Governor Dodge State Park Nature
Governor Dodge State Park abounds with wildlife from the tiniest shrews up to the big white-tailed deer. Deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, red and grey fox, beaver, woodchucks, and muskrats are common park inhabitants. More than 150 species of birds have been observed. Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures soar over the park's steep hills and valleys. In the woods, the rat-a-tat of the elusive pileated woodpecker can be heard for great distances as it searches for grubs in hollow trees.
The open fields and woods edges are great places to observe wildlife, especially in early mornings and late afternoon. As darkness overtakes the park, the howl of a lone coyote or the eerie calls of several barred owls hooting back and forth may break the night silence. While you're visiting the park, take time to observe and enjoy the diverse wildlife populations in action. The park wildlife perform daily and there's no charge for this enlightening entertainment.
The tremendous variations in topography, exposures to sunlight, and soil types provide a diverse array of habitats that support many hundreds of interesting plant species.
The forests are basically oak-hickory in type, with many dozens of other tree species and shrubs mixed in. The sandstone areas support beautiful white pines, some red pines, and a few Jack pines. You can see all three kinds of pines in Pine Cliff State Natural Area, on the southeast side of Cox Hollow Lake. The spring wildflowers of the forests include bloodroot, hepatica, and Dutchman's breeches. The damp, shaded rich soil slopes produce almost solid communities of ferns, including giant interrupted ferns.
The open areas, for the most part, were farmed recently, but they will gradually revert back to more natural plant communities. Many open areas still support remnant prairies which, from spring through fall, exhibit many colorful wildflowers including goldenrods, sunflowers, asters, milkweeds, boneset, iron weeds, and mountain mint.
Many rare plants have been found in the park's isolated areas. Remember, wildflower picking is prohibited. Leave the flowers for others to enjoy in their natural setting.
Would you like to learn more about the animals, plants, geology, ecology, and natural history of Governor Dodge? If so, you are invited to take part in the park naturalist programs.
The naturalist leads guided hikes and presents evening nature programs at the park amphitheater. Please check the park office or bulletin boards for the naturalist schedule.
Governor Dodge also offers the Wisconsin State Parks Wisconsin Explorer programs for children age 3 and up. Parents and children may pick up their activity books at the park office.