- Natural areas
- Contact information
- For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
- Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist
Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Waubesa Wetlands (No. 114)
Dane County. T6N-R10E, Section 7, 8, 17, 18. 576 acres.
Located in an old lobe of Lake Waubesa along its southwest shore, Waubesa Wetlands is one of the highest quality and most diverse wetlands remaining in southern Wisconsin. Nine major springs and numerous smaller ones located within and around the area provide the wetland with an abundance of high quality water. The extensive wetlands and high quality of the water contribute significantly to the water quality of Lake Waubesa. Two inlet streams are also present - Murphy Creek and Swan Creek. Peat deposits - up to 95' deep in places - underlie a mix of sedge meadow, fen, and shrub-carr communities. The sedge meadow is a complex of different species that vary in abundance and structure in response to the complex hydrological system. Other parts of the site feature quaking sedge mats, calcareous fens, springs and streams with submerged aquatics, and deep spring cones lined with filamentous algae and purple-colored bacteria. The carbonate rich fens feature numerous species including grass-of-parnassus, Riddell's goldenrod, northern bog aster, lesser fringed gentian, and sage willow. Other abundant wetland species are common lake sedge, tussock sedge, American woolly-fruited sedge, common bur-reed, swamp loosestrife, American water horehound, blue-joint grass, and numerous asters. Bird life is diverse and features four rare species: least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), great blue heron (Ardea herodias), and black tern (Chlidonias niger). Other birds include sandhill crane, green heron, marsh and sedge wren, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, and willow flycatcher. Waubesa Wetlands is owned by the DNR, The Nature Conservancy, and Dane County. It was designated a State Natural Area in 1974.
From the intersection of U.S. Highway 14 and County Highway MM south of Madison, go south on MM 1.3 miles, then east on Goodland Park Road 0.9 mile, then south on Lalor Road 0.8 mile to a parking area east of the road. Canoe access is via Lake Waubesa from the canoe landing at Goodland County Park at the end of Goodland Park Road.
Hunting is not allowed on Nature Conservancy lands (see map for details).
Waubesa Wetlands is owned by:
- The Nature Conservancy
The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.
The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.
Manage the site as a reserve for oak opening, southern sedge meadow and calcareous fen, as an aquatic reserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the oak opening and associated wetlands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native oak openings and wetlands.
The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by a fire management program. The native wetland species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant woody species may be retained at low densities. The native dominant savanna tree species (primarily oaks) are managed passively. However, some thinning of the canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Augmentation of the ground layer will only add species that historically would have been found on the site, using seeds or plugs from local genetic material; this usually occurs in the early stages of restoration. The mostly passive canopy management and understory manipulation will determine the ecological characteristics of the savanna. Other allowable activities throughout the site include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native wetland species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires. Salvage of trees after a major wind event can occur if the volume of woody material inhibits fire prescriptions.
- Old fields will be regularly burned to limit further brush invasion, and will be eventually cleared and converted to native prairie with locally-collected seed.
- Utility corridor management occurs sporadically within the utility easement area. The Department cooperates with the utilities to assure that vegetation is managed in the least invasive manner possible.
- No hunting is allowed on a 22-acre DNR-owned deed restricted parcel in the northeast corner. No hunting allowed on TNC lands.
Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.
Hunting and trapping
This SNA has multiple landowners: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the land owner. In general, most DNR-owned land allows hunting and trapping. Partner-owned land may have other rules (for example, university-owned lands do not allow hunting or trapping). Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the "Resource links" heading above. More details regarding allowable uses on the non-DNR land may be found under the "Access" tab above, if available.
Allowable activities: DNR-owned land
In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.
- Cross country skiing
Prohibited activities: all SNAs
- Horseback riding
- Rock climbing
- Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use
- Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
- Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
- Camping and campfires
For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]