Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Hogback Prairie State Natural Area: Thomas Meyer

Hogback Prairie State Natural Area
Thomas Meyer

April 2015

Wisconsin, naturally

Hogback Prairie State Natural Area

Thomas A. Meyer, State Natural Areas Program

Notable: Geomorphologists (scientists who study the origin and structure of landforms) use the technical term "hogback" to describe a bedrock ridge with a narrow crest and steep slopes of equal gradient on both flanks. Typically, the crest line has undulations, resembling the knobby spine of a wild pig, thus giving rise to the landformís name. The Driftless Areaís Hogback Prairie is one such geological marvel. The two–mile–long ridge rises 200 feet above the fertile agricultural lands of the Citron Valley, an ancient cut–off oxbow of the nearby Kickapoo River. In places, the limestone bedrock is exposed and weathered, providing habitat for rock–dwelling plants like smooth cliffbrake. The slopes support a diverse dry prairie community dominated by short grasses such as side–oats grama, little bluestem and needle–grass. Colorful displays of early spring–blooming plants, including yellow star–grass, birdís–foot violet and pasque–flower are especially vibrant following prescribed fires employed by DNR ecologists to control invading woody plants. Also found here is the state–threatened Hillís thistle, a spiny, short–statured member of the thistle group with large magenta flowers. This is a wonderful place to observe butterflies and grassland birds from spring to autumn. Much of the Hogback Prairie was donated to the Department of Natural Resources by The Nature Conservancy after having been purchased, in part, using funds provided by the Knowles–Nelson Stewardship Program.

How to get there: From the intersection of State Highway 179 and Bridge Street in Steuben (Crawford County), go north on Bridge Street for 0.2 miles, then west and north on Hughes Road for 2.1 miles, then west on Citron Valley Road for 0.25 miles. Park along the road and walk west into the natural area. Be advised that the terrain is steep and chiggers may be abundant. Visit dnr.wi.gov and search "Hogback Prairie" for a map and more information.