Sunday, we were treated to a picture perfect, sunny autumn day as nearly 20 of us joined field trip leader Adam Gundlach in an Eagle Heights Woods hike to get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the ongoing restoration work being undertaken by the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. A wildlife ecologist, Adam is Field Project Coordinator for the Preserve staff, and has been involved from the inception of the project that has been funded by the Friends. This unique woods within the greater Preserve is tucked in between the village of Shorewood Hills and the University of Wisconsin graduate student Eagle Heights Apartments and is home to the highest point on the lake shore and some very prominent effigy mounds.
Winding along the various trails that ultimately led to the summit, Adam described the efforts to control invasive brush and trees with the ultimate goal of restoring the Eagle Heights Woods to an open canopy oak forest. Using controlled burns, as well as selective cutting methods, the Preserve staff is working in well planned phases to provide the opportunity for young oaks to eventually fill in the forest floor. At the same time, they are assiduously working to preserve the Native American cultural treasures located within this 28-acre gem.
Along the way, Adam shared his knowledge of the flora and fauna of the woods that he has become intimately involved with. Birding expert Roma Lenehan and UW Arboretum specialist Diane Dempsey offered their thoughts on the effects of the restoration program to add to the experience. Will the red-headed woodpecker make a resurgence to the preserve as a result of the Eagle Heights restoration? Stay tuned for the answer.
We were able to see both the before and after stages of the restoration project as it is still ongoing, and we were treated to magnificent clear views of Lake Mendota and the surrounding area, stirring visions of pre-settlement Madison and of bygone Indian culture.
Finally, while enjoying the perfect weather on Sunday, we are truly indebted to Adam for his flexibility to reschedule the field trip from that rainy and cold October 7. Peter Fisher was the host for the Friends and provided this report and photos.
We had perfect weather for a walk with beautiful fall colors! Dave Mickelson, Prof emeritus of Geology and Geophysics and leader this informative field trip, started with a brief parking-lot chat using maps he brought for illustration. See also Dave Mickelson's in-depth illustrated article on this website: Geology of Eagle Heights Woods.
First from a cross-section illustration of the rock below us, we learned the history and mindboggling age of each layer all the way down to the very old bedrock. A map showed Wisconsin at different time periods and the extent of the Wisconsin glacier as it advanced and receded multiple times. Yet another map showed the glacial moraines and drumlins distributed across Dane County. From the pattern on the map, one could see where the glacier paused and left a moraine and where it scoured the land as it advanced and left drumlins parallel to its direction of movement. Dave told us how researchers used a variety of techniques, such as radiocarbon dating to determine age, and well records and geophysical techniques to measure thickness of glacial deposits, and many other techniques to piece together the story of our place on earth. Our hike took us from Raymer’s Cove through a stand of bright yellow maples, across Lake Mendota Drive, and up into the Eagle Heights Woods. We could hear the birds as we entered the woods. At the top, looking down at Lake Mendota, Dave had us imagine what it looked like before the glaciers, when it was a deep valley. Our Madison lakes were not formed as kettles when blocks of glacial ice melted and left a hole, as were most of the Wisconsin lakes. Our lakes lie in a former valley that didn't fill completely with glacial debris, luckily for us. The map Dave brought showed a complex valley with numerous side valleys. Much of what is now Madison once was a larger glacial lake- Lake Yahara, before an outlet opened. People lived on the shores of that ancient lake even when glaciers were still covering much of northern Wisconsin. They were mammoth and mastodon hunters.
We looked at the limestone cap rock that didn’t erode as quickly as the sandstone below, and the erratics brought by the glaciers from far away. These erratics were primarily volcanic or metamorphic in origin. One type was rhyolite from volcanic eruptions with fast cooling of lava and ash. Another was granite, formed of the same materials but that cooled underground under high pressure. Some rocks had veins of quartz that filled cracks in the rock after it had cooled. We saw a large cone-shaped Effigy Mound at the highest point of Eagle Heights Woods and were lucky to have Diane Dempsey on the field trip who shared her expertise on the Late Woodland mound builders with us. Also enriching the hike were people knowledgeable about birds and trees who were willing to share what they know. Everyone on the field trip appreciated the generosity and expertise of Dave Mickelson who brought materials, planned our route, developed an engaging presentation, answered all our questions, and brought new meaning to the landscape we call home.
We returned to the Raymer’s Cove parking lot via a steeper but more direct route. Many were heard to exclaim that they knew about Picnic Point, but had no idea the campus had this gem in Eagle Heights Woods, and they planned to return again. Report by Lillian Tong, Friends field trip host, and photos by Doris Dubielzig.
On a brisk but sunny fall morning, about 25 participants of the PLATO hiking group enjoyed this informative walk reflecting on the history of the mound builders in the Preserve as well as learning about birds and bird migration. The group was led by Gisela Kutzbach and Chuck Henrikson of the Friends, and the walk was organized by Michael Di Iorio of PLATO--a Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization that promotes opportunities for intellectual and cultural enrichment for the senior community.
The 3.0 mile walk began at Frautschi Point, along the new path toward the Biocore Prairie. At our stop at the picnic table overlooking the lake, Chuck explained the function and structure of bird feathers. He passed around aerodynamically-shaped flying feathers as well as soft down, and feathers in between the two kinds. From there the walk led through the woods toward the Picnic Point trail and the effigy mounds along that path. We had to avoid some flooded areas, still under water from the torrential rains in mid-August. Gisela explained the story of effigy mounds in Wisconsin, their distribution, shapes, construction, use and cultural significance, as well as the information they provide about the societal structure and history of the mound builders. The Preserve has 13 mounds, including animal shaped, cone and long mounds. The 6 mounds along the Picnic Point path are cone and long mounds. 87% of all mounds contain burials, ranging from the bones of a single person to bundled-bone burials of a dozen or more people—implying a non-egalitarian societal structure of the Late Woodland mound builder more than a 1000 years ago..
During the welcome break at the Picnic Point fire circle, the group enjoyed the gorgeous views in all directions as well as Chuck's informative stories about birds and his demonstrations of their calls. He also passed around owl pellets he had collected, showing tiny bones. All along the way he helped participants spot birds, including residents such as the Downey Woodpeckers, as well as warblers and other migratory birds taking a break in the Preserve on their journey and fattening up on abundant berries and seeds. Photos Chuck Henrikson and Gisela Kutzbach