Auto Tour Stop 7

STOP 7: PIONEER FARMING COMMUNITY

Please take the opportunity to get out of your vehicle, stretch your stiff legs, and visit Stop 7 which is about 500 feet north on the trail.

Early settlers in the United States were often faced with the daunting task of clearing forested lands of trees before they could begin farming. The frequently burned lands in and around Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area (NBWA) were largely free of mature trees, and the sandy soils were relatively easy to plow. Land speculators promoted the area as productive land ready for farmers. While settlers had been grazing cattle and lightly farming the region since the turn of the century, promotion of the barrens started the development of a farmland community here in 1920. Newly plowed land was initially fertile enough to grow decent crops. Favorable precipitation along with initial fertility caused early farming success in this area. More immigrants came from across America and Europe. Unfortunately, the soil was quickly depleted and crops failed a couple years later. Settlers were facing hardship and starvation due to the infertile soils, drought, and depression. Government agencies assisted the farm families in a move to more fertile farm land further south in Burnett County.

Many sites throughout the barrens, as well as many other areas in the North that were over-logged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were abandoned and became tax delinquent. In an effort to restore productive forestland, the State of Wisconsin gave the tax delinquent lands to the respective counties in a cooperative state-county program that established the county forest system.

The thin, sandy soils of the NBWA support a diverse assemblage of plant species consisting of grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees. The delicacy of this soil type is most evident in the remnant crop fields such as the one about a quarter mile directly in front of you. After ninety years of laying fallow, the outlines of these square, farmed plots of land are still evident. The failure of these fields to return to native plant species has also resulted in them frequently being invaded by exotic plant species like spotted knapweed.