Vernon Marsh is a unique ecosystem in Waukesha County Wisconsin consisting of approximately 5,000 acres of marshland, grassland, flowage, rivers, oak savanna, and lowland forest. The property consists of mostly wetlands/flowages with the Fox River snaking through. Adjoining uplands consist of grasslands and some woodlots. A calcareous fen is also present on the south side. It offers excellent wildlife habitat, especially for migrating and nesting waterfowl.
Land in the wildlife area was first leased in 1946 as a public hunting ground. Purchase of the property by the DNR began four years later, assisted by donations from Wetlands for Wildlife and other conservation organizations. It is a popular area for waterfowl, pheasant, small game, turkey and deer hunting. Handicapped blinds for waterfowl hunting are available off Frog Alley Road.
As beautiful and unique as it is there is an ongoing threat with invasive plant and aquatic species. The Wisconsin DNR has in place eradicative, controlling, and preventive procedures for the area (and many other areas throughout the state). You can learn more below.
Learn about wetland invasives
Vernon Marsh is also a wonderful place for nature and conservation photography. The images I am posting below were captured the first time I visited the marsh in the early 2000's. The trip was set up to meet two online friends in person for the first time who have since become life long friends who both share a love of nature and photography as I do. As such, the place has a personal connection to me as well.
About 30 miles west of Wisconsin Dells, prominently visible from I-90 in western Wisconsin, there is a truly remarkable rock formation that is a remnant from the last ice age. Get off at the Camp Douglas exit and you're right there. The surface of the stone, scalloped and weathered over the millennia where it has stood, has a charming appeal. It's rather easy to climb because of the many pockets and foot-holds. Twisted, knotted tree roots weave a tangled web above-ground in the sandy soil where they grow. If you come in the morning, you can see the lingering mist before the sun is higher up in the sky. Truly a magical place on earth. It's not much to walk around it if you don't want to climb, but it is a rewarding stop if you're in the Dells area or heading west from the Dells. Castle Rock is an example of a monadnock or inselberg, a geological formation common in northern and central Wisconsin. Graffiti and names of visitors have been scribed into the stone.
The area was once the bottom of a glacial lake in which Castle Rock was an island. Thousands of years of erosion by water, ice and wind created the surface features you see in this area. Castle Rock is an example of a inselberg, a geological formation common in northern and central Wisconsin. Inselberg, (from German: Insel, “island,” and Berg, “mountain”) is anisolated hill that stands above well-developed plains and appears not unlike an island rising from the sea. An inselberg (or monadnock) is an isolated hill, knob, ridge, outcrop, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain.
In the vicinity of Camp Douglas and over a large area to the east are still other striking topographic forms which owe their origin to different conditions, though fashioned from the same forces. There are many tower or castle rocks which rise to heights varying from 78 to 190 feet above the surrounding plain. They are all remenants of beds which were once continuous over the low lands. The rocks, like the one below (see slideshow) are composed of Postsdam sandstone.
The effect of the vertical joints and of horizontal layers of unequal hardness is well shown. Rains, winds, frosts and roots are still working to compass the destruction of these picturesque hills and the talus of sand bordering the 'castle' is a reminder of the fate which awaits them.
One of the natural Wisconsin places I frequent is Kettle Moraine Forest located in southeastern Wisconsin. A 56,000 acre forest divided into two large and three small units, spread out across a hundred miles. Each unit includes a portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
The 'Kettles' were formed 15,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, when our area lay under the grip of colossal ice sheets. It is said that nowhere is the glacier's mark upon the land more impressive than in Wisconsin, namely the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
I tend to frequent the the Northern Kettles .There is something there that speaks to my soul more than any of the other areas.
The Northern Kettle Moraine Unit is comprised of about 30,000 acres stretching 30 miles across Sheboygan, Fond du Lac and Washington Counties. The forest is managed for multiple use, including recreation management, sustainable forest products, water quality and soil protection, terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, native biological diversity and aesthetics.
Once you spend a significant amount of time in an area you come to know the spirit of the place, its essence. Growing up (mostly) in Wisconsin I have had a lifetime of visiting this magnificent forest. Sensing my feet on the ground; earth that was carved out over a decade ago. Attuning to the energies of the fauna and flora, listening to the stories carried on the winds. Observing the wild life and losing myself in the lazy rhythms of the river that runs through a part of it.
Over time, anyone who spends time in nature, in a particular place will start to connect and form a relationship with that area. You become present to the miracle of 'now', of that particle time and space as if all else has stood still. Over many of these 'now' moments you begin to find yourself in relation to the land, to it's inhabitants. It not only brings out a sense of well being in yourself, but also a bond between you and the earth. You become rooted, strengthened and centered in the dynamic geography of your soul.
A Glimpse of the Northern Kettle Forest
Back in 2011 I lived in a small neighborhood, just eight blocks from Lake Michigan. On January 25th I had just started out for a walk with my then 10 year old son. A block down from our house he noticed a hawk flying and so I started snapping shots. The hawk circled once or twice closer and closer to a tree across the street from us. I continued to take photos and was fortunate to be able to document the hawk rousing the squirrel from the tree and the subsequent meal afterwards. There are a few shots missing of him diving down immediately after scaring the squirrel out of the tree. The images came out blurred and unusable. The rest is what I have, in order in the slide show below. This spontaneous moment is what led my interest in conservation photography.
After returning home to download the images, my son and I did a bit of research online of the hawk. We were able to identify it as a red shouldered hawk. As a home school family, this was also a wonderful opportunity for self-directed learning and we studied, through online resources everything we could find about these stunning birds.
The images below were taken with a Sony Cyber‑Shot DSC‑H10/B 8.1 MP Compact camera. This was my first camera that I had begun practicing with as a hobbyist photographer.
© Gloria Lynn Photography
Visual storyteller using conservation photography as a way to bring the stories of Mother Earth to the people, thereby inspiring others as Earthkeepers in nature.