There’s a lot to do when you visit the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area:
Sharp-tailed grouse viewing. Each April and May, the Friends group makes available three blinds for up-close viewing of the startling and entertaining mating dance of the sharp-tailed grouse. Reserve a blind, get up early and watch from just a few feet away as males show off, competing for the chance to mate. More on sharp-tailed grouse viewing
Other birdwatching. Scores of species have been spotted on the barrens. The sharp-tailed grouse and the upland sandpiper are the premier birds to spot. Warblers come through in spring. Bluebirds and tree swallows vie for birdhouses installed on the barrens. Towhees and brown thrashers move through the brush. Kestrels, bald eagles and other raptors make the barrens their home. More on birdwatching.
Hiking. No formal trails exist on the barrens but the terrain is easy to navigate, and regular roads and firebreaks make it difficult to get lost. The North Unit is mainly level, dry and open scrub oak country with a few wet kettles and ravines. Look for remnants of an old stage coach road or early 20th Century farmsteads. The South Unit is hillier and features open water and a bog.
Guided hikes. The Friends group sponsors several hikes each summer to find wildflowers, study botany, watch birds, pick blueberries, and explain bird-dog trials. Watch our event calendar for dates.
Wildflowers. Enjoy the color and track the seasons, from pale pasqueflowers in March and April through gorgeous orange wood lilies in summer to the purple asters and golden sunflowers of fall. No picking or digging, please. More on Wildflowers.
Blueberry picking. Starting in late June and lasting for three to four weeks, blueberries reign on the barrens. Find a patch and pick to your heart’s content, following in the footsteps of Dakota and Ojibwe people, homesteaders and more recent area residents. More on blueberries.
Finding historical sites. Walk the small Evergreen Cemetery on the North Unit, where several dozen early settlers and American Indians lie buried. Explore around the foundation of a school house used for 30 years and then abandoned. Track a 160-year-old stage coach route. Visit the site of an 1863 bridge over the Namekagon River. More on barrens history.
Dog trials. Bird dog trials are held in the fall in the Barrens. Organizations with members from North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin come to the Barrens to test the skill of their dogs in finding Sharp-tailed Grouse and other species. Judges and observers watch how well the dogs stay on point and how well they responded to their owners’ commands. See the Northwest Field Association on Facebook (you leave this site).
Photography. The barrens are a great place to practice your photography. Seasonal colors, birds and other wildlife, wildflowers, clear vistas of the sun and moon at daybreak and dusk all make for great practice. Photos on the barrens.
Hunting. Hunting is allowed on the barrens for deer and other animals but not, in recent years, for sharp-tailed grouse. Trappers also use the area for coyotes, bobcats, fisher and beaver.
Skywatching. The night sky on the barrens is pretty much as dark as it gets. There are gorgeous moonrises and sunsets across the open brush land and great starwatching awaiting the patient. You might just hear the wolves howl and the coyotes yip while the northern lights stage a show. Sky watching on the Barrens
Snowshoeing. Winter can be a wonderful time on the barrens to absorb the silence, follow wildlife tracks in fresh snow and try snowshoeing across easy terrain.