Ice Age Legacy
Imagine the impact of a melting ice-cube about one mile thick and 250 miles wide! That’s exactly the kind of force that shaped Tiffany Wildlife Area about 10,000 years ago, only the ice cube was called the Wisconsin Glacier.
While the glacier’s advance stopped northeast of the Tiffany, the rushing meltwaters created massive rivers that formed the fertile Chippewa River valley and delta located at the site of the Tiffany Wildlife Area. The glacier-created delta also plugged drainage into the Mississippi River and formed Lake Pepin just west of Tiffany. The lush, bottomland hardwood forest and varied topography found today at Tiffany, resulted from this glacial legacy.
Grasslands, Timber and Wetlands: Management for Wildlife
Periodic mowing and controlled burning maintain meadow and grassland habitat at Tiffany for waterfowl nesting cover and a number of other upland birds. Burning also maintains native prairie and savannah plants that existed before settlement. In addition, hand-made wood duck houses dot wetland habitat to help maintain these birds.
Timber harvests help maintain aspen and oak in a diverse pattern of size classes that provides food and cover for deer, ruffed grouse and beaver, as well as many non-game animals. Obvious den, dead, and superior acorn producing trees are preserved to provide wildlife cover and food. Beaver dams on sloughs and old river meanders create a maze of ponds and wetlands. Together, these activities maintain the diversity and abundance of habitat present on Tiffany’s more than 13,000 acres.
It is likely that indigenous peoples lived beneath the shadow of the glacier at Tiffany beginning about 11,000 years ago. More recently, a Winnebago Indian camp was located on the Chippewa River delta. During the late 1800s, the lumber industry began logging the towering red and white pine of northern Wisconsin. Lumberjacks floated the logs down the Chippewa River to Beef Slough for sorting before heading them to sawmills along the Mississippi.
The Chippewa River floodplain was used for a variety of agricultural activities during the early settlement of Buffalo County in the late 1800s, including farming and cattle raising. By the mid-1930s, all farming ceased because the land became too wet due to the navigational dam system now operating on the Mississippi River. Between 1920 and 1940, the timber on the property was logged by the area’s namesake, H. O. Tiffany; most of today’s timber dates from that time. The initial acquisition of property was made in Buffalo County from Mr. Tiffany in 1946.
Hunting or Fishing, Anyone?
Hunters who relish a natural setting will enjoy the Tiffany Wildlife Area. It contains one of the state’s largest, continuous bottomland hardwood forests. White-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, turkey, squirrel and waterfowl are common game species at Tiffany. Furbearers such as beaver, otter, muskrat, and raccoon are also common. Note: Beaver and otter protected from trapping in an 8,000-acre closed area. Popular game fish include panfish, walleye, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and northern pike. Please follow all hunting and fishing regulations carefully.
Silent Sports and Watchable Wildlife
You don’t have to hunt or fish to enjoy the area. Tiffany attracts many people who canoe, camp, raft, hike and cross-country ski as well as those who watch wildlife, pick berries, take photographs and educational field trips. Bird watchers are attracted because of its varied topography and plant communities. A number of endangered and threatened species are also present. These include the massasauga rattlesnake, blandings turtle, red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle, great egret, and three fish: the crystal darter, river red horse and the blue sucker. The early spring showing of wild flowers, which includes marsh marigold and spring beauty, also draws visitors.
The Chippewa Valley Motor Car Association of Durand maintains the rail line which was built in 1881-1882 by the Chippewa Valley & Superior Railroad. This rail line was later sold in 1883 to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad; which was used for freight and passenger service out of Wabasha, MN over a pontoon bridge on the Mississippi River at Reads Landing until 1957 when passenger service was discontinued. Freight service continued until January 17, 1977 when a derailment caused the line to be shut down permanently. The railroad was in bankruptcy since 1975 and could not afford to rebuild the damaged area. The 14 miles of railbed was purchased in June of 1979 by Northern States Power (Xcel Energy) for a possible right-of-way for a steam generating power plant north at Tyrone to transport coal off the BNSF which was never built. In 1995, the CVMC Association was able to get a license agreement with Xcel Energy for running motorcars on this section of rail. Approximately 36 families are involved in this project and currently do all maintenance such as mowing grass and clear cutting all trees and brush which had grown up around and through the rails from 1977 to 1995. Members also have replaced ballast and cribbing due to washouts caused by an ice jam of the Chippewa River in 1988. New members are welcome as help in the rehabilitation and preservation of the 14 mile rail. Rides to the Tiffany Wildlife Area are offered in May and September each year to many environmental and birding groups who have donated funds to the cause. The Tiffany Wildlife Area Train Ride Schedule can be found on this link.
Please remember to contact the person listed for the date to sign up for the train ride!
Watch the “Tiffany Train” video below which travels to the Tiffany Wildlife Area.
Special Rules at Tiffany
Motor Vehicles: Please leave your automobile, RV, motorcycle, ATV, etc., at designated parking areas – motor vehicles are not allowed anywhere else at Tiffany.
