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Contact information
For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
Thomas Meyer
Natural areas conservation biologist

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Young Prairie (No. 132)

Prairie smoke and shooting stars at Young Prairie

Photo by Christina Isenring


Overview

Location

Jefferson and Walworth Counties. T4N-R16E, Section 5; T5N-R16E, Section 31, 32, 33. 806 acres.

Description

Description

Young Prairie features a large wet-mesic prairie containing rare plants and animals. It is among the best and largest prairie remnants of its type known in the region. A small stream and associated wetland vegetation are located in the northeast section of the tract. Surrounded by agricultural lands on the east, south, and west, and by old field on the north, this low prairie is relatively flat except for a number of seasonally flooded, shallow depressions scattered throughout. More than 80 species of native plants have been found including such showy species as compass plant, prairie dock, blazing-star, purple prairie-clover, lead-plant, shooting-star, turks-cap lily, coneflower, sunflowers, goldenrods, and asters. Nesting birds include bobolink, eastern meadowlark, common yellowthroat, sedge wren, and swamp sparrow. Occasional visitors are upland sandpiper, sandhill crane, and short-eared owl. Young Prairie is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1977.

Access

Driving directions

From the intersection of Highway 12 and County H in La Grange, go north on County H 2.6 miles, then west on Bluff Road slightly less than 1 mi. to a gated access lane to the north just where the road turns south. Park along the road and walk north on the old farm lane into the site. Or from County H, head west on Bluff Road 0.7 miles, then north on Young Road 0.3 miles to a DNR parking area west of the road.

Ownership

Young Prairie is owned by:

  • WDNR

Maps

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.

Objectives

Site objectives

Manage the site as a reserve for wet-mesic prairie, as a mesic prairie and oak opening restoration site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the site's natural communities. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The native wet-mesic prairie is maintained with occasional fire and brushing. The fire management program follows Departmental Incidental Take guidelines for rare grassland species. The native dominant savanna tree species (primarily oaks) form the basis for an oak savanna restoration, while the old field has already been restored to mesic prairie. Some thinning of the savanna canopy, understory manipulation and shrub control via harvest, brushing or fire may be needed to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Augmentation of the savanna 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. Other allowable activities throughout the site include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native prairie 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.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near field roads is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.

Recreation

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.

Allowable activities

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.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • Camping and campfires
  • 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
  • Drone use, unless authorized by a SNA research permit
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Thursday, October 19, 2017