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.
Exemplary Ecosystem Services
Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion
Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning
Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)
Water quality improvement
Conservation Status and Threats
Conservation statusState Protection TNC + conservation easements
Adjacent land useAgricultural (cropland, orchards, greenhouse)
Approximate natural buffer width> 100 ft
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)Lake
Approximate stream order
Name of body of water3-4
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).
Wetland soil is fibrous peat overlaying lake sediments.
Flora and Fauna
Dominant floraA 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 florathe rare lesser fringed gentian
Dominant faunamany 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 faunaRare and unusual birds include least bittern, American bittern and black tern.