5th Annual Open House at Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area

Join us for a fun, free and educational blueberry event!

Blueberries in the Barrens

Saturday, July 13, 2019


  • 8:30 am Gather at the NBWA cabin for maps, 33174 Gomulak Fire Lane, Danbury, WI. 

  • 8:45 am Drive to flagged berry patches and pick to your heart’s content! 

  • 10:15 am Return to cabin (or anytime).

  • 10:30 am Geology of the Namkekagon Barrens (Jeff Kitelinger, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA))

  • 10:45 am Wild Blueberries from Meadow to Market (Sue Segelstrom, Local Author and Historian)

  • 11:05 am The Amazing Variety of Native Plants in the NBWA (Paul Hlina, Wild Plant Expert)

  • 11:30 am Fascinating History of the Barrens and Surrounds (Brian Finstad, Local Historian)

  • Noon Lunch

    • FREE Burgers, Brats, Beans, Beer and Blueberry Treats 

    • Presentation Ongoing Progress and Future Plans for NBWA (Nancy Christel, DNR Property Manager of NBWA)


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2019 Reservations for Sharp-tailed Grouse Viewing Blinds on Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area

Registration begins Jan 15th for the 2019 sharp-tailed grouse viewing blinds on the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area. Be sure to sign up early so you don’t miss the chance to observe the mating dances. Availability is limited.


Photo courtesy of Keith R. Crowley. Please visit lodgetrail.com or click the photo above.

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Early Fall on the Namekagon Barrens

August 30 saw a six person group take a nature walk on the Namekagon Barrens. Friends Board members Mark Nupen, Jerry McAllister, and Dave Peters plus Dave’s wife Lisa and his brother and sister-in-law attended. We were looking for sharp-tailed grouse and fall wild flowers in the area about the Forest Home School site. Jerry’s three year-old English setter Lilly pointed and held for viewing a 5-member grouse covey. After the flush she tracked down three singles and put them up for us also.

We next hiked north from the school site to Clemons Creek identifying wild flowers. The predominant species were yellow sunflowers, purple asters, and purple blazing stars. The latter had just begun blooming and within a couple of weeks will turn the Barrens purple. At the edge of Clemons creek we were entertained by sedge wrens in the marsh grass.

A group photo from near the Clemons is submitted by Jerry, and wild flowers photos, by Mark Nupen.

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Humans on the barrens: “Too dang cold” for the Hillocks

hillock homestead(Once the homestead of Benjamin Hillock at the corner of Dry Landing Road and St. Croix Trail.) 

Humphrey Hillock may never have seen the Namekagon Barrens.

Born 1836 in Michigan, he moved as a young man to Webster City, Iowa, just in time to join a militia formed in 1857 after the “Spirit Lake Massacre,” an Indian attack on frontier settlements during a severe winter. Over the years he was quite successful in Iowa, serving as a county commissioner and a sheriff, running a meat market and operating a farm in nearby Rose Grove.

Then at 65, in 1901, he made the first of several purchases on the barrens, agreeing to pay the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway more than $4,000 for about 1,600 acres in four sections, most of it in the heart of what are now the sands of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area. The area was some 300 miles north of his home, and the purchases were probably the largest land acquisition ever made in the area by a person.

Continue reading

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History walk: Better than a crumbling foundation

history walk turner plum trees(Plum trees left from the Samual and LuAnn Turner homestead 100 years ago?)

Four of us took a history walk on the barrens today, and evidence of the past was a little different than expected. Mark Nupen, Vern Drake and Maggie from Staples Lake joined me in looking around the early 20th Century homesteads of William and Mary Clemens and Samuel and LuAnn Turner on Dry Landing Road.

The walk got a little soggy because the morning rain soaked the woods and barrens. Mark’s rain pants were a good idea.

We started at the site of the Clemens farm west of Dry Landing. They arrived on the barrens around 1905 and left in 1923. They and their two sons are buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Cumberland, Wis. We knew there were a couple old silo foundations but were hoping to find a house foundation.

