Those looking for a nice weekend or day trip from Chicago, Northern Illinois, or Wisconsin should check out the natural features near Baraboo, Wisconsin.
This post is on Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area.
The dominant feature at Pewits Nest is a 30- to 40-foot deep gorge formed during the retreat of the last glacier. Associated with it are Skillet Creek, shaded cliffs, and a northern dry-mesic pine forest. When Glacial Lake Baraboo drained, Skillet Creek cut a narrow canyon through the Cambrian sandstone, forming a series of potholes and low waterfalls. The layers of Cambrian sandstone show that a finer-grained sediment was laid down by the Cambrian seas “inside” the syncline, a process different from that at Parfrey’s Glen where coarser Cambrian conglomerates and sandstones are found in layers. Skillet Creek has a gradient of 38 feet/mile and an average flow of 0.8 cfs. Within and above the gorge grows a narrow fringe of forest dominated by red cedar, white pine, hemlock, and yellow birch.
The hike to the gorge is about 0.9 miles. I would rate it as very easy. There is elevation change to get to the top, but anyone in reasonably good health who can walk will not struggle with this one. The main danger is getting too close to the cliff edge and falling off.
Pewit’s Nest Directions
The DNR link above provides directions and a map of newly closed areas. I cannot tell precisely from the map if I was in a closed area or not when I took the vertical images from above. I do not believe I was in a closed area for the third, horizontal image that shows a tiny portion of the lower falls.
Judging from the map, all the trails appear to be open but there is no longer any access to the gorge itself.
I had never been in the gorge but wanted to do so in the winter if things froze solid enough. That option appears to be gone, at least legally.
Feature Image Details
For the feature image, I used a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at ISO 125, 45mm, 3.2 seconds at F22.
I do not recommend an F22 or anything greater than f16 because you run into diffraction limits which makes for decreased sharpness. I was trying to get a longer exposure to blur the water. F16 would have resulted in an exposure half of F22 (each F-Stop doubles or halves the time). 1.6 seconds likely would have been long enough to get the effect in the water that I wanted. All that said, the image is very sharp, so F22 does not seem to have hut the image any.
Pewit’s Next Tips
- This park photographs best on a cloudy day.
- Perfect conditions would be bright overcast, with little wind, with wet rocks just after a rain.
- Light drizzle works very well is there is little wind.
- The rain saturates the leaves as well as the colors on the rocks.
- Use a polarizer to remove glare.
People misuse polarizers. I generally do not use them on sunny days, especially if I have a lot of sky in the image. Why? The polarizer will darken the sky in a very non-uniform manner that is hard to correct even in Photoshop.
I often use polarizers on cloudy days and did so on these images. Here is a second image from the bluff area with a narrower angle view.
The gorge contains at least three waterfalls.
To get those images, I was in a place where if I fell I would have died. I do not want to exaggerate the risk as there was not that much danger as long as one is paying attention. It is easy to take a step back or slip if one is not careful.
Similar shots are available from the main trail, but they will have trees blocking a portion of the scene.
Portion of Lower Falls
That’s all you can see of the lower falls from ground level, at least legally. Swimming and wading are prohibited.
I edited out a small portion of one rock where some idiots attempted to scratch their names. The rock is very hard and you have to get wet, so, fortunately, the area is not very defaced.
Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.
Devil’s Lake State Park, Parfrey’s Glen, Ableman’s Gorge, and the International Crane Foundation are close by.
- Ableman’s Gorge State Natural Area, Wisconsin – Part 1
- Ableman’s Gorge State Natural Area, Wisconsin – Part 2
I have an entire series on the International Crane Foundation. That link will take you to some of them. Look for those tagged “Mish Moments”.
Click on the link for a search, or better yet, scroll through my Mish Moments Home Page until you find them.
I will cover Devil’s Lake State Park and Parfrey’s Glen in subsequent articles.
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Coming up: A second post on Pewit’s Nest them Parfrey’s Glen.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock