Cliff diving concerns surround surge of Pewits Nest visitors

Cliff diving concerns surround surge of Pewits Nest visitors

The  influx of visitors to Pewits Nest, which some consider a ‘secret’ Sauk Co. swimming hole, has created cliff diving concerns for the small gorge with 30 to 40 foot deep waters.

“It was never meant to have people climbing on the cliffs or jumping in the water,” said Erin Crain-Sullivan of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  “We try to make people understand that’s not a safe activity. And that’s posted.”

Many visitors said they did not notice the sign posted downhill from the water.  One fear is if someone is hurt jumping, Pewits Nest terrain would make it difficult for first responders to help.

Until about a month ago, safety concerns were also compounded by the area’s small parking lot overflowing onto county Highway W.  

“People have parked along the 90 degree corner, which has caused a lot of traffic problems,” Sauk Co. Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeffrey Spencer said.

However, on July 25 the county’s parking ordinance was changed.  Instead of only being able to issue a $10 ticket, now violators can face a $100 towing bill in addition to a $20 ticket.  If the ticket is not paid after 10 days, the fine doubles.

Before the ordinance change, the sheriff’s office had issued 492 parking citations.  Since the new law went into effect, Spencer said the number has dropped to 66.

“So, it has improved,” Spencer said. “Word has spread. I think people have been pretty responsive.”

Beyond cliff climbing and diving, Crain-Sullivan said DNR landscape architects are currently studying what to do about visitors violating prohibited practices like camping, lighting fires and leaving trash in the natural area.

“Part of the purpose of a state natural area is so that people understand the natural history of the state. So we don’t want to keep people out of them,” Crain-Sullivan said.  “It’s a small property. And I can understand why people enjoy it. Because it’s a little secluded.  But it was never meant to be a Devil’s Lake. There are no restrooms. Showers. Cafeterias.”