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Grootemaat Park autumn panorama

Photo Essay: An Autumn Odyssey of Discovery

October 15, 2020  |  Topics: Places, Spotlight


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).

Calhoun Park maple leaves
Calhoun Park maple leaves
Calhoun Park pond
Calhoun Park pond

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.

Kenosha Sand Dunes
Kenosha Sand Dunes
Family outing in the dunes
Family outing in the dunes
A young oak in the dunes
A young oak in the dunes
Sunflowers in the Pike River floodplain, Petrifying Springs County Park
Autumn sunflowers in the Pike River floodplain, Petrifying Springs County Park
Autumn is also fishing season, which is clearly popular where the Pike River meets Lake Michigan at Pennoyer Park in Kenosha.
Autumn is also fishing season, clearly popular where the Pike River meets Lake Michigan, Pennoyer Park in Kenosha.
Fishing Pennoyer Park beach
Fishing Pennoyer Park beach

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.)

Beth Stoddard, artist in residence, in Fitzsimmons Woods
Beth Stoddard, artist in residence, in Fitzsimmons Woods
To appreciate the forest, sometimes you have to look up...
To appreciate the forest, sometimes you have to look up…
And sometimes down

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.)

The Milwaukee River at Blue Heron Wildlife Preserve
The Milwaukee River at Blue Heron Wildlife Preserve
Asters at Blue Heron
Asters at Blue Heron
The Sugarbush House at Riveredge Nature Center, Newburg
The Sugarbush House at Riveredge Nature Center, Newburg
Berel Lutsky, another ARTservancy 2020 artist, at Kratzsch Conservancy
Berel Lutsky, another ARTservancy 2020 artist, at Kratzsch Conservancy

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.)

Trail head at Grootemaat Nature Preserve
Trail head at Grootemaat Nature Preserve
Wetland, Grootemaat Nature Preserve
Wetland, Grootemaat Nature Preserve
The Urban Wilderness Explorers at Grobschmidt Park
The Urban Wilderness Explorers at Grobschmidt Park
Cycling a street bike along the Forked Aster Trail, Grobschmidt Park
Cycling a street bike along the Forked Aster Trail, Grobschmidt Park

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.

Jessica Wineburg, Mke Co Parks Trails Coordinator, on KK River Trail
Jessica Wineburg, Mke Co Parks Trails Coordinator, on KK River Trail
Female downy woodpecker, KK River Trail
Female downy woodpecker, KK River Trail
A woodland stick fort village, KK River Parkway
A woodland stick fort village, KK River Parkway
The KK River in autumn splendor
The KK River in autumn splendor

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.