Tiffany Wildlife Area, Wisconsin

A water-lover's Wisconsin wonderland with forests, prairies, and the occasional eagle.
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A water-lover's Wisconsin wonderland with forests, prairies, and the occasional eagle.

Little-Known Fact: Tiffany Wildlife Area is home to at least eight endangered species of animals.

The roiling Chippewa River muscles its way between islands and sandbars nearly 500 feet below us, a brown slash carving through a green canvas as it hurries to its confluence with the Mississippi 5 miles away. Because the water is low we can see the remnants of piers and wing dams, the slowly rotting reminders of the glory years of steamboats and lumbering, from our lookout atop Five-Mile Bluff.

To the east, nestled in the floodplain, is Beef Slough, originally named Riviere des Boeufs by French-Canadian voyageurs for the herds of bison that grazed its banks. Looking west, we see hills and valleys dotted with red barns and white farmhouses, the dairy cows having long since replaced the grazing bison. This is Wisconsin, after all.

One of the Badger State's best-kept secrets, the 13,000-acre Tiffany Wildlife Area is managed by the Department of Natural Resources as a multiple-use area. Tiffany's southern border adjoins the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge, and is bisected north to south by the Chippewa River. Since there are no marked trails, backpackers can hike the narrow maintenance roads that traverse the area or bushwhack through Tiffany. With its interior readily accessible by water, it's an ideal destination for canoe camping.

For our trip, we decided to paddle down the Chippewa to a spot in the western portion of Tiffany. The area is primarily upland, with steep hills covered in maple and oak. Cool, stream-filled valleys provided plenty of ice-cold water and gorgeous displays of ferns. After setting up camp, we climbed to a vantage point on the dominant ridge of hills collectively known as Five-Mile Bluff.

Foot travelers can head to Tiffany's middle and southern regions, west of the Chippewa River, on roads sprouting from the town of Pepin. Tiffany?s interior comprises a mixture of hardwoods and prairies rich with vegetation and animal life, and summer is accompanied by large populations of mosquitoes and deerflies.

The majority of Tiffany Wildlife Area is sandwiched between the Chippewa River and State Highway 25. Most of the terrain in this eastern region is flat to gently rolling floodplain laced with ponds and sloughs ~ a bird watcher's paradise. In early spring migrating eagles and osprey search the meltwater for fish and winter-killed carrion, while waterfowl use the backwaters for a rest stop during their northward migration.

As we prepare to return to our campsite, we spot a shadow moving along the far hillside. We watch as a bald eagle rides the thermals in search of food, making an already perfect day even more memorable.

Contact Information:

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Buffalo County Courthouse

Second Street

Alma, WI 54610

608/685-6222

Location:

Contact park office for information.

Getting There:

From La Crosse, Wisconsin, head north on WI 35. To get to the eastern section of Tiffany, drive north on WI 25. The western region can be reached by continuing on WI 35 to the town of Pepin, then driving north on Pepin County Trunk N to 16th Creek Road.

From St. Paul, Minnesota, take U.S. 10 east to either Pepin County Trunk N access or WI 25 south access at Durand.

Seasonal Information:

In winter, temperatures can range from -30 to 50 degrees F. Snow is usually around from Late November until mid-March.

In summer, temperatures range from the 50s at night to as high as the 100s in the day.

Wildlife:

A number of endangered and threatened species also make their home here, including massasauga rattlesnake, blandings turtle, red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle, great egret, and three fish: the crystal darter, river redhorse, and the blue sucker.

More common are deer, songbirds, great blue herons, beavers, otter, raccoons, minks, muskrats, and otters.

Popular game fish include panfish, walleye, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and northern pike.

Insects:

Summer brings many mosquitoes and deerflies.

Plant Life:

You'll find mostly maple, oak, and fern. Spring wildflowers, including marsh marigold and spring beauty, draw visitors every year.

Facilities:

Camping is primitive backcountry; no developed sites are available. Most people camp along the river.

Parking:

Contact park office for information.

Permits:

Free permits are required for primitive camping, which is allowed throughout Tiffany.

Policies:

Contact park office for information.

Hazards:

  • There are no marked trails.
  • The river may flood, especially in spring.

Leave No Trace:

No campfires, motor vehicles, or horses allowed.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps:

Get a map of the Tiffany Wildlife Area brochure from the Wisconsin DNR. Two USGS 7.5 series maps include the entire Tiffany Wildlife Area: Wabasha North and MN-WI/Ella, WI. Both can be ordered from:

Hudson Map Company

2510 Nicollet Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55404

612/872-8818

Other Trip Options:

Tiffany's southern border adjoins the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge.