Ice Age Trail Alliance Entrusted with Swamplovers Preserve

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Swamplovers Preserve, Table Bluff, Wetlands, Vista
The diverse Swamplovers Preserve includes wetland, prairie, and oak savannah habitat, which host a variety of resident and migratory wildlife. The Preserve was recently transferred to the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Photo by Kevin Thusius.

On November 24, 2020, the ownership and management responsibilities of the Swamplovers Preserve, a 433-acre property perched on the rolling hills of southwestern Dane County, transferred from the Swamplovers Foundation to the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

“After considerable thought and collaboration, we signed the paperwork with complete confidence,” said Lee Swanson, a founding member of the Swamplovers Preserve. “Gerry, Tom, and I have full faith in the Alliance’s commitment to the land we’ve cared for during the past 33 years.”

The seeds of this historic moment were cast in 1987 when a team of visionaries – Lee Swanson, Gerry Goth, Tom Keuhn, and the late Joe Keuhn (Tom’s brother) – purchased the property, once plotted for development. Acquired initially as hunting grounds for outdoor recreation, these acres became prized for their natural features including presettlement vegetations such bur and white oak savanna interspersed with prairie and marsh.

Ecological restoration quickly became a focus for the landowners. As they employed large-scale management practices, Swamplovers Preserve transformed into a biodiversity hotspot. Situated at the edge of the Driftless region and within the Black Earth Creek watershed, it boasts high-quality habitat areas: open-water waterfowl breeding ponds, faithfully restored prairie, southern sedge meadow, oak savanna, and woodland communities.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Swamplovers Preserve, Cross Plains, Dane County, Map
The popular Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs through the Swamplovers Preserve. Click the map to view the location in the Ice Age Trail Alliance's Hiker Resource Map.

“Humans once manipulated the land within the Swamplovers Preserve as a way to sustain their families. Now much human effort has gone to converting it back closer to its original state,” said Kevin Thusius, Director of Land Conservation for the Ice Age Trail Alliance. “It’s a showcase of native plants and animals and a source of continued study and inspiration.”

In rapidly developing Dane County, the desire to preserve this local gem led the owners to seek an agreement with the Ice Age Trail Alliance (then known as the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation). By 2005, a conservation easement was signed with an eye towards the future when the Ice Age Trail Alliance would assume full ownership and Dane County would hold a conservation easement on it. In the intervening years, the Swamplovers Foundation and the Ice Age Trail Alliance worked in partnership to manage the Preserve. In 2006, the Preserve was bisected by the Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age Trail and the public got to see this jewel first hand.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Land management, Table Bluff Segment, Dane County
Restored native prairies thrive on the Swamplovers Preserve. The Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail showcases the flowering hillsides. Photo by Rachel Roberts.

“We are honored to have worked closely with the Swamplovers founders to continue their vision for the property,” stated Mike Wollmer, Executive Director of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. “As an accredited land trust, we’re in a position to be knowledgeable, effective caretakers, and ensure the protection of the Preserve past anyone’s lifetime – it will be a sanctuary forever.”

The Ice Age Trail Alliance will continue to welcome researchers and anticipates embedding their findings into its adaptive restoration management plans for the Swamplovers Preserve. The Preserve will remain host to busloads of students, teachers, and many other individuals and groups who want to immerse themselves in the learning this outdoor classroom offers. The yellow blazes will continue to help hikers navigate the Ice Age Trail’s route through the Preserve’s woods and prairies. The white or blue blazes will offer additional loops or spurs for the public to walk.

Only a portion of the Preserve is open to the public at this time. The founders continue to live within the property boundaries. We respect their privacy. Please pay attention to signs and stay on the blazed trails when visiting.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Swamplovers Preserve, Table Bluff, Oak
The Swamplovers Preserve, which recently transferred into the care of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, boasts native prairies and oak savannah habitat. Large oak trees adorn the ridgetop of Table Bluff. Photo by Lysianne Unruh.

If you would like to support the on-going land management and stewardship efforts related to the Swamplovers Preserve, please donate to the Swamplovers Fund.

You may direct questions about the Swamplovers Preserve Fund to Luke Kloberdanz, Director of Philanthropy, via email: [email protected] or phone: 608-798-4453 ext. 226.