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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Waterloo Prairie (No. 63)

Waterloo Prairie

Photo by E. Epstein



Within the Waterloo Wildlife Area, Jefferson and Dodge County. T8N-R13E, Sections 4, 10, 15. T9N-R13E, Section 33. 221 acres.



Waterloo Prairie contains two widely separated units of low, wet grasslands along Stony Brook and its tributaries. The northern portion features a large, raised calcareous fen and spring complex with numerous wet seepage slopes while a more extensive wet prairie meadow lies to the south. The hummocky black peaty fen soil supports a diversity of species including such grasses as big blue-stem, blue-joint grass, Indian grass, and sweet grass. Forbs include grass-of-Parnassus, valerian, Riddell's goldenrod, shooting-star, prairie blazing-star, wood-betony, swamp lousewort, prairie phlox, golden alexanders, pale-spiked lobelia, marsh pea, mountain mint, and numerous asters. Along the west edge of the fen are numerous springs with water parsnip and spring runs flowing into Stony Creek. The alkaline wet to wet-mesic prairie is dominated by blue-joint grass, prairie cord grass, and tussock sedge. Showy forbs include Michigan lily, marsh milkweed, marsh marigold, and cowbane. Common nesting birds include willow flycatcher, yellow warbler, marsh wren, sedge wren, swamp sparrow, and sandhill crane. Management activities of prescribed burns and brushing are conducted to maintain fen vigor and integrity. Waterloo Prairie is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1968.


Driving directions

For the northern unit, from the intersection of State Highways 19 and 89 in Waterloo, go east on Highway 19 2.4 miles to a gated access lane south of the road. Walk southwest 0.3 mile to the site. For the southern unit, go east and south on Highway 89 2.4 miles, then east on Bluejoint Road 1 mile to a parking area north of the road.


Waterloo 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 reserve for wet/wet-mesic prairie, calcareous fen, and southern sedge meadow, as an aquatic reserve and wetland protection site, and as an ecological reference area. Natural processes and prescribed fire will determine the structure of the wetlands. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality native wetland communities.

Management approach

The ecological characteristics of the site will be primarily shaped by an intensive fire management program. The native wetland species are managed actively through tree/shrub control using tree harvest, brushing and especially fire to mimic natural disturbance patterns. Occasional fire-tolerant oaks and native shrubs such as Spiraea may be retained at low densities. Other allowable activities include control of invasive plants and animals, augmentation of native wetland species after careful review, maintenance of existing facilities, and access to suppress wildfires.

Site-specific considerations

  • Ditches may be filled to restore wetland hydrology.
  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by township.
  • Utility corridor management occurs sporadically within the utility easement area.
  • Old/fallow fields will be regularly burned to limit brush invasion, and will be eventually converted to native wet-mesic prairie with locally-collected seed


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
  • 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, October 26, 2018