DMNA Nature and History Trail Narrative 2015

Nature and History Trail Map

Readable map and more info for self-guided tours available in brochure form. Stop at kiosk at intersection of SW Commuter Path and Glenway Street, or ask at Monroe Street Library, for copies. Please notify SW Path Chair if none are available (Sandy Stark,


Originally a stone quarry, this area adjacent to Glenway Street south of the SW Commuter Path was donated to the City of Madison as a park in 1943.  Its large rock outcroppings, established tree canopy and shrubs soon attracted the interest of the landscaper Jens Jensen, who proposed an elaborate design for a children’s park where families could meet and explore.  Today, City of Madison Parks and the DMNA are actively working on the most feasible parts of this plan. The park recently celebrated its landmark designation with a plaque at its southermost entrance. (Info from DMNA booklet, Exploring the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood (2000), available on DMNA Parks & Gardens web page)


Jensen’s second council ring in our neighborhood, built when he was in his 80’s, is situated at the highest point in Glenwood Park.  Jensen's original design for the entire children's park included a series of circles, with the council ring a symbolic part of this pattern, since to Jensen it signified contemplation and community.  It is a neighborhood gathering place, as intended, with its winter solstice event a family favorite. Part of the long-term plan for the park is the repair and restoration of the stonework.  The Parks & Gardens page on the DMNA website has more photos and information, and there will be a dedicated tour between the two Jensen council rings this Fall.

#3:  PLOUGH INN/ARBOR HOUSE (3402 Monroe Street, corner of Copeland)

Built in 1853 by German immigrants as their residence, and likely cut from stone from the quarry that became Glenwood Children's Park, the sandstone part of this building  acquired a brick addition 5 years later by an English glass blower, who named it after the ploughs they sold. It was a tavern and stage coach stop on the old Monroe Road for decades, as well as a writer's studio and antique store, among other uses, before becoming the Arbor House Bed and Breakfast in the 1980's. In addition to its designation as a Madison Landmark, it has received environmental awards for its "green" design and landscaping.  (from Exploring the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood, 2000)


The 20 acre Wingra Oak Savanna is bordered by lower Monroe Street and the Marion Dunn Pond & Prairie, and Ho-nee-um Pond.  Artifacts found in this area date back 4,000 years, suggesting its use for centuries as a Native American hunting and fishing camp. Some effigy mounds in the general area (other side of Monroe Street and along Lake Wingra)  were lost early to farming, subdivisions, and road construction. (See Frank Court, Pioneers of Ecological Restoration, University of Wisconsin Press, 2012, for more information on this and other sites on this tour).

Within the UW-Arboretum boundaries, this area is actively co-managed by Arboretum staff and volunteers. It features large hackberry and one hundred year old bur oak trees, once part of an open savanna and now being restored to tackle the box elders, dogwood, honey-suckle, and buckthorn that grew up after the land was acquired by the Arboretum in 1936  and most grazing animals were removed.  As part of an ongoing effort to work with neighbors who value shade trees, dense bird habitat, and large trees like cottonwoods, the Arboretum has partnered with DMNA volunteers to promote education about its goals and the management of oak savannas. (Exploring the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood, 2000)


Designed by Jens Jensen in memory of his young grandson, this limestone structure, completed in 1938, was built by Edison Wheeler, Kenneth's father, and his fraternity brothers from Sigma Phi.  It is a signature structure and location for Jensen, who promoted designs consistent with a landscape's history and character.  Sitting under oaks and in a shaded area with native plum and crab apple trees, and sited above a natural spring that flows into Lake Wingra, the council ring has a single entrance and a continuous stone seat around one section.  Like the oak savanna and the springs, the council ring is a valued and protected historic site, approachable only on foot by marked trails from the parking lot off Arbor Drive. (Exporing the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood, 2000)

#6  ARBORETUM SPRINGS:  Lime Kiln (below Council Ring) & "Dancing Sands"  Seepage

These two are among the 8 springs left that still flow into Lake Wingra.  Lime Kiln (or Marston) Spring is sometimes referred to as the Council Spring due to its location, and the sandy seepage on the other side of the spring crossing, off a boardwalk, has locally been called "Dancing Spring."  (For more information on springs, see D. E. Brown, "The Springs of Lake Wingra," in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 10, #3, 1927).

Fresh water springs are not only "supply lines" to Lake Wingra but, as archeologists remind us, they are also sacred to the Native Ho-Chunk who once populated these shores and whose stories and artifacts abound...for Ho Chunk people, they are places for gratitude, reverence, and links to the underworld.  In fact, many water-spirit effigy mounds have long tails that point toward springs." (Birmingham and Eisenberg, Indian Mounds of Wisconsin, 2000)


A Ho Chunk name meaning "Sanctuary," this shallow inlet was created by dredging in 1938-39.  It has become so silted that it is now completely cut off from Lake Wingra by what used to be a small island with a passageway. The pond supports scores of turtles, handfuls of ducks and geese, and small mammals, and is a refuge, as its name implies, for migrating and some over-wintering birds.

