Pewit’s Nest is NOT a Swimming Hole

Pewit’s Nest is NOT a Swimming Hole

“Wisconsin’s secret swimming hole that’s surrounded by waterfalls”. This headline from a post by 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 may have updated their article.)

UPDATE JUNE 27, 2017A portion of Pewits Nest closed. New Policies Enacted.

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.

Long Way down to a Rocky Bottom

Long Way down to a Rocky Bottom

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.

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!).


  1. Nathan

    “They shouldn’t. It’s dangerous.”

    Of course it’s dangerous! That’s the whole point! Adrenalin doesn’t come from doing things that are 100% safe. It comes from danger.

    1. Kylie

      Yeah adrenaline that could possibly kill you right? That sounds amazing. I understand the “secret swimming hole” is dangerous and shouldn’t be swam in but the little beach should be a different story. Yes there’s branches and rocks but that’s not as dangerous if your just swimming and not jumping off the cliffs.

    2. Joe

      Your telling people that this is a dangerous swimming hole because there have been 13 rescues in 14 years? Less than 1 rescue per year tells me that nearly 100% of the people swimming at Pewits nest have a wonderful and safe experience. How many deaths have there been at Pewits Nest since 2001? How many times have the lifeguards at the Baraboo pool rescued people from drowning since 2001?

      Let not be silly, a little caution can go a long way.

      1. Author

        Joe, The main issue is the destruction of what was once a fairly pristine natural area by large numbers of disrespectful people who have been marketed to that Pewit’s is a swimming hole. It’s not a water park, it’s a designated natural area. You’re argument is erroneous and misplaced. 1. diving off of rock cliffs is dangerous. 2. we shouldn’t be marketing a natural area as a water park. Simple.

        1. Joe

          Derrick, of course it is not a water park, I think everyone would agree on that. It is a deep hole that is great for swimming on a hot summer day. It sounds to me like it is being advertised perfectly. The natural beauty and lack of man made intervention is the appeal for those death defying adrenaline junkies such as the young man in your photo. Obviously jumping into the water has more risk involved than walking on the trail, but that is a decision to be made by each visitor on their own. You telling people that it is dangerous to swim there because less than 1 person per year has been rescued from Pewit’s Nest is misleading and not going to fix anything.

          The fact is that people seek out places like Pewit’s Nest for swimming and cliff jumping to satisfy their need for adventure and desire for natural surroundings. Needs that can no longer be met by places like Devil’s Lake because they are so overcrowded on every summer weekend that you may as well be at a water park. This is simply a problem of overpopulation. Places that use to be pristine and natural are being infiltrated by those looking for some sort of escape from the crowds if even for just an afternoon of swimming. The human population is a growing force that can not be fought, the best you can do is to embrace it and try to accommodate it.

          Your intentions are well placed, however, your method is all wrong.

          1. Madeline

            Charge em twenty bucks a head to get in and swim so you can afford to keep up maintenance and pay more rangers and in turn the fee and more rangers will deter so many people from coming and wrecking the place. It’s not dnr or park service faults it’s trashed it’s ****** like you who think it’s ok to trash **** to have others clean it up after you leave. Take out what you bring in it’s simple.

        2. Jen

          Do you know if it is dog friendly, to responsible dog owners? One site says it is pet friendly another says it is not…
          Just curious … Tyia

        3. Joe S

          So when you see Jet Boat’s and other boats along the Wisconsin River which are creating waves and eroding the sandstone cliffs, why don’t you get after them? They are running off of gas and destroying the shore line? But no you are going to pick on people who are trying to have fun over the summer. If you see someone’s trash instead of whining about who’s it is, pick it up. If you see someone litter, get after them, no exceptions. It’s our job to keep this earth we live on clean. I bet half of the people commenting on this post don’t even believe in climate change and global warming.

        4. stock

          Derrick, I was surprised being an avid Wisconsin hiker since the 70’s— Sad that people would trash things out, I was there last July it didn’t seem too bad at the time.

          And 1 “assist” out per year, that seems like people who are on the public payroll are just doing their jobs, no extra cost. So that justification don’t cut it for me. PS I love jumping off rocks, it’s called cliff jumping. I did not jump there, but it looked awesome.

