While many people are familiar with the federally protected St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers of northwestern Wisconsin, few know about the Namekagon Barrens, a rare pine barrens landscape within a few miles of their confluence. A tiny remnant of the millions of barrens acres that once covered the region, the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area lies in the heart of the state's Northwest Sands, a band of pine and oak stretching from Bayfield on Lake Superior to St. Croix Falls on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. Unfathomable amounts of glacial sand and repeated fires over thousands of years shaped a land of scrub oak and jack pine, blueberries and sweet fern, creating an idea habitat for wolves and sharp-tailed grouse.
Just as compelling is the lands rich human history, from Paleo-Indian hunters to Ojibwe berry pickers, loggers to early road builders, and immigrants whose farming efforts failed to the wildlife habitat specialists who manage it today. The book, told in memoir style and featuring color photographs by the author, sets the land's unusual natural history as the backdrop for a multilayered story about the impact of people on this vulnerable landscape.
Dave Peters is a retired journalist with extensive experience reporting and editing for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, and other news organizations. An avid member of the board of the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area, he walks the barrens as often as he can, finding new wonders every time. He and his wife live in St. Paul, Minnesota.