Discover Madison’s Wildside | Environment
Enjoy your Madison Parks! July is National Park and Recreation Month.
If your family’s vacations involve hiking, birding and quiet back to nature time, look no further than your own backyard. Madison Parks has 14 conservation parks encompassing 1500 acres, and 20 miles of hiking trails. Each park offers its own unique features and views of Madison.
Madison Parks is hosting free monthly tours of Madison Conservation Parks. The FREE GUIDED TOURS are led by a Madison Parks staff member and focus on a unique park and unique natural feature of that park. Madison Parks has 14 conservation parks comprising more than 1600 acres.
Each conservation park focuses on the restoration of native plant and animal communities while providing educational areas and opportunities for all.
In the late 1960’s, the City of Madison began purchasing land in what is now Cherokee Marsh. This large and diverse wetland needed to be preserved for future generations. Since formally establishing a Conservation Parks Program in 1971, the City of Madison Parks Division has acquired and manages more than 1500 acres of conservation parkland.
WHAT IS A CONSERVATION PARK?
A conservation park differs in how it is managed and why the land was acquired. The goal of the conservation park is to restore native plant and animal communities while providing educational areas and opportunities for everyone. Although there is no set combination of characteristics common to all conservation areas, most exhibit one or more of the following attributes:
- Unique plant communities, wildlife populations, geological formations or historical sites.
- A critical ecological function, such as protecting surface or ground water quality and supply.
- Relatively undisturbed example of native biological communities.
- Location and features suitable for outdoor education programs.
- Outstanding aesthetic qualities.
Get outside with your family and discover a side of Madison – Discover Madison’s Wildside!
Cherokee Marsh North Unit 6098 North Sherman Avenue (3.4 miles of trails)
South Unit 5002 School (3.1 miles of trails)
Lake Mendota Unit 104 W. Sauthoff Road(0.6 miles of trails)
Strategically located at the heart of Madison’s lakes, Cherokee Marsh acts as a living sponge. It filters upland runoff, using excess fertilizer to grow marsh plants and slowly releasing cleaner water to the lakes below. The marsh is used by thousands of students each year for environmental education.
(Total for all units – 1210 acres)
Edna Taylor Conservation Park 802 Femrite Drive
A glacial drumlin rising above a broad ribbon of marsh forms the backbone of this southeast Madison park. Ongoing projects include oak savanna and wetland restoration. Nearby Glendale School and Leopold Nature Center use it extensively for environmental education.
(1.3 miles of trails on 56 acres)
Elvehjem Sanctuary 1314 Painted Post Drive
Located within Elvehjem Park, the Sanctuary is a red oak-basswood forest on a northwest-facing hillside with exposed sandstone bedrock. Trails through Acewood Greenway connect the Sanctuary to Heritage Prairie.
(1.2 miles of trails on 9 acres)
Heritage Sanctuary 600 Meadowlark Drive
At peak trillium bloom in mid-May, Heritage Sanctuary is unequaled. Under an oak forest canopy lays a wildflower carpet more typical of a maple forest. The winding trail takes you through this unusual woodland community.
(0.5 miles of trails on 8.5 acres)
Heritage Prairie 5415 Queensbridge Road
In contrast to the rich woods of Heritage Sanctuary is Heritage Prairie, one-half mile southeast. Although grazed, a remnant of dry prairie persisted on a thin layer of soil over the rocky hillside. This area also features some picturesque open-grown Bur Oaks.
Hiestand Woods 4302 Milwaukee Street
Large red oaks dominate this wooded park located on a northern slope. Trilliums cover the ground with a blanket of white during May.
(0.3 miles of trails on 11 acres)
Kettle Pond 5805 Old Middleton Road
The retreat of the glacier 10,000 years ago left many 'kettle holes' in the Madison area. A pond surrounded by woods provides habitat for a variety of wildlife in this small park.
(0.4 miles of trails on 8 acres)
Knollwood Park 3334 Westview Lane
Black oaks are the dominant tree on this sandy knoll. A diverse 2-acre sand prairie lies below. It forms part of the connecting link between Aldo Leopold School and the Nine Springs E-Way.
(0.75 miles of trails on 14 acres)
Owen Conservation Park 6021 Old Sauk Road
On a hilltop overlooking Madison’s west side, this park was the farm and personal retreat of former University Professor Edward T. Owen. Today, prairies and oak savannas have risen like a phoenix to reclaim the landscape. Coneflowers, goldenrod and bluestem are among the many plants that yield a harvest of ever-changing color and texture throughout the year.
(3.4 miles of trails on 93 acres)
Paunack (A.O.) Park 6399 Bridge Road
One of the last marshes on Lake Monona, this park is located on Squaw Bay at the Yahara River outlet. It is one feature of the bicycle trail circling Lake Monona.
Prairie Ridge 2406 Berkley Drive
The major feature in this park is a diverse prairie remnant located on a steep slope. This park is part of an open space corridor that eventually will be linked to the National Ice Age Trail.
(0.8 miles of trails on 48 acres)
Sandburg Woods 2902 Independence Lane
Adjacent to Sandburg School, this park contains a rich diversity of oak woodland wild flowers. It is part of a parkway strip. From the trails there is evidence of the July 1991 windstorm that blew down many large trees. These canopy openings will provide space for a new generation of oak and hickory trees.
(0.3 miles of trails on 20 acres)
Stricker’s Pond 7214 Longmeadow Road
This glacial 'kettle pond' is an excellent place to view migrating waterfowl during spring and fall. The adjacent woods and restored prairie provide a diverse habitat for a variety of wildlife.
(0.8 miles of trails on 14 acres in Middleton and Madison)
Turville Point Park 1156 Olin Turville Court
This 65-acre natural gem borders the shores of Lake Monona, a short walk from downtown. Large red, bur and white oaks provide the canopy under which a variety of spring wildflowers bloom. A 7-acres prairie opening adds to the diversity of the site.
(3.1 miles of trails on 65 acres)