Tom's Blog

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Westport Drumlin prairie dedication

Today the culmination of a long process of fund raising and negotiation came to an end with the dedication by the Natural Heritage Land Trust of the Westport Drumlin property (see directions below). The Drumlin itself, where the largest amount of remnant prairie is present, has been owned by DNR since the 1980s, but the surrounding land remained in private hands. Last year NHLT was finally able to put together the necessary deal and today the property was finally dedicated. An informative kiosk was installed, describing the geological, cultural, and natural history of the site. (I wrote most of the natural history panel, and provided several of the photos.)

Over 75 attendees participated on a fine sunny fall day.

Westport Drumlin, a high quality dry prairie with numerous attractive native plants, is most noted because it has the largest population in the state of prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya). This rarity, a true Midwest endemic, is Federally Threatened and State Endangered. It occurs in only four states, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois (which has only a small population).

Other attractive prairie plants here include downy gentian, cream baptisia, lead plant, silky and sky blue aster, and compass plant. A large population of pasque flower is present, and the site is one of the best places in the Madison area to catch sight of this early bloomer.

In addition to the prairie, there is a small but potentially fine bur oak savanna at the south end of the drumlin.

In addition to the Drumlin, the Koltes remnants are two other prairies here which the Prairie Enthusiasts has been managing for a number of years.

Field trips (8 in all) were conducted to various parts of the site. I split my time between two trips, one led by botanist Ted Cochrane and the other led by prairie restorationist Mark Martin.

Westport Drumlin has been a State Natural Area and available to the public for many years, but until now access has been by way of an unmarked easement across private cultivated land. Now, with public control of the whole site, a parking area has been established and a trail will be marked to the site.

One of the attractions of the Westport Drumlin Prairie is its close proximity to Madison. From the high point it is possible to see not only the State Capitol but also Lake Mendota. It is rare to have such a high-quality prairie so close to Madison. It is also only about a mile from the Waunakee Village limits.

Directions to reach Westport Drumlin:
The Westport Drumlin is off Bong Road in the Town of Westport, Dane County. From Madison go north on Wisconsin 113. Bong Road is the next right after the traffic light at the River Road intersection. Follow Bong Road to the top of the hill where a sign (see above) marks the parking area. The kiosk is a short way to the north from the parking area. Follow the unmarked but visible trail to the Drumlin (about 1/2 mile north). A search for "Westport Drumlin" on Google Maps should result in a "hit".


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