Habitats/Communities & Trails of the Wehr Nature Center

Explore prairie, woodlands, wetlands, an oak savanna, and Mallard Lake, the natural communities contained within Wehr's 200 acres of Whitnall Park. Over five miles of trails loop through and link these communities and give you the opportunity to see the homes and habits of Wisconsin wildlife. Trail loops range from .5–1.7 miles.

If you're ready to hit the trails, print out a copy of the trail map for a self-guided tour. Note: The map will appear in a new browser window. To return to this page, simply close the map window.

woodland logo Woodland Trail Loop
0.5 mi (approximately 30 min. walk)
The woodland trail winds along a glacial moraine covered by an upland deciduous forest. The forest consists of three layers: a ground layer mostly of wildflowers, a middle layer of shrubs, and the dominant canopy layer of trees. The most abundant species of tree in this woodland is the sugar maple, but there are also many old oaks and hickories. Look for wildflowers such as Trillium and Jack-in-the-pulpit along the trail in spring. Colorful leaves and berries make the woodland trail especially beautiful in fall.

savana icon Oak Savanna Loop
0.5 mi (approximately 30 min. walk)
The Savanna or Oak Opening was one of the most widespread Wisconsin communities in pre-settlement times. In a savanna, the trees are so scattered that grasses and herbaceous plants thrive as ground cover. Gnarled, corky-barked Bur Oaks are commonly scattered throughout the savanna. The thick corky bark provides protection from wild fires. Wehr Nature Center uses fire as a means of keeping the savanna open, burning the area every few years. Without these prescribed burns, the savanna would become an oak forest in 25 years. Look for wildflowers such as Black-eyed Susan and Gray-headed Coneflower in the summer. Also look and listen for Ring-necked pheasants, Indigo Buntings and Goldfinches.

Prairie Loop
0.8 mi (approximately 40 min. walk)

"Prairie," from the French word meaning meadow

The prairie community is adapted to a climate of temperature extremes, constant wind, and occasional drought. This community is dominated by grasses and flowering herbs that can withstand these harsh conditions. Wehr's prairie is the result of restoration of farmland initiated in 1965. Prescribed burns are used in order to keep invading trees and shrubs from shading out the prairie plants. The prairie is a patchwork of color during the summer months as wildflowers such as Blazing Star, Compass Plant, and Goldenrods bloom. Look for butterflies nectaring at the Purple Cone Flower in July. Prairie grasses such as Big Bluestem and Indian Grass grow up to six feet tall; if you watch them sway with the wind you'll understand why the pioneers called the prairies "A Sea of Grass".

Wetland Loop
0.6 mi (approximately 30 min. walk)
The wetland trail will lead you through a variety of wet habitats including a lowland forest, a shrub carr, and a sedge meadow. The amount of soil moisture determines the types of plants that can grow in a particular habitat. Trees such as Black Walnut and Black Willow survive in areas that are moist but never flooded, while wetland shrubs such as Red-twig and Gray Dogwood grow in areas with wetter, but not saturated, soil. Sedges and wildflowers such as Joe-Pye-Weed and Swamp Milkweed dominate soils that are saturated most of the year. Wetlands are extremely valuable habitats, acting as sponges that slow and filter run-off from upland areas, as well as being a home for resident and migrating wildlife.

Glacial Trail Loop
1 mi (approximately 40 min. walk)
The Glacial Trail Loop begins at Wehr Nature Center and continues into Whitnall Park. Along the trail you will see evidence of the Wisconsin Glacier that covered this area 10 to 20 thousand years ago. Look for glacial features such as large rocks, known as erratics, and ridges called moraines.

Natural History Trail
1.7 mi (approximately 1 hr. 30 min. walk)
The natural history trail circles much of the Nature Center, connecting parts of the woodland, prairie, and wetland trails. This trail is designed to display the different communities with their varied plants and animals, geologic features and beautiful vistas.

Mallard Lake Loop
1.5 mi (approximately 1 hr. 15 min. walk)
There is no specific lake trail loop, but you can travel around Mallard Lake by following a series of marked trails as seen on the map. Mallard Lake is a 20 acre man-made lake. It was constructed during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps by building a dam at the outlet of a marsh.

If you're ready to hit the trails, print out a copy of the trail map for a self-guided tour. Note: The map will appear in a new browser window. To return to this page, simply close the map window.


Questions? Contact Us
Wehr Nature Center
9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, WI 53132
(414) 425-8550


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