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St. Croix Pine Barrens

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About the St. Croix Pine Barrens

The St. Croix Pine Barrens, referred to in some documents as the Bayfield Barrens, are a region in Wisconsin that extends from the interior of the Bayfield Peninsula, southwest to the bend in the St. Croix river just west of Wolf Creek. This region includes the region called the Moquah Barrens, but also extends much farther southwest from that area.

The soils here are mostly excessively-drained pink sands. There is a high density (hundreds) of lakes here. The terrain is irregular and can be steep in places. The hydrology of this region is distinctive: water drains almost immediately through the uplands to the water table, but then accumulates in the small lakes and slow, meandering streams. Some of the streams and rivers have extensive wetlands along them.

Prior to European settlement, uplands here supported mostly barrens of jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and jack oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis). Areas where the proximity to the water table, the lakes, or shelter from hilly topography provided protection from more severe fires, supported eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and red pine (Pinus resinosa). There were also some smaller, local areas of oak forest and savanna, with white oak (Quercus alba), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa). There were also sedge meadows along the rivers and larger streams, the largest area of which was along the St. Croix river in the northwest border of the southernmost part of this region.

Nowadays, much of this area remains as barrens. The lakes here remain clear and have higher water-quality than most of the surrounding regions. There is some development in this area, centering around recreational use around the lakes. There has also been some planting of pine plantations, some draining of wetlands, and fire suppression. Overall though this region is closer to its original state and more ecologically-intact than many surrounding regions. There is a large amount of public, protected land here as well. This area is sparsely populated, but does contain some towns, including Iron River, Barnes, Wascott, Minong, Webb Lake, and Danbury.

Due to this region's long length, it borders many different regions. In the northeast, along Lake Superior it is surrounded by the Lake Superior Clay Plain. South of that, there is a small border to the east with the higher-elevation, rugged Superior Mineral Ranges. South of that, there is a long border to the southeast with the Chequamegon Moraines and Outwash Plain, a region that is more poorly-drained and supports richer forest growth. South of that is a border to the southeast with the St. Croix Stagnation Moraines, a region that is slightly drier but not as drought-prone and barren as this one. Much of this region is bordered to the northwest by the Minnesota/Wisconsin Upland Till Plain, a region with more poorly-drained soils. The far southwestern end of this region, across the St. Croix river, is bordered by the McGrath Till Plain and Drumlins.