A little north of Madison, on the way to Waunakee on Hwy. 113, turn right onto Bong Road. Yeah, it's an easy name to remember, Beavis. You're heading for the Westport Drumlin State Natural Area, 217 acres of conserved land devoted to remnant prairies, the hills of glacial till known as drumlins, and the largest stand of the threatened prairie bush clover in southern Wisconsin - 1,400-some plants.
The original 14-acre Westport Drumlin State Natural Area was established in 1984, but was accessible only through a land easement and required a 10-minute bushwhack - if you could even find the sign that pointed the way. Now, with the addition of Koltes Prairie and other lands surrounding the original site, there will be access to the drumlin from Bong Road, walking trails, and a parking area. Some of the new land is currently cropland, with restoration to prairie yet to come.
Those familiar with the Dane County landscape will feel right at home here, among the tall grasses and milkweed and burr oaks. Rising above the familiar southern Wisconsin landscape is a singular hill, quite different from the more rugged landscape west of Dane County in the driftless area.
A drumlin is usually an elongated hill that forms at the edge of a glacier and parallels the ice-flow direction, but in Dane County, drumlins tend to be more symmetrical. Westport drumlin hosts a remnant prairie at its crest and an oak savanna on its southwest side.
Preserving this area now is crucial, in light of the suburban development in Westport and neighboring Waunakee, says DNR private lands biologist and Natural Heritage Land Trust board member Darcy Kind. The parcel acquisitions and improvements are a result of work by the Department of Natural Resources, the Land Trust and the Prairie Enthusiasts. "Local governments have also been good partners," says Kind. She calls Saturday's dedication a "celebration of the site" and a way to recognize those who partnered to protect it. The Prairie Enthusiasts worked with the owners of the Koltes tract for many years to keep an original prairie remnant intact.
The official dedication is Oct. 1 from 1 to 4 p.m. Speakers begin at 1:30 p.m. Guided tours with various naturalists begin at 2:30, on the history of Westport, savanna birds, prairie plants, prairie restoration, prairie plants, drumlin geology and the prairie bush clover; signups are requested in advance (608-258-9797).
From the intersection of Highway 113 and County M, just north of Lake Mendota, go north on 113 1.7 miles, then east on Bong Road 0.8 mile. For more on Westport Drumlin, see the National Heritage Land Trust at nhlt.org.