#8  SYCAMORE TREE (Arbor Drive, above Ho-Nee-Um-Pond)

It is likely the Arboretum planted this tree, now over 50 feet high, in the 1940's. Its light color, huge trunk with multiple long limbs, has large leaves and at times a very noticeable peeling bark, all of which make it a neighborhood favorite. (Exploring the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood)


Along the shores of Lake Wingra (at 337 acres the smallest of Madison's lakes), and bordered by neighborhood streets and the Arboretum, Wingra Park was established when the owners of an ice house (located near the present Wingra Boats docks) went out of business and returned the land to the City of Madison. In the early 1900's, the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association acquired it as a park. Since then, it has had several name changes, three versions of a boat house, and many recreational and landscaping additions.

Lake Wingra, in its early times, was mostly wetlands, supplying wild rice, fish, ducks, and small mammals for those who relied on hunting and fishing.  Over the past two hundred years, human use of the lake and its watershed have changed, and dredging and dams have reduced the size of Lake Wingra as well as the number of springs that historically fed the lake. In response, Dane County, the City of Madison, the UW-Arboretum, the Friends of Lake Wingra, and various neighborhood associations in the Lake Wingra Watershed have intensified cooperative efforts to improve its water quality and habitats. (City of Madison Parks website)


Located at the intersection of Knickerbocker and Arbor Drive, this small grove was made possible in early 1900 by the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association and its dedicated president, John Olin, who managed during his tenure to establish 269 acres of park land, a park commission, and a “park-building” organization for the City of Madison, effectively raising funds and volunteers for developing and maintaining our city parks. (David Mollenhoff, Madison: A History of the Formative Years, 1982) Reportedly, bur oak was one of his favorite trees.


Maintained by DMNA volunteers, the edible orchard was planted in 2010 by winning enough votes in a nationwide contest to have cherries, peaches, juneberries, raspberries and other fruits in a small area leased to DMNA by Madison Parks.  Decorative plants and vegetables were added later. (see DMNA Parks & Gardens page on DMNA website for more information)


A Regent Neighborhood 2014 Community Grant Project, this is approximately 1200 square feet of native plantings designed to attract pollinators and a recently constructed community space with cut stone benches.   Plants you will see here include coneflowers, bee balm, black-eyed susan, Canada wild rye, penstemon, liatrus, wild indigo, butterlyweed, hyssop, and stiff goldenrod. It is mostly maintained by RNA volunteers, with financial support from DMNA, among others, and is an excellent example, like Prospect Ramp Gardens east of this site, of joint projects along the SW Commuter Path.  For photos and more information see

 #13  GLENWAY PRAIRIE (and woodland rain garden area)

The last stop on the Trail Loop, Glenway Prairie is a good example of a mixed mesic prairie site, with short prairie grasses, wild indigo, black-eyed susan, liatrus, asters, milkweed, and a variety of early spring flowering plants. Planted in 2007, it is maintained by neighborhood volunteers and others appreciative of its beauty at a busy intersection on the SW Commuter Path. The rain garden and wooded area south of the path are cared for cooperatively by DMNA volunteers and residents of nearby houses who share water and mowing time to keep the area healthy and attractive. In the Fall, handfuls of seeds from these sites are harvested to start new areas along the pathway. All DMNA prairie sites are made possible by the City of Madison Engineering Division, with donations and plant sources from MG&E and the Graham-Martin Foundation, among others.



This is the first official prairie planted along the path in our neighborhood (2001). Amazingly, where the prairie is now located was the staging area for part of the path's construction. As such, it was covered with crushed assphalt and large equipment, and filled with four tons of sand in one section. From the 320 plants put in by the opening day for the SW Commuter Path, it has become our largest and most diverse prairie along the path.   It is maintained by volunteers from several neighborhoods who gather for seasonal burns, remove invasive shrubs and plants, and--with help from City of Madison Engineering--keep its edges mown and trimmed to enhance its appearance. Plants you can find here include the tall compass plant and prairie dock, yellow and pale purple coneflower, big bluestem and indian grasses, and the impressive bush-size wild indigo, New England aster, bottle gentian, and boneset.  Volunteers harvest some of the seeds to extend the plantings down the path, but it is important to let the plants naturally reseed the area as well for a well-balanced, sustainable prairie site. The prairie plantings on the other side of the path across from this site are maintained by volunteers from the Westmorland Neighborhood, many of whom live in the houses whose back yards extend to the path.

