European settlers to Wisconsin saw wetlands as wasted space to be drained. But that view changed over time, and in 1952, Wisconsin’s DNR made an intact wetland in Ozaukee County known as the Cedarburg Bog a Wisconsin State Natural Area, only the second piece of land to receive that designation at the time.
Kate Redmond is an environmental educator and member of the Friends of the Cedarburg Bog who for thirty years has been leading field trips into the bog on a gravel trail.
“It’s a fantastic place to come and take pictures in the spring as things start to green up,” says Redmond.
The bog is co-owned by the DNR and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee; the DNR owns 1,733 acres and UWM owns 230 acres. It’s also a National Natural Landmark.
The bog is not technically in Cedarburg, nor is it really a bog. It is, instead, a fen. Unlike a bog, a fen has water flowing through the system.
The management plan includes hunting and fishing with Watts Lake at the end of the trail.
“Most smart hunters stay within a hundred yards of the edges because once you’re in any farther in than that, the going is pretty tricky and there’s a lot of poison sumac growing on the hummocks,” says Redmond. “So, you don’t want to grab hold of any piece of vegetation that you see.”
Along the trail, though, there is not a lot of poison sumac.
“This particular fen does not have many nutrients,” says Redmond. “So, it’s a challenge growing in the middle of the bog and some of the plants like pitcher plants and sundews and the blueberries are adapted to accept that challenge.”
There are about 370 plants listed on the field station plant list. Everything in the bog grows in the first foot of the mucky, organic soil. The trees have interlocking roots that keep each other standing.
Wetlands aid in flood control, help to purify water, and provide habitat for water fowl and other wildlife.
“This is a dynamite place for dragonflies and I’ve seen some species of dragonflies here that I have not seen in other places,” says Redmond.