  2. Connie

    Add in the ‘danger’ of the illegal parking…kids darting out, here and there…added traffic to that area because of the road construction! This past weekend was especially busy there and way too many illegally parked vehicles.

  3. sarah

    Hear hear! I live in Reedsburg which is only a few miles from Pewits and over the last few years I’ve picked up a lot of trash that hadn’t been there the previous years. Which is sad…. cigarette butts, beer cans, plastic bags, a shoe, ripped up unknown polyester fabrics, Styrofoam bits. What on Earth people? How can they go to such a peaceful spot and be inspired to….throw garbage on the ground???? Also it is packed during the summer, I can only hope that this makes it less popular in the future. This is one of the reasons I dislike the internet.

    1. Christy

      I too am a local Sarah and agree with you completely! It angers me to find trash, and vomit, in such a beautiful location. It’s truly one of Wisconsin’s many hidden treasures, it’s too bad more people can’t appreciate that.

  4. Scott K.

    Thank you for providing this helpful information. We plan to visit Pewit’s Nest in the near future -so knowing the do’s and don’ts will certainly prepare us for our visit.
    Note to self… Leave Speedo at home! 🙂

  5. Derek

    Certainly not a “secret swimming hole”…during the summer, cars are lined along the road because people are back there swimming. Is it posted that there is no swimming allowed? If so,why isn’t the DNR enforcing it?

    1. Author

      The DNR (Devil’s Lake State Park in this case) simply doesn’t have enough law enforcement staff to cope at Devil’s Lake let alone outlying areas. Frankly it’s a free-for-all out there and pretty much everywhere else these days due to lack of staffing, etc..

      1. Terry

        I have to wonder why you are putting up a post that will only inevitably draw people’s attention to this beautiful wonderland who would otherwise never have known or thought about it. Seems to me it’s just defeating your purpose. Instead of broadcasting its existence and location on the internet, why don’t you just talk to the people locally who frequent it about jumping off the rocks and litter and garbage? This would — to me — seem like a more logical approach.

        1. Author

          I can sort of grasp your logic, but it oversimplifies reality by leaps and bounds. First, it assumes that the information is not, has not been wildly broadcast for a very long time. To make this assumption, you need to ignore 10 years worth of websites, newspaper articles and of course social media all saying to come and swim or cave dive. – The genie has been out of the lamp for a very long time.

          Next, you have to realize this is NOT really a local issue, but a state issue as state government manages the property. It’s problematic but true, that they often do not act until the problem sees the light of day. Shame is a powerful motivator, especially for government officials. By initiating the conversation publicly, we have encouraged many follow up press reports both TV & Print and increased citizen complaints, phone calls, etc., and are making progress in that the Wisconsin DNR is FINALLY, planning to make changes to mitigate the problems after ignoring the issue for years.

          What’s more, The DNR has neither the staff or will to personally catch each person who walks into the natural area and educate them or explain the rules. Good thought, just not going to happen. They’ve posted signs no one reads and rarely patrol. this has been “best effort” until very recently.

          Suggesting that one website “broadcasting” the problem, IS the problem is well, unrealistic at best.

  6. Michelle

    It is very dangerous!! But it is a beautiful place to explore with rules. I do believe they should control the underaged drinking out there, too many young kids are and then they get brave and jump the cliffs!

    1. Joe S

      I’ve never had a sip of alcohol in my life and I jump off the cliffs here. In fact I’m so used to it I don’t even get an adrenaline rush anymore

      1. maryw

        I hope u have great health care insurance??it cost about 100,000.00 a day in ice in any hospital, plus 30,000 for a helicopter ride ,,,maryw

  7. Mike

    Why don’t the police who are “farming” visitors to give them outrageously priced tickets put a chunk of that cash into preserving and cleaning up this beautiful part of natural history?? And whoever could litter there is so ignorant and disrespectful my brain can’t even process this..

