Located a mile west of the Milwaukee River in the City of Mequon, Spirit Lake Preserve is 155 acres. This preserve contains a one-half mile tributary that flows to the Milwaukee River, upland hardwood forest, lowland hardwood forest with ephemeral ponds cattail marsh, fresh (wet) meadow, and a small, restored grassland. The habitats boast an even more impressive animal population as sandhill cranes, turkeys, coyotes, deer, bald eagles and osprey can all be seen at the preserve. Additionally, for the amphibian lovers both green frogs and leopard frogs can be seen in the cattail marsh. Visit this preserve to hike, bird watch, fish, hunt or cross country ski.
With contributions from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District Greenseams Program, US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Milwaukee Audubon Society and various private parties, OWLT was able to buy this special piece of land from the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother - a community of women religious who desire to live the Gospel.
The Sisters used the land as a private retreat for many years and they’re pleased to know that the public will get to enjoy it forever. The property was also used by Native Americans as a place for spiritual gatherings. You can feel a special presence there.
A small, wood-frame cottage at the dead-end of a farm lane provided members of the order with access to solitude: a natural area encompassing the small body of water, an adjacent grassland and a forest with two separate canopies. The lowland woods is topped with swamp white oak, yellow birch and red maple. Ephemeral ponds form in depressions during spring, providing habitat for salamanders and frogs. Red and bur oak, shagbark hickory and ironwood dominate the upland. The spring carpet is colored by wildflowers: wild geranium, spring beauty, trillium and jack-in-thepulpit. An unnamed, intermittent stream cuts through a cattail marsh and wet meadow on the west edge of the property.
The forest is part of a larger natural area, known as the Highland Road Woods, recommended for protection by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. Fields on the northeast corner of the property are leased to local farmers. Those acres will remain in agriculture for a few years as the land trust works with other partners, including the Milwaukee Audubon Society, in establishing a management plan for the preserve.
Eighty-five acres of the property is under easement to the Greenseams program, a flood-control and water quality initiative of the MIlwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. This section includes the forest, marsh and intermittent stream. The water absorbing features of the property, full of black soil from decaying organic matter, which serves as a natural sponge, trapping water during heavy rains and reducing downstream flow. Fields on the northeast corner of the property are leased to local farmers. Those acres will remain in agriculture for a few years as the land trust works with other partners, including the Milwaukee Audubon Society, in establishing a management plan for the preserve. OWLT intends to transfer ownership of the entire property to Milwaukee Audubon in several years.
(excerpts from Order of Sisters Makes Sure Lake Preserve Remains Protected, Don Behm, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, June, 2015)