Use the adjacent menu to guide you thru all of the needed steps to submit your Wetland of Distinction.

Waubesa Wetlands


The 500-acre lakeshore wetland complex is a "Wetland Gem" that includes an immense open-water spring that discharges clean water into Lake Waubesa and additonal springs that support a 30-acre species-rich fen, in addition to sedge meadows and shallow marshes.  It is unique and highly valued for biodivesity support, conservation of the adjacent lake, research and education.  Since the 1970s, it has served as an icon for understanding wetland formation and hundreds of students have benefited from studies of the wetlands, supervised by Prof. Cal DeWitt. It was chosen by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association as a state "Wetland Gem" and designated as a State Natural Area by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  For more information see -- Bedford, B., Zimmerman, E. H., & Zimmerman, J. H. (1974). The Wetlands of Dane County, Wisconsin. Dane County Regional Planning Commission.

Waubesa Wetlands: New Look at an Old Gem

Exemplary Ecosystem Services

Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion

Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning

Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)

Flood storage/mitigation

Carbon storage

Water quality improvement


Conservation Status and Threats

  • Conservation status

    State Protection TNC + conservation easements
  • Adjacent land use

    Agricultural (cropland, orchards, greenhouse)
  • Approximate natural buffer width

    > 100 ft
  • Other Information

    The wetland is part of a township that has ~500 ha of privately owned land with conservation easements. This extremely unusual landscape helps protect the wetlands from development. A remaining threat is nutrient-rich inflow from the adjacent upstream township.


  • Approximate size (ha):

    200 ha
  • General wetland characterization:

    Inland Fresh Meadow, Inland Shallow Fresh Marsh, Inland Deep Fresh Marsh, Inland Open Fresh Water, Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp
  • Adjacent water bod(iess)

  • Approximate stream order

  • Name of body of water

  • Surficial geology

    Formed after the Wisconsin glacier retreated 14,000 years ago, leaving behind glacial till in old stream valleys; lake sediments accumulated (10-30 m thick) below the current wetland; peat accumulated (1.5-2.5 m thick).

  • Soils

    Wetland soil is fibrous peat overlaying lake sediments.

Flora and Fauna

  • Dominant flora

    A floating mat of cattails and sedges lines the lakeshore and marsh plants line the streams. Calcareous fen areas feature a diversity of plants including grass-of-parnassus, Riddell’s goldenrod, northern bog aster, sage willow, common lake sedge, tussock sedge, woollyfruit sedge, swamp loosestrife, American water horehound and numerous asters.
  • Unique flora

    the rare lesser fringed gentian
  • Dominant fauna

    many species of waterfowl and other migrating birds including sandhill crane, green heron, marsh wren, sedge wren, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, American coot, blue-gray gnatcatcher, common yellowthroat, great blue heron and willow flycatcher. Also important spawning habitat for many Lake Waubesa fishes.
  • Rare fauna

    Rare and unusual birds include least bittern, American bittern and black tern.


  • Air_Photos_380

Print Email