      1. Bill

        A $20 ticket (hardly outrageous) doesn’t begin to cover the cost of a deputy, and their presence there takes them away from other calls, of which there is no end. The Sheriff’s Department doesn’t get the fine money, either.
        People have been laughing off the former $10 tickets as “a cheap parking fee”.
        The towing companies get the majority of the money, but that’s apparently all that motivates people to not park on the county highway on a dangerous curve. I’ve watched it.
        No one wins with the present situation, and the fact remains that Pewits Nest IS a State Natural Area that us locals been visiting since we were kids, and I’ve never seen it as trashed as it is now. It is a small treasure held for ALL of us that is being disrespected on a scale that it can’t begin to handle.
        Why don’t the visitors who can go here for free not destroy the area and simply take out their own trash? Why is it always “someone else’s” job to clean up?

    1. Rick

      The lack of funding that you think exists is simply not true. State Natural Areas are designed to be left as just that. Administrative code doesn’t allow anything to be done to those lands from a management standpoint. If a tornado knocks down all the trees then that is how it stays, as nature intended.

      1. Author

        Rick, thanks for your comment. However you have been mis-informed regarding the maintenance and care of natural areas. There are DNR staff specifically assigned to the care of SNAs. One very obvious example is Parfrey’s Glen here in Baraboo which has been ravaged by floods many times since 1993. (As nature intended…) Each time, the DNR has invested time and money to rebuild bridges, paths and walkways. (I personally recorded video for FEMA after the ’93 flood.) As budgets and staffing has dropped, so has the maintenance and care. That said, there was still a prescribed burn within Parfrey’s Glen this spring and volunteers have been working to control invasive plants as well. It’s also worth noting that Parfrey’s Glen was the first state natural area and was intended to be better protected than it is. Dogs are not allowed, visitors were to stay on designated trails,etc.. due to rare plant and animal species within the area. Again, the lack of staffing and enforcement have allowed for a free-for-all which is causing a lot of damage in there as well.

  8. O J

    No money for anything…seems like there are plenty of employees at Devil’s lake.
    It’ shard to believe they could not send someone out there for an hour a day to
    keep the place up to shape.
    Why can’t the parking space be extended? Wouldn’t take much to make a little more room.
    There is a lot of public interest, I am happy to hear that people still get out and enjoy nature,
    of course there is always someone who has a problem with this.
    We have enough regulations, enough ‘don’ts’
    Jumping form a cliff is probably a stupid idea, the water is mostly too shallow there. But swimming – yes.

    1. Author

      I hear you. I would add though that a state “natural area” is not a park and is never meant for swimming, or other recreational activities. So there’s no “New” regulations or rules. Just enforcement of the old ones. It’s a preserve. Folks should go to the parks to swim and walk lightly in a natural area.

      1. stu-bert

        late to the party! not sure how much has changed here in the last year, but i’m wondering why natural areas are “not for swimming”. Is that a rule or an opinion? I’ve never been to this spot, but i do love a good swimming hole! On the physical level, it is for me, a complete immersion in nature: up to your neck in moving water you are touching, feeling, and interacting with your surroundings. Is this a place where it is impossible to do this responsibly? E.g., no reasonable access sans scrambling down an eroding bank?

        1. Author


          Really it’s not about “swimming” per se as it is cliff diving which is NOT allowed by rule. That’s the issue though, everyone seems to feel the need to cliff dive which is eroding the sandstone, killing the plant life, etc.. and forcing at least one rescue per year and many other minor injuries. The other issue of course is over-use in general, but that’s another problem, not your question.

          You certainly can access to pools from the front or rear of the gorge without crawling around on the cliffs…. I think most people wouldn’t be too offended by swimmers if it weren’t for the other issues.

    2. jess

      many of the workers at devils lake are actually volunteers running the Nature Center , Invasive species removal, Litter pick-up, Mowing, Special events are all ran by volunteers or SAAIP Interns in case you dont know what a SAAIP Interns are minorities, female students, and students with disabilities.

