Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area, Merrimac, Wisconsin

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 Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area.

Parfrey’s Glen is Wisconsin’s first State Natural area and is unquestionably the most visited state natural area outside of Devil’s Lake State Park. The glen is open to the public from 6am to 8pm. At its uppermost part, the glen reaches a depth of nearly 100 feet and embraces a mountain-type stream flowing through its floor. The Glen’s walls are sandstone embedded with pebbles and boulders of quartzite. This quartzite is conglomerate, sometimes called a “plum pudding” stone. The sandstone layers represent ancient sandy beach. Because the Glen has many unusual and rare flora, visitors must stay on the trail from the lower parking area to the top of the glen and retrace their steps back. The Path is about 0.8 miles long.

In the last 20 years, the glen has been changed drastically by powerful floods. The glen has gone through various closures, repairs and upgrades in recent years. The bridges and trail known to hikers in the 80s and early 90s are now gone. The trail was again damaged by flooding in 2010 and closed until the fall of 2011. The 2011 repairs only went as far as the gorge itself. The expectation of further floods has caused the DNR to curb spending on repairs within the gorge proper. Hikers wishing to continue up to the waterfall must navigate a stream and rough stone. The steps leading up to the old viewing area and the viewing area are also damaged. Steps are missing and a section of the viewing area is now partly collapsed. Use caution if you plan to go beyond the marked trail.  Visitors may hike to the pool below the waterfall, but not go around or beyond the falls.

The hike to the small waterfall at the end of the trail is 0.8 miles each way. I would rate the trail as easy despite the cautions above. There is a bit of scrambling over rocks, but seriously, it is not as difficult as it may seem from the above description. Bring the kids. They will love it.

This is a fee area with pay boxes. They do check, frequently. Buy a pass or you are highly likely to get a ticket.

Feature Image Details

For the feature image, I used a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at ISO 125, 20mm, 4 seconds at F14 with a circular polarizer to saturate the colors.

Parfrey’s Glen 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.
  • Rain saturates the leaves as well as the colors on the rocks.
  • Use a polarizer to remove glare.

Polarizer Tips

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 are more images from the glen.

Additional Images

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Nearby Locations

Devil’s Lake State Park, Pewits Next, Ableman’s Gorge, and the International Crane Foundation are close by.

Pewit’s Nest

  1. Pewits Nest, Wisconsin State Natural Area, Lower Falls
  2. Pewits Nest, Wisconsin State Natural Area, Upper Falls

Ableman’s Gorge

  1. Ableman’s Gorge State Natural Area, Wisconsin – Part 1
  2. 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.

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Coming up: A second post on Parfrey’s Glen.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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