We’re so lucky here in Wisconsin to have so much land set aside for public use. City, county and state parks offer a chance to get out and explore our wonderful home. But some of the most underrated and underappreciated spaces all across the state are nature preserves. These wonderful spots make sure that endangered lands are protected. Many of them have nature centers, staff and a long list of events that allow you to explore their gorgeous locations up close and personal with animals and plants and learn a bit along the way. These spots are hidden gems that have places for hiking and exploring, but also offer so much more. Check out these 11 Wisconsin Nature Preserves and start making plans to get your family outside:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Treehaven - Tomahawk
This gorgeous spot started as a privately owned sustainable forest when the original owners planted 140,000 trees. That was more than 50 years ago and now Treehaven is part of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which is home to the country's largest undergraduate natural resources program. It's a living classroom that rests on an ancient glacial ridge that overlooks 1,400 acres of forest and wetland home to a variety of animals. It's one of the best natural resource classrooms in the country and it's open to the public.
Located at W2540 Pickerel Creek Rd.,
Tomahawk WI 54487.
2. Heckrodt Wetland Reserve - Menasha
This 76-acre nature reserve has a wide variety of habitats including forested wetland, cattail marsh, open water, created prairie, open field, and upland forest. Those various areas are home to a huge array of animals. The trails are open 365 days a year and the nature center is home to a ton of programs and more knowledge than you could ever hope to take in. There's no admission and so much to discover here. Located at 1305 Plank Rd., Menasha, WI 54952.
3. Kickapoo Valley Reserve - LaFarge
These folks have 8,600 acres set aside in the stunning Driftless Region. The reserve offers a variety of recreation: fishing and hunting; horseback, biking and hiking trails; cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; camping and canoeing.
Located at S3661 WI-131, La Farge, WI 54639.
4. Beaver Creek Reserve - Fall Creek
There are 400 acres with nine miles of hiking trails to explore here. Upland woods, river bottom forests, wetlands and savannah areas are all here and it's bordered by the Eau Claire River. Located at S1 County Road K, Fall Creek, WI 54742.
5. Newell and Ann Meyer Nature Preserve - East Troy
In 200 acres you'll fin a ton of birdlife as well as foxes and boblinks. Oak woodland, oak savanna, wetlands, agricultural lands to be restored to native prairie. Located at N8740 Pickeral Lake Rd.,
East Troy WI 53120.
6. Aldo Leopold Foundation - Baraboo
Aldo Leopold was considered to be the father of wildlife ecology, and this area was created by his children. There's a visitors center and you can visit his shack, but the lands are also part of the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area, which is 16,000 acres that straddle the Wisconsin River. Located at E13701 Levee Rd., Baraboo, WI 53913.
7. Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve - Grafton
Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve represents one of the last stretches of undeveloped bluff land along the Lake Michigan shoreline, you'll find bluffs up to 100 feet tall. It's also adjacent to a wetland preserve. This park offers tremendous views over 73 acres. You can use bridges and boardwalks to explore or you can take the stairs down to the Lake Michigan shore. Located at 511 High Bluff Dr., Grafton, WI 53024.
8. Bubolz Nature Preserve - Appleton
This spot has a new state-of-the-art building that allows them to welcome groups of all sizes and a calendar so packed with events you won't be able to choose which ones you'll want to attend. There are miles of trails to explore in all seasons. Located at 4815 N Lynndale Dr., Appleton, WI 54913.
9. Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve - Two Rivers
These folks have more than 1,500 acres of hardwood and conifer forests, wetlands, and prairies located between Two Rivers and Manitowoc Wisconsin with seven. You can launch your kayak for the Manitowoc Water Trail, attend numerous events and miles of hiking trails to enjoy. Portions of this preserve are considered globally significant by the Department of Natural Resources. The preserve, much of it formed on ancient beach dunes and wet swales, provides a haven for wildlife and people. Located at 3000 Hawthorne Ave., Two Rivers, WI 54241.
10. Mequon Nature Preserve - Mequon
This preserve has reclaimed former farmland and is reconstructing native Wisconsin habitats. There are 444 acres and six miles of trails, plus an amazing education center and an observation tower. Incredibly close to Milwaukee, this is a great place for field trips and family outings to learn more about and appreciate nature. Located at 8200 W County Line Rd., Mequon, WI 53097.
11. Crossroads at Big Creek - Sturgeon Bay
There are 200 acres here that cover a few different types of land. There are actually three different preserves here There's an astronomy center, science laboratory, library, the Leif Everson Observatory and so much more. This spot is a must-visit if you're in Door County. Located at 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235.
Have you spent time at one of these awesome locations? Tell us about it in the comments.