Trails: Trails are not marked at Tiffany, but the area is open to hiking, cross country skiing and nature study. Please be careful.
Camping: Primitive camping is allowed, by permit only, within Tiffany’s interior – No developed sites are available. Camping permits are available at the DNR office in Alma.
Tree Stands: Hunters must remove their tree stands at the end of each day. Tree stands which damage trees are prohibited. Your wildlife management staff thanks you in advance for your cooperation.
Nine Mile Island State Natural Area
Accessible only by canoe, Nine Mile Island lies within the Chippewa River and Nine Mile Slough ecosystem. Most of this 900-acre island is floodplain forest. Silver maple, green ash and swamp white oak mix with silver maple and river birch attracting cerulean and prothonotary warblers along with Red-Shouldered Hawks. Birds such as Field Sparrows, Lark Sparrows and Gray Catbirds can be found. The northeast corner of the island is sandy with high quality burr oaks and red oaks. Prairie plants such as the white wild indigo, stiff goldenrod and rough blazing star grow among big and little bluestem grasses and three species of drop-seed. Located just north of Durand. The main portion of the natural area is accessible by canoe. From Durand to northeast 2.5 miles on Hwy 85 then north 2.1 miles on Cty M to a carry-in canoe landing. Park on the road.
“Maiden Rock Bluff” State Natural Area
The limestone bluff of Maiden Rock has been home to peregrine falcons and other raptors including golden eagles, bald eagles and turkey vultures for years. Now, with the help of the West Wisconsin Land Trust, the Wisconsin DNR and other individuals and organizations, the site is open to the public as a State Natural Area. Maiden Rock Bluff protects one of the area’s premiere limestone cliff faces on a bluff high above the Mississippi River overlooking Lake Pepin. The view of the river valley is said to be the best in the four-state area. Visitors are welcome to walk along the 1.5 mile trail and see Maiden Rock Bluff’s unique natural features. Access: Located just a five minute drive from Stockholm’s intersection of State Highway 35 and County J, drive north on J 0.7 miles. Turn left onto County road E and drive one mile to Long Lane, then west about 0.7 miles to a parking area. For more information please visit the DNR website.
Pine Creek Nature Preserve
The Pine Creek valley is widely regarded as one of the region’s best birding spots, thanks to its relatively undisturbed wooded valley and the cool, clear water. This Class 1 Trout Stream is also home to a surprising number of native brook trout. West Wisconsin Land Trust owns 230 acres along Pine Creek and has helped private landowners conserve an additional 190 acres in the watershed. While public access is restricted to the land owned by West Wisconsin Land Trust, the benefits of these protected properties may be seen throughout the area. Visit Pine Creek and enjoy the region’s variety of wildlife! Directions: Turn east on Hwy AA (south of the Village of Maiden Rock). Follow 1/2 mile over the bridge and park along roadside. Enter West Wisconsin Land Trust property from Hwy AA. For more information please visit: www.wwlt.org
Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area
The Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area features the largest concentration (2,000 acres) of remaining prairies and savannahs in the state. You will find this habitat on floodplain islands in the river channel and in the surrounding hillsides. Diversity abounds in the Lower Chippewa River Valley with the largest concentration of rare species in the state; 50% of Wisconsin’s plant species; 70% of the state’s fish species; 75% of Wisconsin’s nesting bird species; 25% of all the native prairies remaining in the state; the largest intact floodplain forest anywhere in the upper Midwest and the large and best remaining floodplain savannahs. The largest contiguous floodplain forest in the Midwest is located in the Tiffany Bottoms State Wildlife Area, south of Durand. View a map and details of the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area.
Most developed launch sites have parking areas where vehicles can remain overnight. Launch and pickup can be made at nearly any road crossing. Daytime roadside parking is allowed in most places if the vehicle is completely off the traveled portion of the road. Overnight roadside parking is discouraged for safety and security reasons; contact the County Sheriff’s Office for information.
Food & Beverages
Excellent dining, from gourmet cafes and restaurants to fast food drive-throughs, and well-stocked grocery and/or convenience stores can be found in the communities located on the shores of these waterways and lakes.
“Carry out everything you carry in!”
In addition to the park campgrounds indicated above, fee camping near the water is available in the Village Parks at Maiden Rock and Stockholm and Rieck’s Park at Alma. Free overnight camping is allowed at Morsbach Landing near Ella and, with permission of the Department of Natural Resources, in the Tiffany Wildlife Area (608-685-6222). Camping on shorelines, stream banks, and other private property should be done only with landowner permission.
Canoe / Kayak Rentals
- Corral Bar & Riverside Grill , Durand, (715) 672-8874
- Red Cedar Outfitters, Menomonie, (715) 235-3866
- Riverland Outfitters, Alma, (608) 385-4351
- Riverside Bike and Skate, Eau Claire (715) 835-0088
- Spring Street Outfitters, Stockholm (715) 204-2410