Welcome to the Crex Meadows section of this website! Crex Meadows is a Wildlife Management Area located in western Wisconsin in an area known locally as 'the Barrens'. The nearest town is Grantsberg Wisconsin around 1 mile south of the begining of the meadows.

Friends introduced me to the meadows in 1988 or so, and quickly, the Meadows became my favorite bird watching area.


The Crex marshes were formed out of the remains of Glacial Lake Grantsburg. During the last advance of the Wisconsin glacier one lobe blocked the St. Croix River, forming the lake. After the ice dam melted a series of shallow lakes remained eventually forming the marshes that remain.

original Prairie The Europeans began settling in the area during the middle 1800's, logging, draining wetlands. Large scale commerical drainage began around 1890 and negatively affected the whole ecological system that had been in this area since the glaciers.

Canada geese had abandoned Crex as a nesting area by 1912. Sandhill cranes had been absent since 1932.

The Crex Carpet Company became the major land owner in the Meadows area.

The sedge grasses were harvested to make many items, including carpet and furniture. Some examples of the products are on display at the Crex Meadows visitor center.

During the depression of the 1930's, the Crex Carpet Company was forced into bankruptcy due to market changes and the changes brought about by the drought years of the dust bowl period.

The state of Wisconsin began purchasing Crex land in 1946.


The objective of development has been to resore praire waterfowl and praire grouse habitat. Over 67% of the area has been developed and 18 miles of dikes flood 11,000 acres of marsh.

Extensive control burning is conducted yearly to restore and maintain prairie habitat. Over 6,000 acres former prairie have been restored with the clearing and controled burning over Crex Meadows. Prairie plants have deep root systems which remain dormant until conditions which favor their growth are present. The burning of the former prairies allowed the plants, which had been dormant for 60 - 80 years, to begin growing again. The areas are then burned again evey four to six years to keep the habitat balanced.

Quick Facts

-- Crex is the largest state owned wildlife area in Wisconsin.
-- Crex is 30,000 acres and contains a 2,700 acre wildlife refuge in its center.
-- Crex has 7,000+ acres of restored brush-prairie habitat.
-- Crex contains the largest remnant of brush prairie in Wisconsin.
-- The Crex plant list includes nearly 600 species.
-- More than 200 of these have prairie affinities.
-- Crex has approximately 6,000 acres of open water during normal precipitation years.
-- Three streams begin on Crex Meadows property.
-- Two hundred and seventy species of birds use or migrate through Crex Meadows.
-- More than 40 miles of road allow easy access for viewing the plant and wildlife.
-- Crex is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Audubon.

Google Earth view of Crex Meadows. Yellow boundries are approximate especially along southern portions. Red border along Refuge area and is approximate. Pointer coordinates (bottom left) are centered on North Fork Flowage. Picture opens into new window.

Return to the Crex Meadows Main Page Here