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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


russet cotton grass Russet cotton grass (Eriophorum chamissonis) at Barksdale Ponds. Photo by Matt Bushman.

Bladder Lake and eastern white pine. Bladder Lake and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). Photo courtesy of Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Barksdale Ponds

Forest: Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

District: Washburn Ranger District

Description: Barksdale Ponds are a unique aquatic feature on the edge of dry, glacial outwash plain. Situated on hilly topography, the numerous soft water seepage lakes and ponds are surrounded by their associate emergent, submergent and shoreline communities, maturing red pine (Pinus resinosa) and white pine (Pinus strobus) forest, and kettle bogs. The kettles range successionally from sandy shore, oligotrophic community ponds, through ericad bog ponds, open bog and closed canopy black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laracina) forest. The kettle communities differ in context and content depending on the amount of water and nutrients in the system. Some are more sterile while others support a diversity of plant species. Dominant plants include steeplebush (Spirea tomentosa), marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre), smartweed (Polygonum spp.), and rattlesnake manna grass (Glyceria canadensis). The sphagnum bog mat supports leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia), cotton grass (Eriophorum spp.), cranberries (Vaccinium spp.), and pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea). Notable species include large round-leaved orchid (Platanthera orbiculata), and rusty cotton-grass (Eriophorum chamissonis), which is only known from several scattered sites in northern Wisconsin. The pine forest contains stands of older white and red pine from 16-18 inches in diameter with scattered large super-canopy pine. The moderate to sparse shrub layer is comprised of hazelnut (Corylus spp.) and pine saplings. Ground flora includes big-leaf aster (Aster macrophyllus), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). The area represents the historical vegetation continuum from dry pine barrens to more mesic forest and has excellent potential for the restoration of jack pine barrens, red pine savanna, and white and red pine forest.

Safety First: Appropriate clothing and footwear is necessary for trail walking or exploring off trail in wetter areas. Be prepared for wet weather and insects. Bug spray is recommended.

Directions: The site is located six miles east of Iron River, Wisconsin. Go north on Forest Road 241 3.5 miles, then west on Forest Road 242.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Barksdale Ponds was designated a Wisconsin State Natural Area in 2007. Contact the Washburn Ranger District at (715) 373-2667 for maps and travel conditions.

Closest Town: Iron River, Wisconsin.