Black River State Forest

Quick Facts

Black River State Forest

Wisconsin

(715) 284-4103

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Established in 1957, the Black River State Forest encompasses approximately 68,000 acres of public land in Jackson County.

The area's geology helps make the Black River State Forest unique among the state forests. The property lies at the edge of the glaciated central plains, east of the "driftless" area of Wisconsin. Hiking to the top of Castle Mound provides views of the former bed of glacial Lake Wisconsin, as well as the unglaciated buttes, sandstone hills and castellated bluffs that dot the vast forest landscape.

Map of Black River State Forest (WI)

Latitude, Longitude: 44.396446, -90.721952

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Activities

  • Camping

    Camping in the Black River State Forest requires a vehicle admissions sticker and a camping fee. Tent, car and RV camping are allowed at all designated campgrounds. In addition, the forest offers backpack and horse camping. Also, during the gun deer season only, hunter off-site camping is permitted.

    Please note: The forest is open to small game and deer hunting. To ensure your safety during the hunting seasons, avoid wearing brown or white clothing while in the woods. Instead, wear blaze orange or bright colors, including a blaze orange hat.

    Castle Mound Campground is located one mile east of Black River Falls on Hwy 12. The campground's 35 sites are open year-round, with a few sites plowed out for winter camping. Electricity is available at five sites and one site accessible to handicapped patrons. The campground provides showers, flush toilets, a sanitary dump station, and a nature trail, as well as easy access to equipment rental outfits and local amenities.

    The East Fork Campground is open in the spring after the snow melt to the end of the deer gun season in November. It is located at the north end of the forest on Campground Road, southeast of Hatfield. Half of its 24 sites are situated along the banks of the East Fork of the Black River.

    East Fork's rustic amenities (no electricity, hand pump for water, vault toilets) give campers a chance to truly "get out in the woods." The campground includes a canoe landing with canoe access to Lake Arbutus, good fishing opportunities and nature trail access. Its proximity to Lake Arbutus also provides chances for swimming and boating. Group Camp is a secluded and quiet campground located at the north end of the forest on Campground Road, southeast of Hatfield. An indoor, four-season facility sleeps 12, and includes a stove, refrigerator, gas fireplace, bathroom, shower and heated floors. Campers must bring their own mattress pads or bed rolls to cushion the wooden bunks.

    An additional outdoor area accommodates a maximum of 50 people in tents and trailers. Water, pit toilets, picnic tables, cooking grills, fire rings, and a dog kennel are also available. The site is handicap accessible.

    Pigeon Creek Campground is located two miles northeast of Millston on N. Settlement Road, Pigeon Creek Campground's 38 campsites are open year-round with a few sites plowed out for winter camping. Camping at Pigeon Creek is rustic (no electricity, hand pumps for water, vault toilets). The site is family-friendly, with a swimming beach, fishing opportunities and access to an interpretative trail and a bike trail. One site is handicap accessible.

    Backpack camping is allowed anywhere on the forest, with the exception of Hawk Island, provided you camp at least one mile away from your vehicle and 100 feet from any designated trail or road. fFirst-time backpackers are encouraged to use the Wildcat, Red Oak or Ridge trails

  • Fishing

    Common fish species found in the Black River and impoundment areas include walleye, small and large mouth bass, northern pike, musky and pan fish. Fishing in these areas is considered average.

  • Hiking

    To hike the forest trails, visitors must have an admissions sticker on their vehicle when parked in the picnic area lots next to Castle Mound, Pigeon Creek and East Fork campgrounds.

    Trail Safety Hiking conditions vary from easy to difficult depending on the trail. The trails at Castle Mound, in particular, include stairways and steep climbs. In addition, not all trails are surfaced, and may be slippery when wet or if covered with leaves or loose gravel. Trails are open during small game and deer hunting seasons. To ensure your safety during these times, avoid brown or white clothing. Instead, wear blaze orange or bright colors, including a blaze orange hat. Nature trails with interpretative signs are available at the Pigeon Creek and Castle Mound campgrounds. There is also a nature trail at the East Fork Campground, but it is less developed and without interpretative information.

    Hiking is also allowed on ski trails during summer, and in winter whenever the trails are not groomed for cross-country skiing.

