At 23.5 acres, Moely (MAY-lee) Prairie is the largest remnant of the 14,000-acre Sauk Prairie. Because it is likely that this sandy site was never plowed, a rich array of native prairie plants persists here. Especially popular are the thousands of Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) plants whose wispy seed heads in late May and early June evoke a layer of smoke or fog. Also present in significant numbers are Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) cactus, Hairy Puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense), Prairie Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium campestre), Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) Rough Blazing-star (Liatris aspera), Dotted Horsemint (Monarda punctata) and Lead-plant (Amorpha canescens), species that survive in the driest of sites. In wetter areas Moely harbors dozens of Bush Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) plants. Native grasses include Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).
Denny Connor, (608) 516-1253, [email protected]
To see what's happening on Moely Prairie and to learn about upcoming volunteer opportunities and events, follow us on Facebook and on Instagram, @moelyprairie.
Access & directions
Moely Prairie can be accessed by either of two entrances. One is located at the dead end of Fullerton Dr. located in the Westwynde neighborhood off of Hwy PF in Prairie du Sac. The other entrance is located at the dead end of Alban Lane in the same neighborhood. (look for the wooden sign just as you enter) Street parking is allowed at either entrance.
To protect fragile plant communities and grassland birds, please leave pets at home.
Description & significance
Moely Prairie is unique among TPE managed properties in that it has become surrounded by residential and commercial development; this offers both challenges and opportunities. The prairie is already being utilized as a local educational resource. In 2018, guided by the Integrated Monarch Monitoring Project, citizen scientists including students from Sauk Prairie High School began collecting valuable data on Monarch butterfly numbers and habitat at Moely Prairie in a continent-wide effort to help save the declining species from extinction. The rich diversity of forbs, including three species of Milkweed, make Moely Prairie an important nectaring and breeding area for many pollinator species, including native bees.
Moely Prairie borders a designated “Bird City” and supports a diverse population of desirable bird species including declining grassland birds like Clay-colored Sparrows and Killdeer. With continued restoration and the help of community partners, Eastern Meadowlarks, Western Meadowlarks and Grasshopper Sparrows may once again find Moely Prairie a suitable habitat.
Moely Prairie is named for the Moely family, who settled nearby after leaving Switzerland in the 1850s, and is still owned by former Prairie du Sac resident Barbara Moely. In 2015, Ms. Moely permanently protected Moely Prairie through a perpetual conservation easement that entrusted management to The Prairie Enthusiasts.
Management tools include invasive species removal, tree cutting, prescribed burns, and mowing. The site is managed with the following objectives:
- Recovering and maintaining as much original prairie as possible
- Providing habitat for grassland birds and other native animal species native to prairie ecosystems
- Improving habitat for insect populations such as the threatened Monarch butterfly
- Providing educational opportunities for area students and the Sauk Prairie community
- Providing for improved water quality and supply to groundwater and area streams and rivers.