You can find much more information about the planting of the path and this prairie in documents at the bottom of the SW Path page.


Maintained by the Greenspace Committee of the Westmorland Neighborhood Association, this area is being transformed from a weedy ditch characterized by erosion and thick pockets of aggressive invasive plants into a native prairie site after years of cooperative and intensive labor by Westmorland volunteers, the City of Madison Engineering Division, and MG&E, whose utility poles and substation require constant upkeep. This year, especially, the area is coming into its own, with big bluestem, black-eyed susan, joe-pye weed, and various forms of sunflowers more visible than the garlic mustard, Canada thistle, and burdock that had taken over before.


Built in 1983, and recently upgraded, this desilting pond was dug to catch stormwater run-off debris before it reached the Arboretum wetlands and, ultimately, Lake Wingra. The area is named after Marion Dunn, a retired nurse central to establishing the prairie around the pond itself. After the holding pond's upgrade, new plantings were established, so what you will see in this area now is not yet as lush and fully grown as before, but will be with time.

D  DUCK POND SPRINGS (UW Arborteum, in Nakoma Neighborhood south of Nakoma Rd.)

Also known as Gorham Spring, the duck pond is "usually thought of as being fed by one large spring outflow but actually consists of upwelling groundwater that emerges at five points beneath the stone wall at the intersection of Spring Trail and Nakoma Road." (Wingra Springs blogsite, Steve Glass)  The pond is the home to families of mallards, and a favorite destination of locals.  The construction of a portion of the stone wall can be attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright--a historical feature wonderfully in synch with the philosophy and landscape principles of another landscape architect influential in our neighborhood,  Jens Jensen.


You will find this well-marked bird effigy a short distance from Wingra Park on the Edgewood College Campus, near the library and Woodrow Street. Two more conical mounds remain along a path to the north of the grade school playground.  In all, seven mound groups remain on the campus grounds. (Native American Mounds in Madison and Dane County, Birmingham and Rankin, 1994)  For photos and discussion, see the DMNA History Committee page, where you can access a video tour, and the website


Across from the main entrance to Edgewood College at Monroe Street, this neighborhood-planted area frames the sidewalk at the south end of the Leonard Street cul-de-sac. Maintained by neighbors to make this walkway more attractive, it serves as a its own small green gateway of shrubs and flowering plants between the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood and the Edgewood campus area.


Another joint project between Regent and Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhoods, the Prospect Gardens began as a spontaneous response to add green space to a rocky and commonly flooded stretch of the SW Path and, with volunteer labor and City of Madison Engineering support, has evolved into a well-managed series of perennials, native plants, grasses, shrubs,  berry patches and cherry trees.  Depending on the season, look for jack-in-the-pulpit, prairie smoke, lupine, black-eyed susans, the spectacular and tall Queen of the Prairie, pale purple coneflower, and false foxglove. DMNA volunteers stenciled the murals you see on cement edges. For photos and more on the history of this site, see Jake's blog at:


Purchased by the City of Madison in 1857, this tract of land was valued for its view, "overlooking the entire city and the surrounding lakes. Even today, this tree-lined cemetery, with its official entry located on Speedway Road, retains an original park-like atmosphere with winding roads and flowerbeds." (City of Madison Parks website)

Created at the time of the Civil War, Forest Hill Cemetery is one of the first U.S. National Cemeteries in Wisconsin, with two military burial plots for Union and Confederate soldiers. Much earlier, however, Native Americans had claimed it as a burial area for their warriors. These effigy mounds, registered in the National Register of Historic Places, can be found in Sections 15 and 35 (the goose effigy and panthers) They have been amply researched and written about by Charles Brown and Robert Birmingham, among others, but a convenient place to find more details is the University of Wisconsin Nelson Institute website project shepherded by William Cronon, Forest Hill Cemetery: A Guide, found at:


This 10-acre oak woods located between Glenway Golf Course and the Southwest Commuter Path is an undeveloped park that the City of Madison Parks and neighborhood stewardship groups support and maintain for its excellent stand of large canopy oaks and some indications of diverse wildflower populations.  That this forest has retained good quality is probably due to farm grazing being discontinued prior to the 1927 opening of Glenway Golf Course.  It is accessible by footpaths parallel to the SW Commuter Path and the golf course and, on the east end, Forest Hills Cemetery. Highly prone to erosion, it is not recommended for biking. (For more on the woods and a City of Madison Parks-approved maintenance plan, see the PDF file at bottom of SW Path page)


NOTE: a pdf with photos from the July 9th trail launch, including short tour to the Arboretum off Monroe Street, is at the bottom of the this page---keep scrolling! Photos added as they are available.