Tag Archives: Wildlife

Pleasant Valley Conservancy – A Walk into the Past.

Directions: Head west out of Middleton on Hwy 14. Once you get to Black Earth turn left on Hwy F and drive through town until you see a turn right to continue on Hwy F. Take the right turn and continue until you see a left on Hwy F about one mile. Turn left and continue for about 2 miles until you reach Pleasant Valley Rd. Turn left and parking is on the left about 1/4 mile.

The gold grasses in the autumn warm the cool days.  The green of the grasses in the valley in the spring is a pleasant greeting after cold Wisconsin winters. Prairie plants have been painstakingly maintained. Big blue stem, indian grass, little blue stem, praire Dock, prairie cup plant, compass plant. Each provide interest to the landscape. Oaks line the hills. In the spring the leaves bud in green bundles that line each of the limbs. In the summer the dark green boughs shade the plants below. In the fall the leaves turn to shades of red, gold and brown. Hikes in this conservancy are picturesque in any season. Most of the hiking can be found at the top of the hills. The center path takes you through the grasses of the prairie. The road on the right will take you op the hill on a less steep route though woodland plants and trees that provide their shade on hot summer days.

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At the top of the hill there are several paths that plop through the oak savannah. The west portion of the conservancy has an old growth oak savannah on the east side of the hill and woodland growth on the west side. There are lookouts on the south ridge and a path the winds along the ridge back down to the road. Take care along this path. It can be tough going in spots.

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In the north are gentle sloping paths through prairie with prairie clover and blazing star as well as many other plants.

Wild life in the conservancy can be seen at any time during the day. Many native birds can been seen, indigo bunting, blue bird, blue jays, redtail hawks. At dusk you may see whitetail deer as they come out to graze.

On the south side of the road is a path that loops through the marsh. Foot bridges that take you over the stream and a pier out onto the marsh. You will see sandhill cranes most of the summer. You will certainly hear their distinctive calls over the quiet of the marsh.
The different flora and fauna in the conservancy in each of the different areas allow one to experience all that the southern Wisconsin landscape has to offer. I highly recommend hikes at least once a month through this conservancy to see the change of each season and the growth of the plants as they grow and fade through the weeks.

This will always remain a favorite hike of mine.

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Hemlock Draw State Natural Area

A warm summer day deserves a cool walk in a shady wood.  The Hemlock Draw State Natural Area just out of Leland is that cool wood.  Just take Hemlock Road 2 miles, then continue north on Reich Drive 0.5 miles to the gate. Park along the shoulder of the road south of the mailbox. Please do not block Reich Drive as local farmer use it to move large equipment.  It is easy to miss so keep your eyes peeled.

Upon entering the trail head there is a sign to great you.  It will tell you about the Natural Area and map it out for you.  A short walk down the trail and it opens onto a stream.  The birds fly overhead asking you to follow.  You can make out many different birds from the calls if you listen carefully.  There are many different species of birds in this natural area.  A great place for bird watching.  During the migration the birds take refuge here so you can spot many types of birds that yo nave not seen before.

There is a stream crossing that is a little tricky.  A little ravine and then the stream.  As long as you are sure footed you should have no problem.  There is skunk cabbage and wildflowers growing by the stream edge.  The water trickles slowly down the stream.  The sounds are tranquil with the birds and stream gurgling, the wind rushing through the trees.  This is a quiet hike and you will rarely see another person in the wood.

The woods are filling with birch and maple.  White oak and ash.  Many different types of trees as the trail winds through the wood.None are marked yet those who know the different species will be able to pick out the variety of trees within the natural area.  Just looking at the leaves you can see the wide varity of maples, oaks and birch.

After about 4 miles in you will come to the hemlock draw.  Sandstone outcroppings with hemlock growing along a dry stream bed.  The sandstone is cool to the touch.  The hemlocks block the sun as they touch the sky.  It is like a cathedral with a choir of birds singing as you walk among the towering hemlocks.  The dry stream bed is covered with small stones like a cobble stoned road.  Dappled sunlight plays upon the stones at midday. As you walk through the draw you can feel the cool air wafting off the sandstone. There are places where you can scale the sandstone but be careful of poison ivy and itch weed.  It is prevalent in the overgrowth of fauna.

You can spend many hours investigating the natural area.  There are only a couple of paths in the wood but each is a pleasure to hike.  You will not forget this place and this fem will be a favorite spot if you ever decide to hike it.  It is a great hike for a hot afternoon.