  9. Kenneth

    By definition it is a swiming hole. Before it was preserved as an SNA it was a swimming hole, and regardless of ownership, obstacles, fences, lack of parking, or random patrols if wardens … It will continue to be a swimming hole. Saying that a pool of water, beneath a waterfall, that has been carved out of sandstone, that is deep enough to swim in, has a natural beach, and where young hooligans enjoy summer swims is not a swiming hole is like saying that Mazo beach is not a nude beach. The fact is that people know what they see and flock to what they like. The fact that there are no lifeguards, that it is a naturally occuring good place to swim and that it is a rare novelty of nature makes it appealing. Trying to deny the facts isnt helpful. And i mention Mazo beach to make a point … Youre not supposed to bath naked at that SNA … But what cant be helped is people being people and kids being kids. Now i know that some people would like to regulate every last behavior of everyone else, some people would like to hold every child’s hand until they are 25 and only allow them to swim in chlorinated man made pools. But those are only the loud finger pointers who make it their business to be in everyone elses business. There is a point also in realizing that this “once” secret place is being overun and disrespected. It isnt a waterpark. And it is potentially dangerous for risk takers. On the topic of risk … There are far more injuries and fatlities at DLSP … Is the answer to the annual fatalities at the park to close off all hiking trails in High places? Perhaps a reality check is needed at pewits nest … Realize that its popularity is that of a park, reclassify it as a county park, provide safe and adequate parking, a paved trail to the natural beach for better access by police and EMS, trash cans, and occasional regulatory walk throughs. Open it up, and you will see its appeal diminish and a sense of order take hold.

    1. Danielle Balthazor

      They did just that to a popular quarry my friends and I swam at as a young girl back in the early 70’s…when I visited it some 30 years later it’s all fenced in with a pay booth.

  10. Bill

    You may believe that Pewit’s nest is a swimming hole, but it the facts are that it is owned by DNR and it is a state natural area.
    Comparing it to Mazo beach is about as relevant as comparing it to Cape Canaveral. They are two vastly different places, with much different carrying capacities.
    Your argument that “some people” would like to “regulate every last behavior of everyone else” is equally specious. That has nothing to do with it. There isn’t much regulation at Mazo beach, also owned by DNR. It’s simply that the Nest is way too small and – yes, dangerous, for the kind of traffic and behaviors that have happened recently. Thanks for allowing that it “is being overun and disrespected.” And that it isn’t a water park. I agree.
    Yes, there are much fewer injuries at Pewit’s Nest than Devil’s Lake, but DL has 2 million visitors each year, and rock climbing is allowed. So hardly a valid comparison. There are also permanent staff at Devil’s Lake, and none at Pewit’s Nest, or even close to there.
    It’s a safe guess that the county would have no interest in “managing” (read labor-intensive) Pewit’s Nest. They don’t have the money and wouldn’t want the headaches. If it becomes too much of a headache, DNR may want to get rid of it and sell it off privately. there is a push for that sort of thing now. That would close public access to it off forever.
    Developing it with paved trails and so forth would, in the eyes of many, ruin it.
    It has always been a sleepy, quiet, pretty little wonder, and THAT is what Pewit’s Nest truly is.
    Help us keep it that way!

    1. Kenneth

      After reading subsequent comments about injuries i reget inflamatory language. My point is simple … We agee there is lots of traffic and rightly or wrongly that cliff diving and swiming is happening. It may have been a sleepy quiet SNA but objectively is no longer. Since i am reading about Pewits Nest on USa Today and other national publications i think it is too late to turn back the tide. Rather, i think there are pragmatic ways forward. All of which will likely include very visible modifications. But it is already defacto modified. As a person who loves backwoods hiking, i don’t suggest paved trails without reservation … But i see the rapid erosion as demanding it. Privatization isnt something id oppose, if it allowed the public views .. Such as a restaurant with a public deck overlooking the creek. I know this is blasphemy, but i am ready to admit the sad and true fact that control has been lost – and it won’t on its own return to the wilderness we remember.

      1. Author

        Thanks for coming back to the issue Ken. I’m conceptually on the same page with you, however I’m opposed to privatization. Regardless, it’s mind-boggling that there is not a proper trail now. I feel there is a very clear analog with Copper Falls State Park. They have great trails with wooden railings in place. Yes, someone could just crawl over them, but from what I’ve learned over the years, a simple barrier along with set boundaries, signage & enforcement works most of the time. Again, until the DNR actually takes this seriously we won’t get any answers and we’ll keep seeing these tragic stories. Here in Baraboo we have 2 of the most popular state natural areas (Pewit’s Nest & Parfrey’s Glen), and both are in dire need of attention and respect from the folks in Madison.

