June 7, 2017 Madison, WI–Last Sunday afternoon was a picture perfect day in southern Wisconsin–clear skies, warm breezes, and low humidity. It was also a wonderful day to spend with fellow prairie enthusiasts, literally on top of the world, in Hauser Road Prairie one of the few remnants of original prairie sod in Dane County.
Hauser Road Prairie is an island in the surrounding agricultural landscape and sits on a high ridge of exposed bedrock with a 360 degree view that includes the Wisconsin’s State Capitol building–over 12 miles away. (I didn’t have a long camera lens to capture that image so you will have to come out yourself some day this summer to verify.)
An outing with The Prairie Enthusiasts is really an educational excursion during which time one can learn about the geological and cultural history of a site, learn about management issues, as well as how to identify native prairie plants and the grassland birds that make the prairie home.
Hauser Road Prairie is owned and managed by The Prairie Enthusiasts, Empire-Sauk Chapter. The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) is a private grass roots organization operating primarily through volunteers. Its sole mission is the protection and management of the last remaining pieces of the once vast and now endangered native prairie and savanna of the Upper Midwest.
Hauser Road Prairie is typical of a TPE project–it involves both preservation and restoration; the majority of the work performed by volunteers. To permanently preserve the prairie, TPE bought the property from willing sellers, who had themselves, preserved the prairie throughout their ownership. To restore the site, the TPE site manager pulls weeds, cuts and treats invading brush, burns the site and scatters locally-collected native prairie seeds.
Remnant of the once vast Empire Prairie
Hauser Road Prairie is 45 acres and is the largest single piece of the once extensive (over 100 square miles) Empire Prairie of south central Wisconsin. This fine prairie remnant contains over 100 native prairie plant species with spectacular displays of shooting star, pasque flower, prairie smoke and goldenrods.
A Sweet Spot
This was my first trip to Hauser Road–a place that a fellow prairie enthusiast that day called “a sweet spot” in the landscape–but it won’t be the last. In an original prairie sod remnant such as Hauser Road, each day is different. As the season progresses, early bloomers fade to be replaced by the flowers of later season bloomers and then the fall color of the native grasses.