In southeastern Wisconsin, under a mile half-mile of ice, thousands of elongated hills known as drumlins formed parallel to the ice sheet’s advance. In pre-European settlement days the Empire Prairie blanketed this landscape in northern Dane and southern Columbia counties with a rich tapestry of grasses and flowers. Now, very little of that once-vast prairie remains; but one place does: Westport Drumlin. This remnant of the once vast Empire Prairie has been permanently preserved thanks to the efforts of the Natural Heritage Land Trust, our conservation partners, and conservation-minded landowners.
At Westport Drumlin, a state natural area, visitors are treated with a rare look into the past. As you hike in to the site, the drumlin landscape unfolds before you. No matter in what season you arrive, there is something to behold: the glorious carpet of pasque flowers in spring, the golden blooms of the silphiums in summer, the purple asters of fall, or the eerie skeletons of the magnificent oaks in winter. If you look closely you will also find Wisconsin’s largest population of the federally-threatened prairie bush-clover and the state-endangered red-tailed prairie leafhopper.
Until recently, this precious natural treasure has been an isolated oasis in an agricultural landscape under development pressure. The Natural Heritage Land Trust has been working hard for several years to create a permanent buffer around the drumlin to lessen this threat and provide for future ecological restoration. Since 2009 the Land Trust increased the amount of permanently protected land at Westport Drumlin from 14 to 227 acres. These lands are being restored and the Westport Drumlin landscape will be a showpiece of Wisconsin’s glacial and prairie heritage.
Read here about the work we're doing at Westport Drumlin.
See a map of the land permanently protected at Westport Drumlin. This second map shows what land is open to the public for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, trapping, and hunting.