No such luck, but we did find what apparently was the old well, a sturdily built stone shaft about 4 by 4 and maybe 10 feet deep. We discussed jumping down in but visions of Hardy boys adventures went through my mind and we decided against.

If actual building remains were sparse, we did find botanical evidence. Sharp-eyed Maggie spotted stalks of delicate asparagus scattered around the clearing and there were plum trees near where the home would have been, green fruit the size of big marbles ripening. Both seem likely to have been planted by someone living there, surviving and healthy 100 years later.

Then we drove down Dry Landing less than a mile to the Turner farm. The Turners arrived in the 19-teens, I think, and stayed into the 1930s. Friends board member Gary Dunsmoor told us that years back a badger had dug up a 1930s newspaper here, apparently used as insulation. We found no newspapers, but we did find a couple depressions that likely were from buildings. They were about 50 yards apart, one containing a little old broken crockery. In between the depressions was a huge orchard of plum trees, all bearing green fruit.

Again, we were strongly tempted to assume we were standing where the Turners had harvested. “I can smell the plum pie Mrs. Turner was making,” Maggie said.

Better than a hunk of concrete.

history walk participants(History walk leader and board member Dave Peters, Maggie from Staples Lake, Friends president Mark Nupen, and board member Vern Drake.)

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Sharptail Nature Walk August 1, 2018

Friends members Jerry McAllister and Mark Nupen led a nature walk along with two English setter bird dogs, Daisy age 12 and her daughter Floss age 8. August 1 is the first day that dog training is allowed on DNR property. The Namekagon Barrens is the last, best refuge for sharp-tailed grouse in Wisconsin. The young of the year are ready to fly by this date. Joining us were two first time visitors from Spooner and one from Siren. They heard about the nature walk from Facebook and the local newspaper, respectively.

It rained on and off all morning making scenting conditions very difficult We walked for a mile just west of the clubhouse, a mile just to the west of No Man’s Lake, and made a big circle around the south lek just north of the Forest Home School site. The dogs flushed (no points) 3 singles and 1 double. All five birds appeared to be adults. Good results for all. Disappointing not to see a covey or two with juveniles. We did get wet.

Points were made on a covey of wild turkey juveniles, followed by a flush of the adult hen. A turkey egg was observed.

Photo was taken by Jerry looking north from the lek. Everything in the photo looks and is wet. Mark Nupen, President of the Friends group is hiding in the rear

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FNBWA Nature Walk #3 July 14, 2018

It was a hot humid day.  Mark Nupen and Jerry McAllister gathered at the Barrens Cabin, but no visitors this day.  We had decided to explore 2 areas.

The intersection just south of Gomulak Fire Ln and Clemens Rd. Mark had spooked some Upland Sandpipers 2 weeks earlier and caused one sandpiper to perform the ‘broken wing’ act.  Must have had some babies nearby and also spooked some Sharptails also.   We did not spook anything but could hear these 2 birds in the distance.

Also decided to hike east of Gomulak to a large pond. The route was interesting for the abundant sweet fern, and tons of large ripe blueberries.  We were quite distracted by the abundance of ‘huge’ blueberries so thick in some places you could not walk without stepping on them. Well you can understand we got our knees a little stained blue from picking all of those blueberries.  And, of course, I could not forget to send you a picture of the blueberries on a bowl of ice cream later that evening.  A VERY SUCCESSFUL BLUEBERRY OUTING.  I can see why they called Danbury, Wisconsin, ‘Blueberry Junction’!  Best year I have seen for blueberries.  Have fun.

There are some red pines and jack pines along this route just before we got to the pond.  Lots of flowers along the way which we always enjoy.  The fragrance of sweet fern in the air, smells so nice!

Out on the pond some ducks and probably one muskrat seen.  The old beaver house appears to be abandoned.  Scattered families of young ducks and their parents seen.  Lots of tall grasses along the lake shore area.  Did not notice any hawks this particular day.  Lots of crows however this day.

Returned back to the cabin about 1120 to call it a day.

Never disappointed about a walk on the NBWA!

Submitted by Mark Nupen and Jerry McAllister.

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