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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program New Observatory Woods (No. 28)

New Observatory Woods

Photo by Josh Mayer



Dane County.



Located a few miles west of the Johnstown terminal moraine, New Observatory Woods contains a continuum from moist red oak woods to dry forest and dry prairie. The soils are shallow in the area of the dry prairie but are a deeper Knox silt loam in the eastern portions. The vegetation shows the transition from prairie to red oak woods. A small dry prairie is found in the northwest corner of the site with an area of bur oak woods tending southeast. This former oak opening is now dominated by a typical oak forest herb and shrub layer. Surrounding the bur oaks is a belt of black and white oaks. To the northeast is an area of more mesic red oak woods. The shrub layer contains blackberry, gooseberry, hazel, and gray and round-leaved dogwoods. The small prairie area contains about 30 prairie species and is quite brushy. New Observatory Woods is owned by the University of Wisconsin and was designated a State Natural Area in 1956.


Driving directions

Please contact the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum at (608)263-7344 for access permission


New Observatory Woods is owned by:

  • UW Board of Regents
Last revised: Monday, March 27, 2023