Birding by Car in the Baraboo Hills

Conservationist Harold Kruse shares his favorite birding spots in the Baraboo Hills.

Harold Kruse Favorites

For those of you who may not be able to hike the woodland trails in search of birds, there are a number of opportunities to bird without leaving one’s car.  What is required is reasonably good hearing and familiarity with bird song and binoculars.

Some good spots for birding from a car are:

[1] County Highway PF:  From Leland (approx. 12.2 miles west of Highway 12 north of Sauk City on County C), go north on County PF for 2.8 miles.  Park at the tin shed halfway up the big hill and listen for wood thrush, scarlet tanager, red-eyed and yellow-throated vireo, wood pewee and crested flycatcher, redstarts, and other birds of the deep woods.

[2] Wisconsin Society of Ornithology Wetlands:  The 55-acre marsh and bog on Skyview Drive provides excellent habitat for sandhill cranes, snipe, woodcock, rails, and other birds of the wetlands.  Park along the roadside before sunrise some morning in May or June and enjoy the spring concert.  In April, one can enjoy the calls of woodcock, snipe and spring peeper frogs.  Take PF north from Leland 1.8 miles and turn left onto Skyview Drive (also known as Lins Road on some maps).

[3] Honey Creek Wetlands:  The 100+ acres of bog and marsh along Honey Creek from Highway PF to Leland is home to sandhill cranes, snipe, woodcock, swamp sparrow, marsh wrens, herons, and rails.  Park along Hemlock Road and listen for bird calls and song.  Hemlock Road is just south of the intersection of Skyview Drive and PF and heads to the east or can be accessed just east of the Leland Millpond.

[4] Leland Millpond:  This artificial impoundment once harbored black terns, but they left due to frequent flooding.  Bird residents and visitors today include Canada geese, herons, various ducks and songbirds.  The Millpond can be viewed from Leland at the Rod & Gun Club parking lot or along Hemlock Road.  Take County C from Highway 12 approximately 12.2 miles to reach Leland.

Nearby Rustic Roads:  Orchard [5], Schara [6], and Ruff roads [7] all pass through heavily wooded stretches where frequent stops to listen will provide an interesting variety of bird music.  Ruff Road was recently rebuilt, greatly reducing its value, both as a scenic drive and as forest bird habitat.  In time, nature will recover and hide the scars of human intervention as has happened elsewhere in the Baraboo Hills.  Orchard Road connects with County C 1.5 miles east of Leland, and Schara Road connects with County PF 5.2 miles north of Leland on PF.

[8] Pine Hollow: This location at the end of a dead-end road provides choice habitat for wood warblers, including the Canada warbler, and Acadian, least and crested flycatchers.  Although accessible to cars, heavy use of Pine Hollow is discouraged because of possible damage to the rich plant life.  From Denzer, follow County C approximately 1.5 miles west to Pine Hollow Road (after stone church, Our Lady of Loretto).  Travel north 1.5 miles on Pine Hollow Road to the top of the hill.

[9] Pan Hollow:  On Denzer Road, this spot has equally good habitat for wood warblers and flycatchers.  The extensive woodland also attracts scarlet tanager, wood thrush, vireos, blue-grey gnatcatcher and other birds of the deep woods.  From Sauk City, take Highway 12 north 8 miles to County C, turn on C and follow west for 8.3 miles to Denzer.  Turn right at Denzer Road and follow for approximately 2.3 miles north.

[10] Baxter’s Hollow:  At 5,000 acres, Baxter’s Hollow is the largest of The Nature Conservancy’s preserves in the Hills and provides habitat for many endangered or rare birds such as Cerulean, hooded and Kentucky warblers.  Baxter’s Hollow and the Big Woods are also home to turkey vultures, scarlet tanager, veery, wood thrushes, vireos, Acadian flycatcher and many others.  Stones Pocket Road is accessible by car to the start of the hiking trails.  From Sauk City, take Highway 12 north for 8 miles to County C, go west on C for 1.5 miles and turn right onto Stones Pocket Road.  Follow Stones Pocket Road into the woods; there are several turn-off parking spots.

Devil’s Lake State Park:  Devil’s Lake State Park offers several accessible birding areas – the South Shore Road from the west [11] entrance all the way to Roznos meadow [12] and Steinke Basin [13] along County Highway DL in the northern portion of the park.  One may also see turkey vultures soaring over the high cliffs.

[14] Weidman Memorial Park:  This is a 90-acre quartzite gorge along State Highway 154 and the Narrows Creek, 1.5 miles west of Rock Springs.  The gorge boasts a blue heron colony, nesting sandhill cranes, and a number of rare or uncommon songbirds.  Park along High-Low Road or at the wayside in the park along Highway 154.

[15] Van Zelst Barrens:  The only known place in the Baraboo Hills where the hermit thrush can be found nesting.  Field sparrow, vesper sparrow, and grasshopper sparrow may also be present.  Accessible from Terrytown Road.  From Baraboo at the intersection of Highways 33, 12, and 136, go west on Highway 136 for 6.8 miles to Excelsior Road (1.2 miles west of County I).  Go north on Excelsior Road approximately 1.7 miles to Terrytown Road, turn left and, after 0.5 to 0.75 mile, find a place to park along the road.

Enjoy!    Harold

See a map of the driving route in the Baraboo Hills.