Eagle Oak Opening, protects, as does the previous post’s Kettle Moraine Oak Opening, one of the rarest natural communities in Wisconsin, the oak opening. Once covering over 5.5 million acres (~15% of the state), oak openings have all but vanished as fire supression and reduced grazing have allowed the openings to fill in with younger trees. There is no obvious parking area for this site, though the gravel shoulder widens at a curve on CTH Z near a gated access lane at the southwest corner of the SNA. Follow the lane east and into an old field. From here, a few trails meander north over the undulating terrain and around several kettle ponds. Alternatively, this site is just south of the trailhead for Stute Springs (PDF), which has a parking area. One could then walk south on the road to the access lane or follow the Stute Springs trail to the northern boundary of the SNA, though this would subsequently be off-trail. Lastly, as I did some present-day research for this visit some 5.5 years ago, I learned that the trails that run through the SNA are part of the McMiller cross-country ski trails, though note that the bulk.
In my pre-GPS days and in a car without tenths of a mile on the odometer, this was not the easiest site to find. After parking on the side of the road, unsure if that was okay or not, I ambled down the lane and into the old field. Though unremarkable now, the goal is to someday seed the field back to prairie. In the meantime, burns are used to slow the spread of invasive or undesirable species such as sumac. The highlight of this site for me was the beautiful kettle ponds. Green trees, blue sky, puffy white clouds all conspired for beautiful views. The surrounding forest was surprisingly light on spring ephemeral wildflowers, with wood anemone being the most abundant. Earlier in the spring, pasque flowers are said to put on a show here, certainly reason enough for me to return.
More of my photos (and full-res) from Eagle Oak Opening can be viewed here.
|Natural Communities / Geology
||Oak Opening, Dry-Mesic Forest, Oak Savanna|
|Easy to Find||No|
|Best Seen By||Foot|
|Located Within||Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit|