Location and Parking

The Merrimac Preserve is located in Sauk County, WI between Devil’s Lake State Park and the town of Merrimac.  There are three parking lots at the preserve. No permits are required to use the parking lots.

  1. The main parking lot is located on the east side of Hwy 113 and provides access to four of the preserve trails.  The address for this parking lot is:  S6888 Hwy 113, Merrimac, WI.
  2. A second parking lot is located on the west side of Hwy 113 and provides access to the Observation Deck Trail (S7153 Hwy 113, Merrimac WI).
  3. The third parking lot is located on the east side of Marsh Rd. and provides access to the Ice Age Trail (S7162 Marsh Rd, Merrimac, WI).

Hiking Trails

You can hike over 9.5 miles of maintained trails at the Merrimac Preserve. Choose from one of 5 designated loop trails, a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, or your own combination. The trails are marked occasionally on the ground with small colored arrows according to the trail that you are following. Note that you may encounter additional mowed paths that are not part of the trail system. For example, firebreaks or maintenance access routes.

  1. Carbon Cycle & Habitat Diversity Trail: 1.8-mile self-guided interpretive trail with great views of the terminal moraine.
  2. Eagle Scout Nature Trail: 0.7-mile trail with interpretive signage designed and installed by a local Eagle Scout.
  3. Lookout Trail: 0.9-mile loop on the west wide of Hwy 113 featuring a wooden lookout tower.
  4. Oak Savanna Trail: 3-mile loop that crosses 3 separate boardwalks.
  5. Prairie View Trail: 3.3-mile loop that will lead you out and back across a half-mile boardwalk.
  6. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail: 3.7-mile thru-hike that continues through Devil’s Lake State Park to the northwest and the town of Merrimac to the southeast.


The Merrimac Preserve is open to the public during daylight hours for low-impact recreational activities.  Parts or all of the preserve may be closed occasionally.  Obey all signs.  There are no restroom facilities or trash cans at the Merrimac Preserve.  Help us take care of this special place.  Please pick up after yourself and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

Allowed Activities

  • Hiking

  • Birding and wildlife viewing

  • Fishing

  • Dogs on a leash.  See FAQ.

  • Cross-country skiing

  • Snowshoeing

  • Scientific research (permit required)

Restricted Activities

  • NO motorized vehicles, including ATV’s and snowmobiles

  • NO bicycles

  • NO horseback riding

  • NO camping or campfires

  • NO littering, including pet waste

  • NO removal or damage to any vegetation or natural features

  • NO feeding or baiting wildlife


For more information about visiting the Merrimac Preserve, please see our list of frequently asked questions.  If you have other questions or would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Merrimac Preserve is open to the public during daylight hours throughout the year.

There are occasions when the preserve, or parts of the preserve, will be closed to visitors for management activities or special events.  Whenever possible, we will post these closings to our event calendar.  However, activities like prescribed burning and other restoration activities may occur without advanced notice.  Signs will be placed at trailheads to inform visitors when trails are closed.  We ask that you obey all signs.

Please note that while the preserve remains open during deer hunting season, we advise that all visitors wear blaze orange.

Our preserve is managed primarily for the benefit of native plants and wildlife.  We do not encourage bringing pets, but we do allow well behaved dogs on a leash.  If you decide to bring your dog, do not allow them to roam free, damage vegetation, or harass wildlife.  Always pick up and remove pet waste.  Respect our preserve, our staff, and other visitors.  Not only is dog poo unpleasant to step in, it contains hazardous bacteria and pathogens that can contaminate water bodies, transmit disease to wildlife and other pets, and even kill plants.

There are no fees for visiting the Merrimac Preserve.  We feel that it is important for everyone to have access to natural areas regardless of their ability or willingness to pay a fee.  However, Riverland Conservancy is a non-profit organization and trail maintenance is a significant expense.  For that reason, we encourage users to consider supporting our work through a donation or volunteering.

Volunteer:  We can always use help with our restoration efforts, and whether you love prairie, oak savanna, forests, or wetlands best, there are plenty of projects for you to work on! Typical volunteer activities include trail maintenance, brush clearing, seed collection, trash removal, invasive species control, as well as building and equipment maintenance.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us.

Donate:  We welcome donations of any amount to help support our work.  If there is a specific project you would like your donation to fund, from trail maintenance, to restoration, to environmental education we would be happy to honor that request.

Yes, hunting is allowed at the Merrimac Preserve with the following restrictions:

The majority of the Merrimac Preserve is open to deer hunting through a special permit system. A limited number of deer hunters are given a permit each year. In exchange for deer hunting privileges, hunters agree to commit to 16 hours of work on the property annually. There is currently a waiting list for new hunters. If you are interested in being added to the waiting list, please contact us. Note that while we hope to provide an enjoyable and successful hunting experience, Riverland Conservancy’s objective is to control the whitetail deer population for the ecological health of the preserve as a whole.

There is also a 200-acre area of the Merrimac Preserve that is open to public hunting.  This land was recently purchased with financial support from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.  The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program was created by the Wisconsin legislature in 1989 to preserve valuable natural areas and provide additional opportunities for public recreation.  A map showing this open hunting area can be found here.

Riverland Conservancy hosts an annual Learn to Pheasant Hunt event at the Merrimac Preserve in partnership with Pheasants Forever as well as a mentored youth turkey hunt in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Riverland Conservancy hosts events, field trips, and other activities at the Merrimac Preserve, especially for partner organizations with similar environmental missions.  If you think the Merrimac Preserve would be an ideal location for your event, please contact us, and we would be happy to consider your request.

Part of Riverland Conservancy’s mission is to foster environmental learning.  For this reason, we do allow large groups at the Merrimac Preserve.  If you would like to bring a large group to the Merrimac Preserve, we ask that you contact us so that we can facilitate a visit that will be conducive to your needs while limiting any negative impacts to the land.

Riverland Conservancy has participated in many ecological research projects over the years, and we value the continued advancement of scientific knowledge.  We are happy to consider requests from citizen scientists, university researchers, and government agencies.  If you are interested in obtaining a permit to conduct research at the Merrimac Preserve, please contact us.