“Wisconsin’s secret swimming hole that’s surrounded by waterfalls”. This headline from a post by Roadtrippers.com has been floating around the internet for a few days and drawing a bit of attention to Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area here in Baraboo. Let me just say this right up front… Pewit’s Nest is a protected Wisconsin State Natural Area. It is NOT a “secret swimming hole”. (It seems Roadtrippers.com may have updated their article.)
It is true that people have been diving off of the high cliffs into a pool below for years. They shouldn’t. It’s dangerous. In fact we had someone almost drown out there just a year or so ago. According to local EMS there have been least 13 Rescues/Carry outs from Pewit’s Nest since 2001! The open cliffs are dangerous without people diving from the high cliffs into the sandstone lined pools below.
Steve Schmelzer, Devil’s Lake State Park Superintendent (In charge of Pewit’s Nest SNA), tells us, “We have responded to a number of serious accidents/injuries related to these types of activities.” He also states that, Pewit’s Nest is not maintained for swimming and the creek contains numerous hazards that include rocks, branches, and scour holes. People are also not permitted to rock climb within the gorge which can be hazardous in itself when not done correctly or with the proper equipment. I will also add that when in flood, Pewit’s becomes a raging torrent with scary currents that won’t let you go.
Pewit’s Nest is a beautiful spot to explore. In recent years the natural area has become so popular that it’s being “loved to death”. Litter and “cattle trails” run everywhere since there is practically no maintenance, no supervision, and no budget. The state and the DNR* should be ashamed of the lack of care provided to this popular natural area. Until something is done however, people will keep breaking the rules, they will keep jumping off of the cliffs. Baraboo EMS will continue to get practice hauling broken bodies out of the gorge. But again, let me be clear.. this is NOT a safe place to swim. It is not a “secret swimming hole”, it is a “protected” state natural area.
Oh, and on a side note… Last year, the Sauk County Sheriffs Department wrote over 200 parking tickets for people parked illegally there. The property parking lot is very small and parking is not allowed on CTH W. So the local sheriff’s department basically farms visitors for tickets and fines each weekend over the summer.
Be safe out there!
* I should be clear in that when I call out the “DNR” for not caring about this or other state natural areas, I am fully aware that most on-the-ground staff DO care. They are not however provided with the staffing, budget or general support needed to maintain these natural gems.
***Obligatory Disclaimer: This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Which is sometimes too bad if you ask me!).