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APril 9, 2010


Friday afternoon led me to two state natural areas (SNA); one in the Riverway and one close by.  I first visited the Ferry Bluff State Natural Area near Sauk City.  The sun was shining and the temperature was pleasant for the early afternoon hike in search of spring ephemerals and scenic beauty.  Much to the surprise of my fellow hiker and I, a pair of garter snakes were soaking up the spring sun on the trail but quickly slithered off among the brown leaves after we nearly stepped on the well camouflaged gentle serpents.  First snakes of 2010! 

As we arrived at Cactus Bluff, the pasque flowers were in bloom and greeted us with spring color.  So delicate and so lovely.  The river view, both upstream and downstream, from Cactus Bluff is spectacular.  Because the Ferry Bluff SNA is closed from November through March to protect roosting eagles, I hadn’t been able to visit one of my favorite spots for six months.  It truly refreshes one’s soul to stand on the rock outcrop and soak in the wonder of nature all around.  In the distance looms Blue Mound and the site of the Battle of Wisconsin Heights.  Closer, one sees Andy’s Bluff, Hugo’s Bluff and the Mazomanie Bottoms.  The discharge from sediment laden Honey Creek and Otter Creek created a clear brown vs. blue color dichotomy and a reminder of the need to continue landowner education on conservation measures to reduce runoff and control erosion.


As we continued to Ferry Bluff, the blood root was in full bloom creating splashes of brilliant white here and there.  Upon reaching the summit of Ferry Bluff, several turkey vultures performed an aerial ballet right in front of us.  What a sight!  So graceful, barely moving a feather as they soared on the air currents, iridescent plumage shining in the spring sunshine.  We watched in silent adoration at their skill and beauty for almost a ½ hour.  The eagle nest upstream of Ferry Bluff looks to be in use again this year as a white head appeared to be on the nest.  As a group of three young men approached, it was time to leave but not before a last long look at the Baraboo Hills, the twin villages and the beautiful river.


The next stop was Parfrey’s Glen near Devil’s Lake, the SNA actually is part of the state park.  I had heard that the floods of 2008 had decimated the trail system so we stopped at the park registration station to obtain a park sticker and inquire.  We were informed the trails were open but the boardwalks had not been replaced as of yet.  Since neither of us had ever been there, I didn’t really know what that meant.  I have heard about Parfrey’s Glen for decades but, for some reason, had never visited the famous and oldest state natural area in Wisconsin.  We made the drive from the park office to the site and saw many folks had the same idea as the parking lot was almost full. 


After just a few steps on the trail, we began to see a myriad of wildflowers:  Dutchman’s breeches, skunk cabbage, hepatica, marsh marigold, blood root.  The babbling of the brook was music to the ears.  We also saw a strange brownish, plant or mushroom or toadstool that I have never seen before.  

The damage from flooding was readily apparent but the walk was pleasant.  Time didn’t allow us to reach all the way to the end of the gorge but that will leave a good excuse for another trip to Parfrey’s Glen.  As we headed back to Muscoda in the setting sun, we agreed it was a good day all around.  Ah, yes, spring in Wisconsin!


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Last Modified:  2/15/2011 9:30:39 AM
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