kratzsch preserve is a 72-acre wood and wetland lot of former farmland rehabilitated by the ozaukee and washington county land trust. they’re doing good work here people. prairie, marsh, hardwood forest, frontage on the milwaukee river, glacial topography; little bit of everything.
this was a great hike, up and down, good steady wind on the prairie but some shelter in the woods and down by the river. snow drifts gave us a workout. sat with the robins and redwing blackbirds by the river for a spell. four lunes and views for you.
ltc old growth forest is a northern mesic old growth remnant on ltc’s campus (how’s that for a tautology?). the northern approach has become overgrown, but we went in from the middle-range parking lot and had a very satisfying walk. sarsparilla was abundant in the looming maple/beech wood with some impressive red oaks along the way. mushrooms were growing, centerville creek was flowing lazily below the ridge trail.
highlight was seeing an owl flap proudly out of a tree up ahead and out across the clearing above the creek to an oak on the far side. didn’t get a good enough view to id her, but it was a bigger owl for sure.
woodland dunes is a wooded swale and ridge topography near lake michigan in manitowoc cty. the ridges and swales are from the receding of lake michigan’s shoreline in stages over millennia. the swales are wet year round here, while the ridges are often very sandy and more open.
we found some fantastic old trees and some delightful fungi—one highlight of the trip was a small stand of amanita muscaria var. guessowii (i think the var. is right there…). i hadn’t seen fly agaric in the wild since i was about twenty.
we also visited the nearby river marsh at the woodland dunes nature center to the northeast, where we found a spectacular boardwalk that gets you way into the marsh. at the end of the line where more open water occurs, we were greeted by a small family of otters! one of the great moments of this whole pandemic project of almost 200 site visits to see otters swimming freely in a marsh, and have them see us—they were inquisitive but clearly surprised!
first id’s of river otters, arrowhead, swamp sparrow, spotted beebalm, chanterelle waxy caps, and marsh skullcap.
waupun park maple forest is a remnant old growth southern mesic forest. set in a county park, the wood is dominated by sugar maples, with a mix of oaks and linden, walnut and ash. a lack of shrub growth and abundance of spring ephemerals suggests the continued health of this forest.
this was at the end of our day, so it was a shorter exploration than it might have been. but beautiful trees and so much fungi—late summer mycelial riches.
milwaukee river and swamp sna is a mixed site with lowland forest, conifer swamp, and shrub zones. the east branch of the milwaukee river flows thru the site, and it hugs mauthe lake. the lake, river, and wetlands make the site a popular home and migration corridor for birds. we saw a song sparrow, common mergansers, buffle heads, a bald eagle, and downy woodpeckers, along with several more common species. my wife spotted the eagle standing on the lake ice a few hundred yards off and then it took off and flew right over us, as cranes called from further afield.
the walk thru the lowland hardwood forest was full of life, even at this early part of the year. so much to hear and smell and see and touch. we didn’t make it far enough to get to the swamp, but there’s always next time.
shannon preserve is 34 acres down the road from the cedarburg bog sna on hwy 33 in ozaukee cty. marsh, shrub carr, lowland hardwood forest, wet and upland meadows. no trails to speak of, which was nice. an unnamed stream meanders thru the site on its way to one of the lakes in cedarburg bog. its ice shelf was precarious and fun to admire.
we hung out with a white breasted nuthatch, and came out of the woods to meet two sandhill cranes flying across the meadow singing away—our first sandhill sighting of the year. it was our first hike outside the city in weeks, the first with warm sun in months. it was a good day.
it’s strange to me that i haven’t yet visited this site for the series. atlas pit (it was re-named ‘kiwanis pond’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that from long and early association) is a former gravel quarry a couple blocks from where i grew up in janesville, wi (rock county).
the old story goes that atlas sand & gravel dug until they hit a spring and then it filled in. i haven’t been able to fact-check that to my satisfaction, but the pieces of confirmation i’ve found have lined up with the general story. sounds like it filled up in the ’50s.
my childhood neighborhood was at the top of the quarry, and the pit was down the hill in a green corridor near a large wooded park, another pond, and a golf course. i learned in my research on wisconsin natural history during the pandemic that my hometown sits atop one of the outwash fans of the last glaciation, and my neighborhood above the rock river is at the edge of the fan. so it actually makes very good sense that there’d be a gravel quarry here, and there are other quarries in the area.
we used to come down here to play frequently, and back then it felt like a forest, a real wild place. it’s not quite so expansive now as an adult, but there are still pockets that feel more remote than it really is. when i visited the wind was blowing on a cloudy morning, and it smelled of childhood and good life.
abraham’s woods is a remnant old growth southern mesic forest dominated by maple, linden, and red oak. the understory is fairly sparse due to the peak canopy, which allows for some spectacular attention to the sandstone outcroppings, moss, and fungi of this wood at this time of year. the sandstone is actually a slanting ridge that creates an eastward-facing amphitheater, with heavy fern growth down in the hollow. a great blue heron rookery inhabits the site, but they’ve gone for the year.
it was tremendously foggy the day we visited in the early morning, and the trees dripped rain in the quiet. this was a spectacular visit and i hope to get back next year.
thanks to the uw arboretum for maintaining the site and for permitting me to visit.
in from the fogscape,
pelts the leaf litter
bark in the hollow,
the mist making haze
loose slabs of sandstone
the guttating frill
if you made it this far, here are some miscellaneous things: a photo of one of the tree tags i’m very fond of, some serious fuzzy mold on scat, and the largest snag i’ve ever stood under:
mayville ledge beech-maple woods is very much what it sounds like, tho’ “ledge” in this case refers very specifically to the exposed niagra escarpment present on the site. the niagra escarpment is the exposed dolostone ridge at the edge of the niagra cuesta that stretches from new york state up thru canada and down into dodge county (and a smaller exposure in waukesha county) here in wisconsin via door county. in some places, it’s dramatic seaside cliffs, in others, it looks more or less like a pile of rocks.
no trail to speak of here, we followed deer paths up the glacial drift-laden section up to the top of the ridge and walked thru the ungrazed woods atop the ledge. with a steady wind blowing up onto the plain, we were able to enjoy a late-summer hike thru beech, maple, and ironwoods, with lots of mushrooms and moss growing all around the glades of tumbled dolostone. american beech grows here in its westernmost limit.
took in an invigorating walk on a hot day with my wife and mom, while my brother hung out on the pond-shore.
flax pond is a kettlehole pond formed by a formerly submerged glacial chunk that melted, the ground above collapsing into the depression and water filling in. another pitch pine-oak wood by the looks of it, with lots of sand and, surprisingly to my midwestern eyes, lots of moss and fungus too. a beaut.
and my fond adieu to these fabulous lichen forests on so many tree limbs out there. couldn’t get enough.
first id of a new, yellow species of hawkweed, but not sure if it was new england or meadow…