This weekend we headed to the nearest state nature area: the Badfish Creek Wildlife Area. This 1437-ac parcel has been set aside since the 1970s when it was reclaimed from agricultural use.
The area’s recent past is evident, though, as agricultural canals still crisscross the landscape and much of the vegetation consists of secondary colonizers (not the first plants to move in after a field is abandoned, but the second). Most of the land is tall-grass prairie dotted with boxwoods, oaks, and a few other deciduous trees (including an apple tree). The tall grass is no joke. It was up to our armpits in many places when the trails indicated on the map failed to exist in actuality. Lauren and Casey (the dog) are in the accompanying picture, along with about a thousand mosquitoes, but the grass is so tall, Casey is nowhere to be seen and Lauren is wearing the expression of a person who has had it up to the height of the grass with high grass.
Some of the trails are in decent condition, including those that follow along the east side of Badfish Creek. One bridge spans the river in the middle of the wildlife area. Otherwise, visitors will have to wade or cross the river on the north or south borders of the preserve.
The Badfish Creek runs through the center of the eponymous area. It is running high this year because of the unusual amount of rainfall. It has been straightened and deepened to accommodate the outflow from Madison’s municipal sewer district, that is, the treated sewage. The released water is probably cleaner than most natural bodies of water, but this may end up being a problem for local flora and fauna that need more nutrient-rich water. The river is popular with kayakers and has dozens of passable miles.
We saw plenty of insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals. Large monarch butterflies flitted among the flowers, and birds chirped in the trees. A snake fled through the grass away from us as we made our way down the trail, as did a 10-point buck with antlers still in velvet (too quickly to get a picture). The most notable life, though, was the hoard of mosquitoes that followed us for the entire two hour hike. Although we got away tick free, the ample mosquito population in this wet year distracted us from enjoying the surroundings as much as we might in the spring or after the first freeze.