  11. James

    As I sit here researching the place my son dove from last Sunday in the next room he is trying to work thru the pain of a broken spine and a busted dislocated ankle. (it’s not pretty) I’m reading the post of the adrenaline junkies with great concern for them and the people who love them. if I could only turn back time. He’s been suffering for a week now with many months and more surgeries ahead. For what?

    1. Juli

      James, my 17 year old niece visited here yesterday.
      Today she lies in University Hospital with a COMPOUND FRACTURE (you know, when the BONE BREAKS THROUGH THE SKIN ) and a knee cap broken in 12 places. She was in surgery for 3 hours last night. Big gash above her eye. I guess we are lucky she is not dead. And that my brother has insurance to help pay the $100,000 plus medical bill.

  12. James

    I have a friend who broke his back jumping into the water here. If the break had been 1/2 inch closer and he would have been either dead or paralyzed.

  13. Brett

    Saw a picture of Pewits on a calendar, searched it, and found my way here.
    I see the last 3 comments are from people that have gotten hurt, and they have my sincere sympathy. However, these people all made a decision and one cannot place the blame for that decision on anybody else.
    I haven’t seen even one mention of swimming and/or diving being ILLEGAL at Pewits. One would think if it were illegal than this would be a pretty cut and dry case. When I hear “state natural area” I think “unmaintained”. The unmaintained part is what attracts people. Sadly places like Devil’s Lake and Starved Rock(in IL) have been “yuppified”. Asphalt paths and wood planked trails with handrails(where there is no safety need for either) have made these places meccas for the urban crowd. It has taken away from the beauty of these natural places and certain individuals seek out places that haven’t been ruined yet. Sometimes the best thing to do isn’t modify nature to allow everybody in but to leave nature alone and regulate the number allowed in. Or leave the state natural areas alone and quit complaining because more people know about the “secret spots”.

  14. z O

    these comments are funny. Here in lies the problem that Wisconsin needs MORE natural areas to visit Over population = lack of supply so start making more land public!!!!! go park and rec.

    1. mary

      Hey do u know what it means to RESPECT OUR NATURAL RESOURCES FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS???? instead of destroying them w/trash,and immoral abuse,,ie,,over populating a site??walking all over endanger plants, vegetation,scareing all the wildlife away from all the yelling and screaming the kids do,,not to mention all the trash u kids leave soo wildlife can be injured or killed by plastic six pack holders,,,,,,u kids want to cool off,,go PAY at devils lake,,,,maybe charging 50.00 per kid to enter pewitss nest will get thee disrespectful children out of there,,maryw

  15. Porno

    It still gives me chills to see people jump 50 ft off the cliff into the gorge yet I watched in amused to see such adrenaline. Even my PR 10ft gave me chills hahaha.

  16. mary

    We went over to Pewits nest on a Monday,just for a walk,,,what a pig stye,,these kids are pigs ,,,it was once beautiful,,truly,,but because of all these kids using it as a swimming hole,,they leave their trash everywhere,,,its sickening,,,,,and sad,,,,,maryw

  17. Bill

    As it sits now, I’d be in favor of closing it.

    The foot traffic and trash is just too much for a natural area to bear.


  18. Roger

    I visited Pewits with a friend for the first time today. (We tried to go yesterday but the parking lot was full.) It’s a very beautiful area but I was saddened by the amount of trash (clothing, beer cans, diapers, bottles, etc). We went back and carried out three bags of garbage. It’s a shame that people can’t take care to pick up after themselves.

