg, Wisconsin.

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.

A short-tailed weasel eats a frog it captured on the shore of Phantom Flowage at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg, Wisconsin

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.

Sandhill cranes land in a sedge marsh at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg.

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.

Canada geese fly in formation at Crex Meadows.

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.

A Blanding's turtle at Crex Meadows

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 White-fronted goose over Phantom Flowage at Crex Meadows.

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.

Gray wolf on the road near Dike Five at Crex Meadows in 2010.

Go, if you can. You won’t be disappointed.

A ringneck drake preens in still water on Phantom Flowage at Crex Meadows.

And, as always, clicking on any photo will take you to a larger gallery of images from Crex:

Sandhill cranes walk down one of the dike roads at Crex Meadows.
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