Fairy Chasm (333/693)

Fairy Chasm Natural Area features a deep chasm amidst rolling forest land surrounding a small creek leading to Lake Michigan. It is home to several more typically northern species, due to the cool microclimate in the chasm. Owned by the Ozaukee-Washington Land Trust (OWLT), the site does not currently allow for public visitation. Please contact the OWLT for more information.

This blog post will start as a description of my visit there and then describe my efforts to determine what happened to access in the meantime.

The DNR page for Fairy Chasm formerly described directions to the SNA as well as to the site steward’s house, but also noted that the OWLT should be contacted for further access information and for permission to visit. Back in 2013, I sent a few emails to OWLT requesting access and never received a response. Eventually, I called them directly and the woman on the phone seemed surprised that someone would be calling to request permission to visit, as she thought that the area was was open to the public. That being said, parking is not allowed on any of the streets in the area. I decided to park at a nearby OWLT preserve and walk to the site.

I quite enjoyed the rolling topography of the site, as the leaves above gently blew in the breeze. Much of the forest remained green though it was mid-October at the time of my visit. Nothing particularly noteworthy was observed on this visit, as one might expect at this time of year. Nonetheless, it was a serene experience to drop into the chasm and roam the shallow inches-deep waters of the creek at its base. Fairy Chasm is described as an example of a clay ravine, so I was hopeful of the opportunity to see some rare plants, but again, due to the time of year, this was not an ideal time to be searching.

In recent years, the site has become inaccessible. In doing my research for this post, I came across another blog that featured a post from an artist in residence at Fairy Chasm. She notes that the pandemic led to an increase in visitors and a subsequent increase in tensions with the site’s neighbors. It it not clear to me at this point if the site steward still lives at a neighboring property of if, perhaps, visitors began to park on neighborhood streets, which is not allowed. In any case, the site is currently landlocked, unless you manage to make contact with an adjoining property owner, or feel like walking in Lake Michigan a mile or so from the nearest public access and then hoping that there is water in the creek. If that is the case, one could potentially legally walk inland using the creek until reaching the actual SNA. As it currently stands, I would rate this as a 9/10 on my personal revisit scale, but the likelihood of a revisit is slim at best due to the lack of access.

As I learn more information, I will update this blog post. Though it is not that difficult to figure out where Fairy Chasm is, I am not including maps in this post for the time being, as most have been scrubbed from the DNR and OWLT websites.

Additional photos can be found on Flickr.

Site map not included for the time being.
SNA #67
Natural Communities / GeologyLake, Northern Mesic Forest
Size (Acres)37
Easy to FindYes
Best Seen ByFoot
Recommended FootwearWaders
Marked BoundariesNo
OwnershipWisconsin DNR
Located WithinKettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit
Date(s) Visited10.13.13

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