  19. M

    Someone got seriously hurt again yesterday. Med-flight came in and took them away. Not sure what happened.
    Pewits Nest is being destroyed due to the massive amount of people. It is a small area and cannot handle this many visitors. Some visitors treat the property well but so many are disrespectful. So much trash and destruction of the natural area. Just the other day I noticed some genius picked up all of the rocks from the creek bed below the last waterfall and stacked them into some sort of pile. This is clearly harming the natural area. Pulling all the rocks from the creek bed will cause the underlying area to erode changing the natural flow of the creek. This is just one example.
    Something needs to be done.
    The parking situation has become very dangerous on the roads.
    People are getting seriously injured.
    Trash all over.
    Total lack of respect and the massive amounts of people are destroying the natural area. A State Natural Area is meant to set aside land to protect the natural landscape and unique geological features. This area is being wrecked and the only true solution that I see is unfortunately to close it.

  20. Bill

    Baraboo News Republic Aug 25, 2016:
    “Park officials are looking at ways to prevent injuries at a state natural area near Baraboo after a fall there Thursday marked the third injury in a week.”
    “Reed said the woman appeared to have injured her right ankle and left knee after what he said looked like a 30-foot fall.”

    After a tour of Pewit’s Nest on YouTube, I am much disturbed by what I saw.
    She was lucky to have “gotten off” with ankle and knee injuries. While they will plague you forever, it’s still nothing like a paralyzing spine injury. That’s crippled for life.
    Jump off a diving board instead.

    1. mary

      If dnr can waste the tax payers money on murdering with an entire swat team a baby fawn named ,Giggles,” which was at a rehabbers on her way to a sanctuary,,and allowing our natural resource of water to be destroyed for the monies from permits for farmer field wells,and allowing our bees to become extinct,,they can certainly post a dnr agent At Pewits nest for the summer time only,,,Tell the kids to pay the money and go swim at Devils Lake,,,,jmo,,mary

  21. Jessica

    I see many comments about the dangers and injuries resulting from jumping off the cliffs, but is hiking just to observe the place safe?

  22. Joe

    Just remember, this is not an official source, this is an opinion. Ive been to Pewits Nest a few times this year and I didn’t notice any fire pits. Most people spend 2-3 hours here. (Or at least our group did). I can’t really see someone spend enough time here to stop and make a fire.

    1. Author

      Certainly not “official”.. Which is why we can have this discussion. That said, I’ve got photo evidence of firepits, garbage and the rest.. so the fact that you’ve been there “a few” times simply means you’ve missed it and doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Also how long an individual or group stays is up for debate. What’s more, everyone involved from DNR to Local Law Enforcement agree that Pewit’s Nest has become a problem for the issues mentioned. So there is no disagreement.. the issue isn’t that it’s happening, it’s how to manage it. There are people with influence who simply want to close it to the public. I advocate for public access to public lands. This means we need better management and infrastructure. Closing it seems just lazy to me.

  23. James

    I have been taking my kids there for years as a quiet get away. We don’t jump off the cliffs, but we do walk down the river and explore some of the pools of water. There are more and more people who treat it like a party spot and abuse the land. EVERY time I go there I pick up trash and I usually fill two large garbage bags. It is mostly beer cans/bottles and plastic water bottles. It is there to enjoy, but try and be respectful PLEASE!!

  24. HikingMike

    That sounds like an amazing place that is unfortunately getting trashed lately. Hopefully the idiots get the idea and the attention blows over in time. Some kind of trail may be needed I guess, with railings or whatever. I don’t know how you fix the littering. I’m glad you’re writing about this.

  25. maryw

    In this day and age,,,why can’t dnr simple put a wi-fi camera in there,,and anytime someone shows up too use it other than hiking,,,ticket em,,,,or show up over there??maryw

    1. Author

      Totally agree. The DNR could manage it if they wished. It’s simply not important to them. At this point I’d bet they will close it before they will manage it. It’s the easy way out.

  26. The truth

    I miss the days when no one knew about this place. But then the DNR started advertising this place, putting it in their guidebooks. Are they taking responsibly for telling people about it, or just blaming others who later advertised it further? Who is really to blame??

    1. Author

      I hear you. Thing is.. in our modern world, if you can’t put at $$ value on something you lose it. So in Pewit’s case, getting visitors proves value, step 2 then is providing regulation and infrastructure.. This is the part where the state drops the ball and yes, that puts a level of responsibility on the state… That said, people also need to be respectful. You can’t just let people off the hook for being dumb or disrespectful either.

