Skip to main content

U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Diplazium pycnocarpon Glade fern (Diplazium pycnocarpon). Photo by Steve White.

Carex plantaginea Plaintain-leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea). Photo by Steve White.

Streptopus roseus Rosy twisted stalk (Streptopus roseus). Photo by Steve White.

Yellow River Ice-Walled Lake Plain Yellow River Ice-Walled Lake Plain. Photo by Steve White.

Yellow River Ice-Walled Lake Plain

Forest: Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

District: Medford-Park Falls District - Medford Unit

Description: An ice-walled lake plain is a relatively flat, fertile stone-free plain in an otherwise rugged, rocky moraine area. The Yellow River Ice-Walled Lake Plain site is unique in its topography and is probably unmatched in species richness for this type of landform anywhere else in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The Yellow River site is the only one of its type that has not been farmed, logged, or otherwise disturbed. A rich mesic hardwood forest here supports a species composition more typical of a southern Wisconsin forest. Sugar maple and basswood dominate the canopy here. White ash, red oak, bitternut hickory, and butternut are also present. In spring, there is an outstanding display of ephemeral wildflowers. You will find squirrel corn, toothwort, false rue anemone, dogtooth violet, Virginia waterleaf, and sharp-lobed hepatica. Bloodroot, rosy twisted stalk, Goldieā€™s fern, and bulblet bladder fern grow here too. Adding to the incredible diversity of ferns are the rare glade fern, broad beech fern and the little goblin fern.

On the somewhat poorly drained interior of the lake plain is a perched wetland and mixed hardwood swamp forest. This are is drained by several erosion channels which were the original channels formed by melting glacial ice. Some of ravines dip below the plain surface to a depth of twenty-five feet. Their most shady microclimates are perfect habitat for the many fern species, and the towering hemlock.

Viewing Information: Early spring ephemeral wildflowers and the mid summer ferns are the focal attraction. Come in the first three weeks of May and the last weeks in July for the best show or spring ephemerals and diverse fern community. In May through July, birders will also enjoy the song of black-throated blue warbler, scarlet tanager, wood thrush, and maybe even the cerulean warbler.

Safety First: There are no established trails here; take a topographic map and compass (USGS Jump River Fire Tower SW and Lublin NW quad maps are available at the Medford Forest Service office or other map outlet.). Due to the heavy soils, the area can be very wet; waterproof boots are recommended. Weather both in the spring and summer can be unpredictable - dress appropriately. Come prepared with insect repellant and/or bug nets.

Directions: From Medford, Wisconsin, head north on Highway 13 to the intersection of County Road M (approximately 4 miles) and turn west. Follow County Road M west for approximately 16 miles to Forest Road 112. Head north on Forest Road 112 for approximately 1 mile to the intersection of Forest Road 575 (Sheep Ranch Road). Go west by northwest on Forest Road 575 approximately 1.5 miles to the intersection of Forest Road 1547. Go west approximately .5 miles on 1547. The site is located on both sides of the road.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Medford-Park Falls District - Medford Unit.

Closest Town: Medford, Wisconsin.