  • Horseback Riding

    Twenty miles of designated horse trails begin at the horse campground. The trails range from wooded and grassy to gravel and sand town roads. Some trail sections are shared with ATVs. To use the trails, riders must obtain a day or annual trail pass, available through self registration at the horse campground. A day use or annual vehicle admissions sticker is also required to access the trail and facilities.

  • Hunting

    Excellent hunting opportunities exist on the Black River State Forest for whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, wild turkey and squirrels. The forest is open to public hunting during designated seasons with the appropriate license.

    Exceptions: Hunting is not allowed in designated public use areas (e.g., state forest campgrounds) or within the Dike 17 Wildlife refuge, although deer gun hunting IS allowed within the refuge during the nine-day deer gun season.

    Hunters can obtain permits for off-site camping during the nine-day deer gun season at no charge, but they must obtain these permits prior to opening day.

  • Off Highway Vehicles

    The Black River State Forest has 34 miles of ATV and motorcycle trails that link directly with the Jackson County trail system. Depending on weather conditions, trails are open from May 15 to October 15 and from December 15 to March 15. When riding in the forest, you must stay on designated trails. All ATVs ridden on state forest trails must follow state registration and trail pass rules. State residents must be registered for "public use" in Wisconsin and display valid decals. Out of state visitors must be registered for public use in another state (with decal showing) and display a non-resident ATV trail pass. To register your ATV in Wisconsin, visit the Black River State Forest Castle Mound Campground, located on Hwy 12E, or any DNR Service Center statewide. You can purchase an ATV trail pass at any license vendor.

  • Picnicking

    Picnicking in the forest requires a day use or annual vehicle admissions sticker. Picnic tables, hand pumps for water, grills and pit toilets are available at all three state forest campgrounds (Castle Mound, East Fork and Pigeon Creek). Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek campgrounds have playground equipment. In addition, a reservable log cabin shelter at Castle Mound Campground includes a stone fireplace, electricity, tables and an outdoor cooking grill.

    Limited picnic facilities are also available at Perry Creek Park and Oxbow Pond. Perry Creek Park is accessible to handicapped patrons, but Oxbow Pond is not handicap accessible.

  • RVing

    RV camping is allowed at all designated campgrounds.

  • Water Sports

    Black River State Forest maintains four canoe landings, located at East Fork Campground, Halls Creek, Perry Creek, and Mason's Landing. In addition, two canoe campsites are available south of Black River Falls. Canoe campers are limited to one night's stay at these campsites. A dam is located on the Black River in the city of Black River Falls. Canoeing is not recommended when three or more dam gates are open, and requires average or better skills when two gates are open. Canoeing is considered safe when all gates are closed.

    Swimming requires a vehicle admission sticker. Swimmers should exercise caution as lifeguards are not on duty.

  • Winter Sports

    Black River State Forest may have the finest ski-touring trails in Wisconsin. Scenic overlooks can be found at several locations along a trail system that runs through woodlands and rolling terrain. The two rest areas, shown on the map, have Adirondack shelters, small fireplaces and picnic tables. Drinking water is available at the Wildcat Trail parking lot and the Central Trail shelter. The seven loops and trail links total 24 miles. Loops are designed and marked for one- way ski and bike travel. All link trails are two-way travels. The ski trails are groomed for both diagonal and skate skiing after new snow fall or heavy weekend use. Bikers and hikers will delight in the scenic views of the Ridge, Norway Pine and Wildcat trails while cross-country skiers may find them quite steep and recommended for expert skiers only.

    Parking lots for the state forest trail system are plowed after each snowfall and trail maps are available at parking lot facilities. Parking lots and trail access points are located on:

    N. Settlement Road (north of County Road "O") Hwy 54 east of Black River Falls E 7th Street, off Hwy 12 East, near Black River Falls

Seasonality/Weather

Year-round activities are available.

Directions

Driving

From I-94, take Black River Falls Exit 116, Hwy 54. Drive to the first set of traffic lights. Turn left (south) onto Hwy 12/27. Then turn left (east) onto Hwy 12. The campground is located approximately one mile east on Hwy 12.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(715) 284-4103

Links