Places We Protect

Baxter's Hollow

Wisconsin

A creek flows between rocky banks in a forest carpeted with ferns and moss.
Otter Creek Beautiful Otter Creek is home to a rich collection of aquatic life, including frogs and caddisflies. © Steve S. Meyer

Baxter's Hollow is The Nature Conservancy's largest preserve in Wisconsin.

Overview

Description

Remarkable for the large area of deep forest and the mountain-like creek that it protects, Baxter's Hollow, in the Baraboo Hills, is TNC's largest preserve in Wisconsin.

The area has a rich human history. In his book “Natural Areas in the Baraboo Hills,” Harold Kruse—local farmer, naturalist, writer and conservationist—lists a few of the human activities in the hollow. These included “...an unsuccessful attempt to establish a village—Otterville, a brief gold mining operation (no gold found), several saw mills and a feed mill, maple syrup and sorghum making, a commercial campground, and harvest of wood products.”

Yet, despite years of human habitation, this area still seems wild and untouched.

The rich forest covering Baxter’s Hollow is part of the state’s largest intact southern deciduous forest. The forest is a mosaic of many parts. Thick stands of oak, hickory, maple and ash grow on the quartzite bluffs that dominate the landscape. In the gorge that gives the preserve its name, yellow birch, white pine, maple and basswood grow along the edge of Otter Creek.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The unmarked trail is very primitive. Off-trail conditions are very rocky.

Hours

Open year-round, dawn to dusk

Highlights

Spring wildflowers, birding, fall color

Size

5,910 acres

Explore our work in Wisconsin

Photos from Baxter's Hollow

From spring ephemeral wildflowers to migrating birds, this preserve is home to a diverse array of species for visitors to enjoy.

A blue-grey gnatcatcher sits on a branch with its head cocked to its right.
Light purple hepatica flowers blooming on the forest floor.
A forest in the height of summer, with green ferns and other plants growing under tall trees.
An adult male scarlet tanager perched on a branch.
Closeup of spring beauty flowers, with their delicate white petals.
Shooting star spring wildflowers blooming on the forest floor.
A male chestnut-sided warbler perches on a branch.
A pileated woodpecker perched on the side of a tree's trunk, looking for food.
White dogtooth violet flowers on the forest floor.
A brown frog with dark brown spots sits on the forest floor among dead leaves.

Visit

  • What to See

    Plants: In spring, a variety of wildflowers bloom in the forest, including Jacob's ladder and marsh marigold in low-lying spots; carpets of spring beauty, dogtooth violet and hepatica on hillsides; and shooting stars and alum root in the glades. The rich forest covering Baxter's Hollow is part of Wisconsin's largest intact southern deciduous forest. You can see oak, hickory, maple, ash, yellow birch, white pine, maple and basswood.

    Birds: More than 92 species of birds breed here, making the Hollow one of the most important nesting areas for forest-dwelling birds in southern Wisconsin. Birds that are rare in the state—such as the cerulean warbler, worm-eating warbler and the hooded warbler—can be found here.

    Otter Creek: This beautiful stream is the thread that ties the preserve together. The creek is home to a rich collection of aquatic life rare in Wisconsin, including the pickerel frog and at least 78 species of caddisflies.

  • Plan Your Visit

    Spring is an especially good time to visit: the wildflowers are in bloom and the migratory songbirds have returned from their wintering grounds in Latin America.

    Some parcels of land within the preserve remain in private ownership—please do not trespass. The preserve boundaries are marked with small, yellow signs featuring TNC's logo.

    The unmarked trail is about 5 miles roundtrip and is primitive with uneven, rocky areas. It will be muddy on and after rainy days and when snow is melting.

    Good walking shoes or boots, long pants, water and bug spray (in summer) are recommended.

    Visitors are asked to stay on the trail to protect the habitat. Also, this is a large preserve, and it’s easy to get lost. Cell service may not always be available.

  • Maps and Preserve Guidelines

    For more information about visiting the preserve, please follow the links below:

    All our preserve maps are now georeferenced. You can download an app on your Apple or Android device, and it will allow you to view your location, record GPS tracks, add placemarks and find places.

Background

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) first came to the Baraboo Hills in the 1960s at the request of local residents and university professors who recognized the unique nature of this area. They wanted TNC's help in protecting it.

Baxter's Hollow is an important site for at least two reasons: it contains a good portion of the Otter Creek watershed, and it provides the deep woods that forest songbirds need.

Since 1969, when Dr. Donald Kindschi donated several parcels of land to TNC to establish the nature preserve, TNC has steadily been acquiring parcels of land here. Private landowners in the Baraboo Hills have been important to our preservation efforts at Baxter's Hollow, making cooperative conservation of this critical bird and wildlife habitat possible.

While the forests of the Baraboo Hills are in relatively good condition, we are losing oak trees, putting the birds, insects and other wildlife that depend on them at risk. In 2014, we began to restore the oak forests at Baxter’s Hollow Preserve, using thinning and prescribed fire to set the stage for acorns to germinate and take root and for oak seedlings to have plenty of light to compete well. 

Nearby Preserves

Need more nature? Visit The Nature Conservancy's other preserves.