The Everglades of Wisconsin, The Horicon Marsh
It’s Saunter Sunday so get outside.
While not a U.N.E.S.C.O. World heritage like The Florida Everglades that I love to visit, I would say it is not stretching things to call this place the Everglades of the North. By definition, the word ever comes from the word forever & Glades which is an old English word that means a grassy open place. *NPS.gov. According to the Collins dictionary, it means a tract of marshy land covered in places with tall grass; swampland. An idiom being the Florida Everglades. *See links above for Florida Everglades visits.
Why was this random place on my things to do in the USA bucket list?
It is the holiday season in the USA. Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas to New Year, like a migrating bird each season I return to the place of my birth. When I was young woman having graduated from nursing school I often drove from my hometown to Madison, the city where I lived. On the way, I often stopped to walk my dog in the Horicon Marsh. Since I left Wisconsin a very long time ago, the marsh has become of global importance and added two more visitor sites. I finally made it back.
With over 33,000 acres, The Horicon Marsh is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States. Now recognized as a Wetland of International Importance, a site also recognized both Globally and of State Important Birding Areas, and a unit of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve. Oh, and it is also the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the U.S.A., so there is that. Most of all it is a darn good place to take a walk.
However it was hunting season and next to Texas and Pennsylvania, Wisconsin takes the third prize for the most deer hunters.
Having been a nurse who has worked critical care in Northern Wisconsin during deer season, I know that even if you have on some Under Armour, if you are wearing a leopard coat instead of blaze orange, you had better watch where you walk. It does not matter if it switches from gun to bow, safety first. So, I shortened my walk and went inside for a bit.
Plus, it was cold. The new to me visitor center overlooks a portion of the marsh. Funded by both state and national sources as well as some really great friends. From the art to the offerings, the experience rivals if not exceeds those of places I visit both domestic and foreign.
Inside the center staffed by Wisconsin DNR, there are pamphlets and information about the center and the area. This no-fee entry site is full of things to do for all ages and in all seasons. Examples from the website are:
- Wildlife observation
- Hiking trails including 1400 ft. boardwalk
- Educational programs
- Guided tours
- Cross country skiing
- In season waterfowl, deer and upland game hunting
And wait, there is more. They have items available for check out like binoculars, photographic blinds, snowshoes, etc., and these great kids activity backpacks.
In the summer, there are kayak and canoe rentals available nearby as well as pontoon boat tours. These rentals and tours are from a private source and 100% I am going to do this next summer. Horicon Marsh Boat Tours
But wait, there is more. Inside the large open center, there is a shop and activities for all ages. A short introductory and informational video is available on-demand and there are viewing rooms with hands-on activities for the kids.
Inside this room, there are several animal examples such as this turtle
that helps to introduce the 300 species of birds as well as the habitats of muskrats, red foxes, salamanders, frogs, bats, dragonflies, and fish among others.
And, downstairs there is a place called The Explorium. For a fee of $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for students, and 4 & under free, one can tour this great experience. An audio voice guides you through the much to see the exhibit which begins with the prehistoric land and the early peoples of this area of Wisconsin and ends with modern preservation. I loved it!
Like many European settlers, I learned that they valued land in a way that served them. They put up a dam and made a 50-acre lake and planted crops such as potatoes and carrots. Farming the marsh failed because the soil was too wet and peaty. And I learned that peat spontaneously combusts and causes a fire. I mean, I am mostly of Irish heritage and I should probably have known this. Anyway, they tried to drain the marsh, cutting a 14-mile ditch down the marsh’s center and built saw and gristmills.
However, a good portion of the museum shows how people came to their senses and began to restore the marsh. All of this started with a duck.
Aside from conservation, there are many hands-on and other sensory exhibits for kids and those with curiosity. There are wetlands exhibits which I bet meet standards for a primary school in Wisconsin science and then there are random things such as an airboat that a visitor can climb into and have their photo taken.
Most of all, I learned about how many species have been brought back from near extinction thanks to the heroes of my home state.
Thanks to the heroes of Wisconsin at Horicon Marsh
Mostly, a big thanks for giving me a great place to play outside and food for thought, a reminder on how the current thought is to take away our nation’s public lands and national resources that often once gone, will disappear forever. So get outside and saunter on that! Act!
Happy Sunday, Meg
MEGastars 5 of 5 *****
Who should go? Anyone who digs nature and a good walk outside. Birding people, science teachers, hikers, nature lovers, photography buffs, wildlife enthusiasts, and saunterers.