Tom's Blog

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New wetland trail

Now that we have the beavers under control (thanks to Lon!), we have made a new wetland trail that gives access to the creek, springs, sedge meadow, and cattail area. This trail is accessed from the end of the boardwalk.

Making this trail involved a lot of brush cutter work, as the vegetation is pretty high. (The drought, of course, has had little effect on the growth of the wetland vegetation.) The route of the trail had been worked out last year, and we had actually started to mow it when the beavers moved in. It has taken us a year to get rid of them. Reports are that they have moved upstream, near where Ryan Creek enters East Blue Mounds Creek. Hopefully, they will stay there, but if they return we are determined to get rid of them immediately.

Clearing off the boardwalk
During this summer our boardwalk got heavily overgrown. Although accessible, it was almost invisible, so it was mowed first. It took two brush cutters (Amanda and Dan) to clear it out, followed by a leaf blower (Susan) to get rid of all the cut vegetation.

This has been a great year for the wetland plants. Boneset, Joe Pye weed, great blue lobelia, and swamp milkweed are in full bloom. We have also seen turtlehead, smartweed, and arrowhead. (There is also lots of watercress in the small creek that the boardwalk crosses, but since this is nonnative, we don't get excited about it.)
Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) and boneset (E. perfoliatum) near the boardwalk

Mowing the new trail
The lone willow indicates slightly higher ground
The new trail starts at the end of the boardwalk and follows the creek upstream. Marking this trail for the brushcutters was a major undertaking in itself, which Kathie and Susan carried out. We had laid out the route last year (before the beavers) but because of heavy plant growth it had become almost invisible. The route was marked with flags (which were removed once the brush cutting was finished).

This trail follows the bank of Pleasant Valley Creek (a cold-water, spring-fed creek) and forms a loop that ends up near the barn and the fire break that separates the Barn and Crane Prairies from the wetland. (The final connection to the barn may not be finished until next week.)

We are excited about recovering our wetland, because it will give us opportunities to study both the vegetation and wildlife. Also, there are patches of reed canary grass out there that need to be controlled.

Our wetland ownership is only a small part of the whole wetland in this valley. The burns that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have done involved five owners and about 140 acres. Our part of this unit is about 28 acres (as measured by GIS). However, neither the vegetation or wildlife pay any attention to property boundaries!


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