Photo Essay: An Autumn Odyssey of Discovery
By Eddee Daniel
Autumn is coming on strong this year. But instead of my usual attempt to find the best peak colors I’ve managed in the past couple weeks to visit a number of new places—new to me that is—that I want to share with you. Some of these are so new that I haven’t had time to add them to our Find-a-Park map yet! For the ones that I have added to the map there are links to their pages so that you can see additional photos of them.
Although the emphasis here is on revealing new places, in the process I did discover some pretty sweet autumn colors, as you will see!
Calhoun Park, New Berlin
First, I want to thank Kimberly MacKowski/The Park Next Door for alerting me to the City of New Berlin’s park system. I’ve only been to Calhoun Park so far, but had a lovely walk there (in a light rain, which makes the autumn colors even more intense).
Kenosha Area Parks
The Kenosha Sand Dunes has been on my to-do list for a long time and I finally made it there. The colors are subtler than some other places, but I found them quite lovely. The small preserve is a disconnected part of the much larger Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area, which butts up against the state line with Illinois. On my way to the dunes, I stopped at Petrifying Springs, and Pennoyer, another beach park in Kenosha.
Fitzsimmons Woods, Franklin
This 43-acre “Isolated Natural Area,” protected by the Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy (MALC), contains woodland and wetland habitats. According to the MALC website, it is remarkably undisturbed by non-native species, one of the most intact woodlands in Southeast Wisconsin (so undisturbed that there aren’t even developed trails in it). I went there to meet with Beth Stoddard, who is just beginning a year as ARTservancy artist in residence in the preserve. (Stay tuned for future posts featuring this year’s ARTservancy artists.)
Newburg Area Parks
One of the more surprising recent finds was Blue Heron Wildlife Sanctuary, which I learned about from this year’s Treasures of OZ Eco Tour. If you don’t already know about Treasures of OZ (Ozaukee County), I highly recommend taking the tour, which is DIY this year due to the pandemic and going on right now, through Oct. 21. The big surprise for me wasn’t how beautiful Blue Heron was—and it was—but how many times I’d driven right past many times without going in! On the way to Blue Heron I stopped off at two other Newburg area treasures that are not on this year’s tour. (For more about the Treasures of OZ Eco Tour go to my posts from 2018 and 2019.)
Grootemaat Nature Preserve, Greendale
Once again, a place I’d driven by without stopping. Thanks to the emailed advice of a friend, on my way to an Urban Wilderness Explorers Meetup hike at Grobschmidt Park (one of my long-time favorites), I did stop at Grootemaat and discovered the single most spectacular autumn display so far this season. (The featured image panorama at the top of the page is from Grootemaat.)
Kinnickinnic River Parkway, Milwaukee
Okay, pinch (or punch) me if I’ve already said this, but I’ve driven down the Kinnickinnic River Parkway numerous times. You’d think that, over the years, I would have stopped to investigate once. After all, that’s what I like to do! Of all the surprises I’ve shared in this post, this one was the biggest. And for finally getting me to stop and explore this hidden gem, I have to thank Jessica Wineburg, the Milwaukee County Parks Trails Coordinator, who was there with a crew to do some trail maintenance and invited along. If the Kinnickinnic River brings to mind—for you as it typically has for me—the concrete channels that encumber much of it then I encourage you to check out the trails between Jackson Park and 68th Street.
But wait! There’s more…. More autumn that is—and more parks and preserves to go enjoy while it lasts! Find a Park.
Eddee Daniel is the Project Director of A Wealth of Nature.