The Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area features the largest concentration of remaining prairies and savannas in the state. At the time of European settlement Wisconsin had over 7.7 million acres of native prairie but today only about 8,000 acres remain. This extensive project contains over 2,000 acres of prairie, which equals 25% of all known remaining prairie in the entire state. Lying along and interspersed within the river channels are islands of floodplain savanna and forest while the surrounding hillsides contain prairie and savanna. The largest contiguous floodplain forest in the Midwest is located just south of Durand within this natural area. A large diversity of bird species thrive in these extensive forests including six state-threatened species - red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), Acadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens), cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulea), hooded warbler (Wilsonia citrina), Kentucky warbler (Oporornis formosus), and yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea). Additionally, seventy percent of all the fish species in the state find suitable habitat in the Chippewa and Red Cedar Rivers including the rare paddlefish, blue sucker, crystal darter, and goldeye. The Chippewa River is one of three places in the world home to the endangered Pecatonica River mayfly (Acanthametropus pecatonica). Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2002.