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Restoration efforts started in 1920s continue to influence Horicon Marsh management todayNew exhibits at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center

Horicon Marsh Education Center Renovation

Information for Educators

To arrange for a field trip or group visit, contact: Liz Herzmann at 920-387-7893. The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center welcomes schools, community groups and others interested in topics ranging from geology and history to biology and modern wildlife management. Programs combine classroom work with outdoor sample collection and observation.

The center, operated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, will open a $3.7 million expansion on August 22, 2015 featuring interactive exhibits, historic artifacts, wildlife displays and more.

The center can accommodate groups of 15 to 100 with instruction geared for K-12 and special opportunities for university and community groups, including use of the theater.

Friends of Horicon Marsh Education & Visitor Center help by providing financial and volunteer support to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service co-manage the Horicon Marsh

The Wisconsin DNR manages the southern third of the marsh, known as the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area; it totals 11,000 acres and serves as home to the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the northern 22,000 acre Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.

Stretching into Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, Horicon Marsh is fed by the Rock River and is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States. It serves as a critical rest stop for thousands of migrating ducks and Canada geese and is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance.

Visitors today have the chance to see some of the 300 species that at some time call the marsh home. They can also enjoy numerous trails for hiking and snowshoeing and launch canoes and kayaks at four boat landings.

1920s era conservation pioneers drew support for long-term marsh management

After attempts to drain and farm Horicon Marsh proved unsuccessful, a group of local residents led by Louis "Curly" Radke pushed stakeholders to restore the wetland area to a more natural state. Following years of unregulated hunting and unrealistic attempts at farming that left the wetland and its wildlife populations devastated, residents stood ready for a change.

Radke, a Horicon native, led the campaign to have Horicon Marsh acquired by the public and restored. His efforts to reclaim the drained and desolate area gained momentum with the formation of a local chapter of the Izaak Walton League in 1921.

Visitors to the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will learn more about Radke's pioneering work to introduce restoration practices that serve as the basis for today's successful management of the marsh. Starting August 22, 2015, visitors will be able to experience a series of historical displays and interactive exhibits that depict the struggles of the area's conservation pioneers and the lasting benefits of their work.

Radke's efforts gained support over time and in 1927 the Legislature established the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge. The law also authorized the Wisconsin Conservation Commission to construct a dam that would restore the water to levels needed to sustain a marsh habitat. During the 1940s, the federal government followed suit by ordering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase and protect the remaining two-thirds of the ecologically-sensitive marsh habitat to the north.

These actions set the stage for wildlife management practices that remain today and ultimately kick-started the preservation of valuable wetland habitat. Today, wildlife management at Horicon continues to focus on providing and enhancing habitat for waterfowl and other species as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources works to enhance nesting cover, wetland food sources and other water conditions that support a diversity of wildlife.

Horicon Marsh Education Center Renovation

Land Ethic

The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center works to instill a land ethic centered on respect for the plants, animals, waters and lands that make up the marsh community. In highlighting the interconnected nature of the marsh environment, the center explores the many ways in which the rich wetland has sustained both hunter and hunted through the ages.

Today, the marsh continues to play a leading role in the health and well-being of the region, providing a wealth of environmental, educational, recreational and economic benefits.

Horicon Education Center Timeline