state natural area poems #55: nichols creek cedars and springs

nichols creek cedars and springs lies on a morainal slope and the adjacent lowlands. the north-facing slope has springs and seepages that feed nichols creek and many white cedars. such a distinctive wood for this part of wisconsin. we walked thru much of the adjacent/surrounding nichols creek wildlife area.


the smell of carrion in the air

as the temperature plummets down

the owl’s call on deep sustain


the cedars

so still

on the seeps

state natural area poems #54: kamrath creek forest and fen

kamrath creek forest and fen is a tremendously kinetic set of natural communities to visit in the winter. while most areas now are quiet and still, here water seeps from springs and down spring runs into kamrath creek from forested slope and thru sloped fen, sometimes meandering from several seepages at once and with arms of the creek creating near-islands as the water rushes to get down the incline. can’t wait to get back in the spring. oh—and the yellow birches, my goodness!

thanks to the wisconsin dnr for tending this patch of earth.


ice globules adorn the seeps

along a well-worn trail, as water

bursts forth in winter’s deep


upstream to headwaters,

the beeches begin

hello to old friends


this is the place where waters flow

and reveal northern stone to the eye

where green endures thru the year


a spray of beech leaves

above the snow:

freedom for the mind

state natural area poems #53: kettle moraine red oaks

kettle moraine red oaks is a 2nd-growth southern dry mesic forest that got its second life back in the 1880s. the oak-maple-hickory forest is situated on high interlobate moraine with lots of deep, dry kettles. dramatic topography.

thanks to the wisconsin dnr for tending this land!


cottontail roads beneath the ash

cacao lingers on the tongue

our shadows blossom on snow


glacial hands

worked this land—

our turn to tend

state natural area poems #52: lodi marsh

a happy new year to all!

lodi marsh lies in a valley of glacial till, fed by springs and seepages. the hills to the west of the site frame the open marsh and sky dramatically. forest and prairie cover the southern knoll. the countryside around lodi is a wonder.


clearing a path

in the valley till—

hawk shriek westward


the cattail forest covers

untold sleepers just waiting

to rouse and rise from the muck


dust-yellow constellations

on pillars of seep and slough

pale sky a mirror of pale ground

announcing the snowstorm’s approach

state natural area poems #51: clover valley fen

clover valley fen contains a series of 8-10 ft high peat mounds that began building around a set of springs 11,500 years ago(!). sedge meadow and woods surround the fen mounds, and whitewater creek runs thru it all. the iced-over wetland was a maze of frozen tussocks, some a foot over the ice. the fen mounds were spectacular, with spring water still visibly running off below the ice.


i stand on 11,000-

year-old peat, massive—

morning sun casts long shadow


bryophytes make a frozen home

on patchwork of tawny fen

the springs give them life


stilting our way

over calcium-rich waters

deer have set blazes

state natural areas #50: bluff creek

bluff creek is fed by hardwater springs and seepages from a morainal ridge. the surroundings contain mound fens, dry-mesic woods, wet-mesic prairie, and sedge meadow. it’s a watery and grassy melange! one of the season’s first sticking snowfalls decorated the terrain for the morning’s hike.


wild thrushes over the spring run

and snow-capped goldenrod bowing

the fen-world opens its cold, wet arms


waxwings in the birch grove, a crest

flexes and relaxes—to the branch,

buckthorn berry in beak

thanks to wisconsin’s dnr for tending this land and its many water features.

state natural area poems #49: carver-roehl woods

carver-roehl woods is a dry mesic wood with limestone cliffs cut by spring brook creek. (this spring brook feeds into turtle creek and is not to be confused with the spring brook that feeds into the rock river directly in janesville.) the cliffs support less common plant communities, while the woods have mature oaks, hop hornbeam, ash, and ironwood, with red and white pine on the high ridge above the eastern bank’s cliffs. the site lies on ground moraine from a glaciation before the last. gorgeous.


limestone cliffs before sunrise

on spring brook not of my youth

skirting along the ridge


a log bridge to this rock seat:

red cedar, white oak,

the creek playing mason

state natural area poems #48: newark road prairie

newark road prairie is a wet-mesic prairie remnant of the old pre-settlement rock prairie on the southern edge of rock county. over a hundred prairie species have been id’d here, with different habitat zones surrounding a sedge meadow. a winter walk in a wet prairie at sunset is something else.


geese cut the purpling sky

the flowers pulpy stems

below a waxing gibbous moon


bipeds on the ice

amid cattails—

not human habitat

and here’s a picture of the author/photographer doing his thing—why not?

state natural area poems #47: avon bottoms

avon bottoms is a flat floodplain of the sugar river with a maple-oak forest. many southern-ranging species of plants find the northern edge of their range in the woods. swenson wet prairie s.n.a. is now part of avon bottoms as well.


the floodplain is laced

with marbled ice

beneath an early moon


golden hue of big stem

below the swooping ash—

families play in the bottom


the sugar river ambles on

past fragrant bottomland

extremities grow cold


the dead-grass tapestry

of winter wetlands

is widely undervalued

state natural area poems #46: swenson wet prairie

swenson wet prairie is now a part of the avon bottoms s.n.a. but it was established as its own site, so i’m counting it. it’s a wet prairie in the floodplain of the sugar river near where the river meets taylor creek. there’s also a sedge meadow and river bottom savanna(!), and a number of oxbows. its frozen state this december is gorgeous.


open water

below swamp oaks

is sheer grace


a blue bird sits

over frozen duckweed—

graceful arcs