6 Local Prairies to Visit This Summer

6 Local Prairies to Visit This Summer

Here’s a great way to spend an afternoon outdoors and gather garden inspiration at the same time: visiting a local prairie. Prairie ecosystems were prominent in Dane County before agricultural and urban development, and the plants that grew in those prairies are good choices for gardens in our area today. They generally require less care, tolerate drought and thrive here.

Here are some restored and remnant (largely untouched) prairies to visit to learn more about this endangered ecosystem and how to incorporate prairie plants into your own garden:

Curtis Prairie
The world’s oldest ecologically restored prairie, this sixty-acre plot is located just south of the UW Arboretum’s visitor center. The university bought the land in 1933, and its namesake, faculty member John Curtis wrote the master plan and directed the early research.

Lake Kegonsa State Park
Located between McFarland and Stoughton on Door Creek Road, this state park includes more than sixty acres of prairie, maintained by the Department of Natural Resources.

Owen Conservation Park
Named after UW professor Edward T. Owen, this park includes more than ninety-three acres, dominated by prairies and oak savannas. On Old Sauk Road, east of Gammon.

Pheasant Branch Conservancy
This Middleton site includes a dry remnant prairie on the southern and western portions of Frederick’s Hill. It also includes more than fifty-two acres of restored prairies.

Pope Farm Conservancy
Located off West Old Sauk Road in the Town of Middleton, this 105-acre park includes six different prairie restoration projects, with eight miles of walking trails.

Prairie Ridge Conservation Park
Accessible off Berkeley Drive south of Elver Park, Prairie Ridge is part of an open space and corridor that eventually will be linked to the National Ice Age Trail.

These are just a few examples of prairie habitats in our area.

Beth Stetenfeld is a McFarland-based editor, writer, master naturalist and creator of the gardening blog PlantPostings.com.