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Research Natural Area

Bearsdale Creek and Hyatt Spring

[photo:] Northern mesic forest (AViO habitat); Bearsdale Creek Hyatt and Spring RNAState: Wisconsin

County: Bayfield

Forest: Chequamegon-Nicolet

District: Washburn

Established: 2015

Acres: 495

Description: Bearsdale Creek and Hyatt Spring Research Natural Area contains a diverse mix of representative communities including mature northern dry-mesic forest, exposed dry bedrock outcrops, and a rich bottomland-like hardwood forest. This forest is composed of medium to large black ash (Fraxinus nigra) and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpon) and borders Bearsdale Creek as it leaves the western remnants of the Penokee Range. Of interest are landlocked streams that originate from springs and ponds, flow overland for a distance then disappear into the permeable soil. Two rare plant species, fragrant woodfern (Dryopteris fragrans) and dry-land bittercress (Cardamine parviflora) are found in this RNA.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions:

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA: The Drummond Ranger Station (station no. 472240) is 6 miles east of the RNA.

Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) : Annual precipitation averages 34.3 inches (87 cm). Average seasonal snowfall is 68.1 inches (173 cm).

Maximum and minimum temperatures: Temperatures average 58.6°F between April and September and between October and March temperatures average 24.6°F. Daily maximum temperatures average 52.6°F and daily minimum temperatures average 30.6°F.

Elevation: Elevations range from 1,220 feet (372 meters) to 1,390 feet (424 meters) above sea level.

Geology and Soils: In the Bearsdale Creek and Hyatt Spring RNA, the bedrock of LTA Xf01 consists of carbonates and bedrock is within 100 feet of the land surface and exposed in some places. Geomorphologic processes are dominated by glacial meltwater deposition. Soils generally fall into the Karlin-Padus and Sayner-Karlin soil series.  Karlin-Padus soils are nearly level to sloping soils that are predominantly well-drained sandy loam and loam over medium and coarse sandy outwash.

Aquatic Features: Bearsdale Creek lies on level outwash plain and originates from Bearsdale Springs; a spring area made up of two impounded spring ponds. This short stream is unique in that it is landlocked. After flowing for two miles (3.2 km), it disperses over a flat sandy area and sinks into the ground.

Shunenberg Creek originates from Shunenberg Springs and flows in a northwesterly direction where it joins Hyatt Creek, a short, landlocked stream. Hyatt Creek eventually disappears into the ground.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Section: Northern Highland (212X)

Subsection(s): Hayward Stagnation Moraines (212Xf)

Landtype:  Cable Rolling Outwash (Xf01)

Plant Communities:

Curtis Community Type

Dominant species

Kotar Forest Habitat types

initial US National Vegetation Classification

Northern dry-mesic forest

white pine, red pine, red oak


Pinus strobus - (Pinus resinosa) - Quercus rubra Forest; CEGL002480

Northern mesic forest

bur oak, basswood, sugar maple


Quercus ellipsoidalis - (Quercus macrocarpa) Forest; CEGL002077

Northern mesic forest

white pine, red maple


Pinus strobus - Populus tremuloides - (Acer rubrum) / Pteridium aquilinum Forest [Provisional]; CEGL005563

Northern wet-mesic forest

white cedar, hemlock, yellow birch


Thuja occidentalis - Betula alleghaniensis Forest; CEGL002450

Northern wet forest

black spruce and tamarack


Picea mariana - (Larix laricina) / Ledum groenlandicum / Sphagnum spp. Forest; CEGL005271

Northern hardwood swamp

black ash, bur oak, box elder


Fraxinus nigra - Mixed Hardwoods - Conifers / Cornus sericea / Carex spp. Forest; CEGL002105

Open cliff

rock polypody


Igneous - Metamorphic Northern Dry Cliff Sparse Vegetation; CEGL002300

Sedge meadow

sedges and wetland forbs


Carex oligosperma - Carex pauciflora- Eriophorum vaginatum /Sphagnum spp. Herbaceous Vegetation; CEGL005256

Shrub carr

speckled alder, willow


Alnus incana Swamp Shrubland; CEGL002381 or Salix sericea Shrubland; CEGL006305

Complete Plant List

View or download (pdf)

Common Fauna: Species noted on community survey forms from 1996 include white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), common raven (Corvus corax), and red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis). Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), beaver (Castor canadensis) wood ducks (Aix sponsa) and other and migratory waterfowl occupy the stream.

Bearsdale Creek is a Class III brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) stream, meaning no natural trout reproduction occurs. It requires annual stocking of trout to provide trout fishing. Generally, there is no carryover of trout from one year to the next. Other fish include longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae), blacknose dace (R. atratulus), common shiners (Luxilus cornutus), northern creek chubs (Semotilus atromaculatus), and sculpin (Cottus spp).

Common Shrub Species:
The shrub layer is moderate to dense with beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp), early low blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), velvet-leaf blueberry (V. myrtilloides), and Rubus species.

Common Herbaceous Species
Characteristic herbs include bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), winterberry (Gaultheria procumbens), large-leaved aster (Aster macrophyllus), narrow-leaved cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare), and club-mosses (Lycopodium/Huperzia spp.).

Potential Research Topics:
Landlocked streams occur only within this area of the state and offer a unique research opportunity. The bottomland forest has a composition reflective of forests much further south and also offers interesting research prospects. Other topics include: fire-dependent ecosystems and prescribed fire methods to maintain them; and species on the northern edge of their range as it relates to climate change.

Related Websites

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program: Bearsdale Creek & Hyatt Springs (No. 471)


Related Publications:

Brzeskiewicz, Marjory.  2014.  Establishment Record for Bearsdale Creek and Hyatt Spring Research Natural Area.  Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Washburn Ranger District, Bayfield County, Wisconsin.  39 pp.

Crow, T.R.; Cleland, D.T.; DonnerWright, D.M.; Gustafson, E.J.; Lytle, D.E.; Parker, L.R.; Probst, J.; Schulte, L.A.; Sturtevant, B.R.; Zollner, P.A. 2006. Managing midwestern landscapes using ecological principles. In Chen, J,; Saunders, S.C.; Brosofske, K.D.; Crow, T.R. eds. Linking ecology to landscape hierarchies. Nova Sciences Publishers, New York. p. 251-281.

Curtis, J. T. 1959. Vegetation of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI.

Epstein, R.; Judziewicz, E.; Krause, J.; Spickerman, S. 1996. Natural Heritage Site Survey Summary. Unpublished report on file in Bureau of Endangered Resources, Madison WI.

Epstein, E.; Krause, J. 1993. Unpublished Natural Heritage Inventory report of Bearsdale Red Pines. On file in Park Falls Headquarters.

Kotar, J.; Kovach, J.; Burger, T.  2002.  A Guide to Forest Communities and Habitats of Northern Wisconsin (2nd edition).  Madison: University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest Ecology and Management.

Krause, J.; Spickerman, S. 1996. Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Biological Survey Project Evaluation Report: Bearsdale Creek and Hyatt Spring. Unpublished reports on file in Park Falls Headquarters.

NGDC.  National Geographic Data Committee. 2012. National Vegetation Classification Standard (NVCS). Available online:  Accessed 2012.

Vora, R. S. 1997. Developing programs to monitor ecosystem health and effectiveness of management practices on Lakes States National Forests, USA. Biol. Conserv. 80:289-302.

Last Modified: 02/23/2017