The Bluff Creek Springs

The Wisconsin DNR’s State Natural Areas Volunteer Program is a great way to become intimately familiar with some of Wisconsin’s most beautiful places. That is how I was introduced to the Bluff Creek SNA, which features one of the largest spring complexes in the Southern Kettle Moraine, and the scenic Lone Tree Bluff Nature Trail.

Apuleius, the Roman philosopher, rhetorician, & satirist said: “Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.”, and paradoxically, that has been my experience with the few of Wisconsin’s 673 SNAs that I have visited.  You might be thinking: ‘Hang on there Buckthorn Man; contempt is a strong word, how can you apply it the State Natural Areas?’  The answer is deeply philosophical, so, please, remember what Aristotle said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I will cut to the chase:  I am an anarchist seeking a voluntary society.  I don’t think the powers assumed by the “State” are legitimately based, especially the use of coercion to tax us.  Under Natural Law, 1, 2, 10, 1,000 or 1,000,000 people do not have the right to delegate powers — that none of them possess individually — to an association they call government.  Do I have the right to demand that you give me 20% of your earnings?

That is the perspective I bring when I become intimately familiar with any of our State owned lands; focusing here on the SNAs.  What I find “contemptible” is the idea that “we the people” rely on government to take care of our most precious natural resources rather than voluntarily assuming that responsibility for ourselves.  Here is the DNR’s SNA management philosophy:

Management

Land stewardship is guided by principles of ecosystem management. For some SNAs, the best management prescription is to “let nature take its course” and allow natural processes and their subsequent effects, to proceed without constraint. However, some processes, such as the encroachment of woody vegetation and the spread of invasive and exotic plant species, threaten the biological integrity of many SNAs. These sites require hands-on management and, in some cases, the reintroduction of natural functions — such as prairie fire — that are essentially absent from the landscape.

Wisconsin has desginated 673 SNA’s, encompassing over 373,000 acres.  Please don’t assume the DNR has a comprehensive management plan for these sites including: goals, objectives, budget, staffing, timelines etc… they do not have the funds to accomplish this, and don’t assume that it is OK to “let nature take its course”.  Since I don’t accept the legitimacy of government authority, it would be contradictory for me to advocate that we divert even a tiny percent of the money our federal government spends on wars of aggression and the security, industrial, military complex, to nurture and care for our treasured state lands.  Nope, I’m suggesting that each one of us volunteer our time and attention to care for the land.  Visit an SNA near you and become intimately familiar with it; let the rarity of these beautiful places win your admiration (and active involvement!)

The headwaters of Bluff Creek is one of the few Class I trout streams in southeast Wisconsin.

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Pati and I visited the Bluff Creek Springs complex after the November SNA workday and I gave her a tour.

I mentioned in the video how excited I was to return for the SNA workday in December and I was not disappointed (visit the Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers on Facebook).  We gathered yesterday morning on the ice covered parking lot at the Lone Tree Bluff trailhead on Esterly Road.

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Zach Kastern introduced us to the day’s project.

At the trailhead, you take the left-hand, unmarked path towards the springs rather than follow the steps straight up to Lone Tree Bluff.  This is not an official trail, but it will definitely become more obvious as we continue working there.  When we got to the work site, Zach gave more specific instructions and we all introduced ourselves.  It was a great crew to be with!

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I was in heaven and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  I grabbed these images while taking a break to gas up the saw.

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Jared Urban coordinates volunteers at the SNA’s in the southern part of the state.  The next 5 action shots are courtesy of Jared.

Ginny rips it up.

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Kyungmann in the thick of it.

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Scott, Tom and Zach.

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Tom stoking the fire.

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Group shot minus Dale and Gary. (Back row left to right: The Buckthorn Man, Jared B., Tom, Scott and Kyungmann and Ginny and Zach in the front row)

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The official workday ended at noon but a few of us hung out to talk and share lunch by the fire.  I cut buckthorn all afternoon and Zach and Scott fed the brush piles.  Here is how it looked at the end of the day.

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Back on Wednesday, December 10th, I was joined by Chris Mann, Austin Avellone and Andy Buchta as we continued our brush clearing and piling efforts on the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Here are a couple views of the site before we got started.

Looking north from the channel of the spring that flows into the fen.

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Looking down the trail towards where we left off last time.  The buckthorn on the left is doomed.

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Below looking right and left from where Chris Mann left off the previous Monday.IMG_4576 IMG_4577

I was soon joined by Chris, Austin and, much to my delight, Andy Buchta and we got after it.

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We had an excellent day and finished the fen-side of the trail all the way north to the tamarack grove; and even got a few licks in on the south side of the spring channel that flows into the fen, working along the trail that leads to the Ottawa Lake campground.

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When we finished I took a walk from the point where we stopped, shown above, heading back across the channel to where Chris and Austin were still piling brush.

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I had a mellow day last Thursday brush cutting and poisoning the scrub red oak, cherry and buckthorn on the sand prairie.  I think it’s time to start burning brush piles.

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See you at The Springs!

3 thoughts on “The Bluff Creek Springs

  1. Pingback: The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  2. Pingback: I Left My Heart At Bluff Creek | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  3. Pingback: Blind Traveler | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

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