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For information on State Natural Areas, contact:
Thomas Meyer
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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Kettle Moraine Low Prairie (No. 88)

Kettle Moraine Low Prairie

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Within the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Waukesha County. T5N-R17E, Sections 3, 4, 9, 10. 250 acres.



Kettle Moraine Low Prairie lies near the center of the Scuppernong Basin, a broad lowland drained by the Scuppernong River that once supported a vast prairie and sedge meadow complex. Situated in the glacial plain of southeastern Wisconsin, the northern portion of prairie is on gently undulating topography with standing water in depressions. Wet prairie and fen species such as blue-joint grass, shrubby cinquefoil, valerian, grass-of-Parnassus, and the uncommon Ohio goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis) dominate this area. Rich wet-mesic prairie lies to the south where the land slopes down to the river. Dominant species include Indian grass, big and little blue-stem, rattlesnake-master, and prairie dock. Small, upland islands within the wetland contain recovering oak opening and dry-mesic prairie. The natural area harbors significant populations of rare plants and animals and is an important refuge for them. Kettle Moraine Low Prairie is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1971.


Driving directions

From the intersection of State Highways 67 and 59 in Eagle, go north on Highway 67 2.1 miles to a gated access lane leading west. Walk west 0.5 mile to the southeast corner of the site.


Kettle Moraine Low Prairie is owned by:

  • WDNR


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.


Site objectives

Manage the site as a preserve for dry to wet-mesic prairie and oak opening, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the prairie and savanna. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native prairies and oak openings.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The native prairie 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 (oaks, hickories, and native shrubs such as Spiraea). 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 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 maintenance of trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible. Mowing should be timed to avoid dispersal of invasive plant seeds, and mowing equipment should be cleaned if invasive plant seeds are present.
  • Ditches are filled to restore wetland hydrology.


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: Friday, December 15, 2017