  27. Paul Z

    ” can be hazardous in itself when not done correctly or with the proper equipment.” like driving a car, riding a bicycle, operating a hand saw, running, frying a turkey, working with electricity, climbing a ladder, chopping wood, cleaning your gutter, having a fire, camping, hiking, etc… etc… yet i can do all of that CORRECTLY AND SAFELY WITH THE PROPER EQUIPMENT!!! I did not ask wisconsin DNR to protect me, im am not an infant, I am an adult and take full responsibilty for ALL of my actions. I hate the excuse “we dont allow XYZ because its dangerous and we dont want to have to come save you when you get hurt.” So don’t, i never asked you, in fact i would prefer if you leave me completely alone, and don’t bother me. If i never saw you there once, that is a great day. I’ll climb safely with proper equipment, and will plan on you not helping me out if i get hurt. No body has the right to tell me as a living creature that i can’t be on the land and do as i will when im not harming anybody else and not harming the enviroment. The DNR is such a rediculous entity. They try to snag a dollar from you any way they can, every little thing is regulated and has rules and most certaintly payments. I spend one night at devils lake and im out 40 bucks. Yet ive stealthed camped in my kayak over 60 nights last year and paid $0.00. And the best part about it? Everything was fine!!! the world did not end, the forest did not burn down (and yes i had a responsible fire everynight) and i did not leave any trace that i was there. Call it civil disobedience but i completely disregard most DNR regulations. Forest Preserve closes at night? no thanks. The Earth doesn’t close, ever. i need a permit to backpack in the wild? no thanks. I just saw a group of deer running through the forest and im pretty sure they didn’t pay $10 daily use fee. Self governance is the only way to be. Take responsibilty for yourself and expect whatever happens to be completely your burden. The consent of the governed…. i dont consent to being the only living species of over 8.7 milliion on this planet denied free access to the land. I am free, and i will cause you no harm. P.S. I will go to pewits nest this summer and climb and swim, and i will harm nobody and respect the land, and be safe with my proper equipment and knowledge. And everything will be absouletly fine. Whenever you have these huge oversight departments like this they have no context to anything. Just a playbook with yes you did this or no you did that. No context. And that breeds human autotrons that no longer have any use for their brain because it has been completely removed from the equation. Its making people idiots. Im sure most DNR employees are good people, and i have no problem with them. But if they are going to stand behind and defend a department that thinks it will deny me the basic freedom of doing as i will without causing harm to others or the enviroment, then i shall have to respectively disregard them. My name is Paul Z and i fully stand behind my views and my freedoms.

    1. Author

      Telling us how magnificent you are is not a valid point against regulation. You are simply one apparently amazing person in a world of normal people. The problem is that many people do harm others and harm public property. They will not respect society on their own accord and must be deterred with rules and consequences for the greater good. I could show you many examples of public lands that have been damaged beyond hope by people who do not respect the land.

      So, if you are the greatest, most awesome, free thinking person in the world who would never need rules to do the right thing, I’m glad to hear it! It just isn’t a good argument against regulation simply because not everyone is as great as you.

      Personally, I think the most basic freedom would be the right walk out the door in a straight line.. but private property takes away that freedom.. The world is a complicated place.

    2. HikingMike

      As someone who has enjoyed the outdoors quite a bit, I would have thought you would see the wisdom in managing our natural areas when they start to become abused.

      Land managers sometimes have trail quotas in heavily used areas. That’s a good thing. Most of the time it doesn’t come into play, but I’m glad they are there for some areas so that people that can spend time in them can actually enjoy a nice natural area, and so the areas aren’t spoiled for everyone.

      There are also good reasons for wilderness permits. If people will be searching for a hiker or whoever, it would help everyone if there was a better idea of where that person might be. I guess they should have a box to check if you don’t want SAR to be sent if you’re running a few days late, LOL.

