Volunteers working to restore native vegetation in the Waubesa Wetlands at a DNR SNA Workday. Photos taken by Stephanie Herbst.

A friends group is a group of people who have an interest in natural resources and who volunteer their time, services and support in order to enhance natural areas.

Friends groups throughout the state provide thousands of volunteer hours to help support more than 70 Wisconsin state parks, forests, trails, and recreation areas. Friends members may adopt a trail, be involved in restoration efforts, or support community education activities, but the opportunities are endless because each member can supply their own creative ideas!

Welcome to the Watershed of Waubesa Wetlands

- a special place with an international

Wetland of Distinction

The Friends of Waubesa Wetlands, founded in 2018, care for one of Wisconsin's wetland gems, which has been given special recognition by the Wisconsin Wetland Association. Waubesa Wetlands area also considered Wetlands of Distinction by the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Waubesa Wetlands achieved this distinction because:

  • They are home to an unusually high diversity of plants including the rare grass-of-Parnassus, Riddell's goldenrod, northern bog aster, lesser fringed gentian, and sage willow, as well as special birds, such as sandhill crane, green heron, marsh and sedge wren, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, and willow flycatcher.
  • Many wetland habitats are found here, including emergent marsh, sedge meadow, wet meadow and rare fens (special for being low in nutrients, where cool, clean, calcium-rich water emerges from the ground, ties up phosphorus, and bathes plant roots year-round).

Together, the Friends of Waubesa Wetlands help to protect a uniquely diverse wetland community, ensuring that the habitat and all its benefits are enjoyed for years to come.

Alex Wenthe, co-founder and first President of the Friends of Waubesa Wetlands, holds the new sign, to be posted in the lower watershed. (Photo courtesy of J. Zedler)
Waubesa Wetlands are located at the toe of Lake Waubesa (Ho-Chunk for swan). Photo courtesy of Cal DeWitt and Nadia Olker.

Swan Creek and Murphy’s Creek both originate to the west of Lake Waubesa. Swan Creek drains mostly urban areas, and Murphy’s Creek drains mainly agricultural lands. Unavoidably, the creeks also bring surface water from streets, rooftops, lawns and agricultural fields. Surface water is warmer and carries contaminants. Anything added to the watershed surfaces—including beer cans and trash—can potentially harm downstream waters and wetlands, as well as people who depend on the services that wetlands provide.

Two main watersheds collect water that flows into Swan Creek and Murphy's Creek. The watersheds are mostly in the Town of Fitchburg. (Map courtesy of Francis Stanton, cartographer)

Both creeks cross Lalor Road (also known as RUSTIC ROAD #19) and both creeks transport surface water (and any contaminants) to Waubesa Wetlands.  Lalor Road is designated as a Wisconsin Rustic Road to protect its uniquely pastoral roadsides and views and to help provide a buffer between the wetland and development to the west. A visit to Lalor Road delights the onlooker with vistas of prairie and woodland, roadsides blooming with wildflowers, trees with open-grown branches, farmland. and beautiful sunsets.  It is a favorite route for bikers, runners, dog walkers and Sunday drivers.

Uplands near WW support diverse woody vegetation that adds habitat diversity for diverse fauna, such as raptors and amphibians. Photo © 2023 Francis Stanton
Uplands near WW support diverse woody vegetation that adds habitat diversity for diverse fauna, such as raptors and amphibians. Photo © 2023 Francis Stanton
Restored tallgrass prairie with blue spiderworts in spring. (Photo courtesy of P. Zedler)
Restored tallgrass prairie with yellow coneflowers in summer. (Photo courtesy of J. Rifkin)

Please help protect Waubesa Wetlands and the rustic nature of Lalor Road!

  • Dispose of litter and trash respectfully.
  • Tell others that the watersheds of Swan Creek and Murphy’s Creek drain into Waubesa Wetlands, help keep the watersheds clean.
  • Help us protect the water and an international Wetland of Distinction.
  • Join Alex Wenthe’s volunteer restoration crew (see dates and places on the Facebook page).
  • Spread the word that rare plants and animals depend on these special watersheds.
  • Help us keep the legacy of this land alive.

To become a Friend of Waubesa Wetlands, email friendsofwaubesawetlands@gmail.com and LIKE and FOLLOW their Facebook page to receive event updates. Friends organize environmental education, recreation, and ecological management opportunities that sustain and celebrate the terrestrial and aquatic natural resources of Waubesa Wetlands and the surrounding watershed. The group meets regularly to discuss new opportunities, and all ideas are welcome!

In addition to organizing educational and recreational opportunities throughout the area, Friends may choose to partner with the Department of Natural Resources State Natural Area Volunteer program at a Waubesa Wetlands Workday.  Encourage native plant and animal communities to thrive by cutting brush, pulling and spraying invasives, collecting seeds, monitoring rare species and preparing fire breaks. Show up for a day or become a steward – any level of participation is encouraged. No experience is necessary to start volunteering.

Photo By: Stephanie Herbst