Devil’s Punchbowl: Landmark Gem is getting an update

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DEVIL OF A TIME. During the winter, ice formations turn Devil’s Punchbowl into a winter wonderland. (Photo by Tom Giffey)

The Devil’s Punchbowl, officially established as a landmark over 50 years ago in 1961, is a remote and unequaled geological gem in the Menomonie region. Carved by water over thousands of years, the monument’s name is apt and allows for the cascading water that falls into its sandstone hollow.

However, you’ll have to wait a few weeks to get to the iconic gem – voted the area’s best-kept secret in Volume 1’s annual Best of the Chippewa Valley poll, as it’s currently closed for construction.

In early 2021, the Landmark Conservancy – the non-profit entity that owns the Punchbowl – launched a fundraising campaign to replace the staircase leading to the beautiful and rare Menomonie monument.

Last renovated in 2015 with the addition of the upper stairway, the wooden stairs were originally built in 2000. By the time fundraising began in late April, the steps were more ready for renovation, said the Landmark Conservancy. Community Outreach Coordinator Sara Norman.

STEP BY STEP.  Construction began this spring on Devil's Punchbowl Staircase, which was originally placed in 2000.

STEP BY STEP. Construction began this spring on the Devil’s Punchbowl staircase, which was originally built in 2000. (Contributing photo)

“This reserve gets a lot of visitors, like a lotand the old staircase was worn down by visitors descending into the bowl to experience the unique natural rock amphitheater,” Norman explained.

The steps provide a much safer and more direct path into the bowl, although the Punchbowl also has two short paths. The upper trail winds near the top of Punchbowl and crosses a small patch of woods that overlooks the bowl. The second trail exits directly from the parking lot and takes visitors up a long stairway to the waterfall and exposed rock of the bowl. This trail was specifically rated as a challenge and is recommended for people who are familiar with this type of trail and wearing proper footwear.

While the fundraising goal of $75,000 was met at the end of May 2021, it wasn’t until last April that the Landmark Conservancy was able to secure Market & Johnson to build the new staircase. With a beautiful plan proposed for the steps and railings moving all the way along each flight, the new stairs will wind even higher than before.

“The staircase is constructed of treated wood. A big improvement is that there are now cement footings and the stair tread will be higher above the ground,” said Norman.

While the Punchbowl is beautiful to look at, it’s also home to a unique array of plants, so much so that UW-Stout biology professor Amanda Little and environmental science student Britney Serafina conducted a study here on the rare plants. Funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund, as of July 14, the duo had identified 125 species — and more are expected.

I ASK FOR YOUR GARDEN?  !  UW-Stout biology professor Amanda Little (right) and environmental science student Britney Serafina (left) conduct a study of rare plants in the Punchbowl.

I ASK FOR YOUR GARDEN? ! UW-Stout biology professor Amanda Little (right) and environmental science student Britney Serafina conduct a study of rare plants in the Punchbowl. (photo added)

“I think what’s so interesting is that it’s a very, very small area with such a high diversity of species that have a huge range of habitat requirements: dry meadows to wet cliffs and northern forest,” Little said.

Such a diverse and unique concentration of habitats and plant life only reinforces the importance for visitors to Punchbowl to respect the land, Norman said.

Although the construction of the staircase depends on weather conditions, it should be finished by the end of the summer.


The Devil’s Punchbowl is on 410th about three miles from the town of Menomonie. Check for frequent Devil’s Punchbowl updates on the Landmark Conservancy Facebook page and website.

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