      “Yet ive stealthed camped in my kayak over 60 nights last year and paid $0.00… and i did not leave any trace that i was there”

      That sounds fantastic, and I’m glad you leave no trace since otherwise you would be using our natural areas without regard for the rest of us. On public lands, it’s your land and my land. You can imagine maybe not everyone leaves no trace so that is important. Imagine if 100 people did the same you thing you did at the same place and the same day (but with less regard for the land). What would you do? Try to find another place?

      “I just saw a group of deer running through the forest and im pretty sure they didn’t pay $10 daily use fee.”

      I also bet those deer don’t litter, don’t cause wildfires, don’t over-gather wood, don’t poach, don’t spray paint graffiti, and don’t cause a place to seem less natural if they congregate in large numbers. Anyway, what do you think that daily use fee would be if it were private land? You’d probably be trespassing if you were there. (You have a mixture of very individualistic and then very liberal statements so I can’t tell if you would rather all land be public land or what.)

      “Self governance is the only way to be. Take responsibilty for yourself and expect whatever happens to be completely your burden.”

      I would be with you if I was sure that our natural areas wouldn’t go to shit. But that’s not the case. You only have to look at the genesis of the National Park Service for reasons why, but there are countless examples all through today. I’m glad our public lands are managed to some degree so that I can enjoy them in their mostly natural condition.

      “P.S. I will go to pewits nest this summer and climb and swim, and i will harm nobody and respect the land, and be safe with my proper equipment and knowledge.”

      Ok, so you are amazing, but not everyone is like you. You should have a desire to keep our natural areas nice since you enjoy them. And that means not sticking your head in the sand to the fact that other people are using those natural areas as well.

  28. Gloria Gypsy

    We need to give land and nature legal rights as some other countries have started doing. Only way to save it from humans. People do not realize the importance of preserving nature… our entire planet. They are, in general, too far removed from it in modern times. Years ago my sister took me here for a hike. It was beautiful. I have not been back yet, after relocating to this area. Thank you Derrick for being someone who gives a shit about this place.

  29. Brittany Chase

    Someone should start a group! We could work on volunteer projects and try to get more and more people involved so we could split into groups! Not only clean up but trying to enforce a little more rule back into the area.. if people saw it as a positive movement they’d be less likely to trash the place, right?

  30. Joan

    So sorry to read these comments about such a beautiful place. I was raised in West Baraboo & we kids often would bike out there. It was pristine & serene. Very seldom ever saw other people there. My girlscout troop used to also take trips out there to explore. Do not ever remember seeing anyone swimming there. Definitely was not trashed. What has our society come to when one cannot appreciate the beauty & feel the need to destroy? As far as people risking life & limb, that will always be the case it seems. Have seen people taking risks at even the Grand Canyon & don’t understand the mindset, but to each his own.I now need a cane to get about so do not think I could negotiate the trek back in from the road even. Used to have to climb over a turnstile & could not even do that any more. I will be back “home” this summer & would dearly love to be able to revisit childhood haunts, but if it looks the way the comments read, I think I will just remain thankful to have seen it as it once was. God gives us brains, but it is up to us to use them.

  31. Sherman

    Before this property was given to the state my father-in-law rented the land and pastured the his young dairy cattle in this area. it was out own little private swimming are. Interesting to the area is that fact that a grain mill had been built and run at the lowest falls in the late 1800’s. if you look from above you can see the grooves in the rock walls on both sides that the dam was lodged into. The flood of 1993 brought out some very large beams that had been part of the dam and mill. After the 1993 flood my friend and I carried out SCUBA gear up into the pool and dove them. We found 1 shaft that went down about 30 feet. It was about 6 foot in circumference i would guess about in the location the water coming over the dam was hitting in the bottom pool. Also the bottom pool undercut the bank to the north and was 17 feet deep. The middle hole that most of the jumping happens in was 15 foot deep. This hole is formed like a funnel and cut to the south. It has been around 3 decades since the cattle kept it eaten down. As a full time paramedic for Baraboo District Ambulance Service I have responded to some of the calls for injured people at Pewits. I have a different view and perspective of this area. It is frustrating to see the abuse of the area with the added litter. The trails and trampling is nothing new to me it was just from cattle in the past. Be safe and enjoy the beauty of it.


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