Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

NEW photo: Thomas Meyer

Clover Valley Fen State Natural Area
Thomas Meyer

August 2013

Wisconsin, naturally

Clover Valley Fen State Natural Area

Notable: Ecologists recognize a very special type of wetland called a “calcareous fen,” characterized by having peaty soils with an internal flow of water rich in calcium and magnesium bicarbonates. These wet and springy sites are dominated by sedges, rushes and grasses, along with a host of distinctive plant species adapted to the alkaline conditions. Clover Valley Fen State Natural Area in the Kettle Moraine region is one such place. The 66–acre preserve features a series of peat mounds that rise eight feet above the surrounding lowland, each formed by the accumulation of partially decayed vegetation around slowly flowing springs. Radiocarbon dating of these and similar mounds in the area indicate that mound formation began about 11,500 years ago, after the retreat of glacial ice. Centered on the site is a large, L–shaped mound with four distinctive high points. This mound has many characteristic fen plants including valerian, swamp lousewort, Kalm’s lobelia and the state–threatened tufted bulrush. The fen is in its floral glory in late summer and early fall when the colorful grass–of–Parnassus, Riddell’s goldenrod and lesser fringed gentian are in bloom. In the southeast corner of the site are three small, “volcano–like” mounds, each with a distinct flora. Sedge meadow surrounds the mounds, and a small, sand–bottomed tributary to Whitewater Creek bisects the tract.

How to get there: From the intersection of US Highway 12 and County Highway P east of Whitewater, go south on Highway P two miles, then west and south on Hi–Lo Road 1.4 miles to the west loop access road into the DNR’s Whitewater Lake Campground. Park at the entrance to the campground, and then walk west along the road to campsite #760. Continue walking northwest 200 yards through the woods and pine plantation to the unmarked southeast corner of the natural area. Visit Clover Valley Fen State Natural Area for a map and more information.