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Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - Mendota

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - Mendota
Address: 4338 Beilfuss Drive
Hours: 4:00am - dusk
Park Type: Conservation
Acres: 122.08
Restroom: No
Drinking Water: No
Shoreline On: Lake Mendota

Park Details

Trailheads on Veith Ave., Sauthoff Rd., and Knutson Dr. access 0.6 miles of trails through lowland oak forest. Access also through Westport Meadows Park. See map for details. 

The 122-acre Mendota Unit of Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park is a diverse assemblage of emergent marsh, shrub-carr, and mesic oak forest plant communities.  Shrub-carr is a specific wetland community type composed of tall shrubs such as red-osier dogwood, aspen, and various willows.  It often occurs in transitional areas between open and forested wetlands, as it does here.  The marsh to woodland boundary also contains an alder thicket community, an especially rare vegetation type for Dane County, but one common farther north.

Park Highlights

The forest bordering the wetlands here are high quality and contain many large-diameter red and white oaks along with black cherry, red maple, hackberry, and box elder.  Despite evidence of limited logging, and possibly grazing, the trees all exhibit growth forms characteristic of the intense light competition typical of mature forest.  This, along with the presence of spring ephemeral wildflowers such as Dutchman's breeches, cut-leaved toothwort, and trout lily, indicates the existence of forest conditions here for quite some time.   

Visit Friends of Cherokee Marsh for more information.

Land Management

Management History 
The park acreage was assembled from various parcels beginning in the early 1980s to both protect the best remaining portions of Cherokee Marsh and to buffer the marsh from storm-water runoff resulting from an expected housing development in the Mendota neighborhood.  A trail system was established in 1997 following the removal of a house in the interior of the property.  

Restoration Efforts 
Relatively little effort at ecosystem restoration has occurred here due to the higher quality habitats initially observed.  However, since acquisition two forces have been leading to declines in herbaceous layer quality and extent: 1) forest succession to more shade- adapted tree species like basswood, maple, and hackberry; and 2) invasion by various invasive, exotic species.  Species like basswood and maple produce shadier conditions at ground level than oaks do, thereby suppressing the development of diverse wildflower assemblages.  Second, a number of invasive herbaceous species such as dame's rocket, garlic mustard, and Japanese hedge parsley have established dense populations as have shrubs like buckthorn, honeysuckle, multi-flora rose, and winged euonymus.  Future management work will target these species. 
How you can help
Learn to identify dame's rocket, garlic mustard, and Japanese hedge parsley. Then pull some of these plants from an area along the trail. This will help prevent the seeds from being carried away to invade new areas. Pile the plants in a central location to condense the infestation, or better yet, put them in plastic trash bags and take them with you. (There is a trashcan in the adjacent Westport Meadows Park.)
The Friends of Cherokee Marsh host several volunteer workdays throughout the year and throughout Cherokee Marsh.


At this Park

About This Park

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Conservation Park Rules

Conservation Parks are uniquely managed to further protect native species and wildlife. The preservation of conservation parks includes some of the following. More information may be found in Madison General Ordinances 8.40.

  • Alcohol

    Alcohol is prohibited in all conservation parks.

  • Bicycles & Motor Vehicles

    Bicycles and motor vehicles are restricted to entrance roads and parking lots.

  • Dogs

    Dogs and horses are not allowed.

  • Fire

    Fires and picnics are prohibited.

  • Firearms

    No firearms or weapons are permitted in the restrooms or shelters. Violators are considered trespassers and subject to forfeiture or arrest.

  • Glass

    Glass is not allowed.

  • Hunting & Trapping

    Hunting and trapping are prohibited.

  • Open Hours

    Conservation park hours are 4am until one hour after sunset.

  • Plants

    All plants and animals are protected. Disturbance or removal requires written permission.

  • Trails

    Stay on and use designated trails only.

  • Trash & Recycling

    Place trash in container provided. Please take recyclable material home for proper disposal.