Mounds View Grassland

Mounds View Grassland is a 572-acre preserve that encompasses three separate TPE units: A-Z Farm, Schurch-Thomson Prairie, and Shea Prairie.  Additional information regarding the history, management goals and practices, maps, access and species lists for each unit can be found on its own respective web page.

Site steward
Rich Henderson, 608-845-7065, [email protected]

Access & directions

The Mounds View Grassland preserve is located south of US Highway 18/151 between Barneveld and Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.  The properties are situated between County Highway F and Mounds View Rd.  See site-specific pages for access points. Addresses are:

Schurch-Thomson Pr (8624 Reilly Rd, Barneveld)
Shea Pr (3095 Mounds View Road, Barneveld)
A to Z Farm (3200 Arneson Road, Barneveld)

Further information


Description & significance

The preserve is significant for its remnant prairie vegetation and associated rare insects, and as wildlife habitat at both local and state levels, such as the Wisconsin-endangered/Federal Special Concern Species regal fritillary butterfly (Speyeria idalia) as well as many declining grassland bird species including bobolink, dickcissel, upland sandpiper, and Bell’s vireo.   In fact, it may play a critical role in prairie ecosystem conservation in Wisconsin, for it lies within the 95,000+ acre Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area (MRPHA). The MRPHA has been identified as the highest priority for landscape-scale grassland protection and management in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and represents one of the best opportunities in the Midwest to protect prairie remnants and area sensitive species.  The agricultural history of the area has helped keep the landscape much as it was when the first settlers saw it (Figure 1) and has made it possible for plants and animals like grassland birds, which have disappeared in more developed parts of the Midwest, to survive.  The Mounds View Prairie complex is one of the three most significant concentrations of prairie sod and grassland bird habitat within the MRPHA. 

Figure 1, Pre-settlement vegetation of Mounds View Grassland area

In addition to grassland plants, insect and birds, the site is home to many amphibian, reptilian and mammalian prairie species, including our state animal - the badger!  Along with prairie and oak savanna habitats, the preserve has cold-water streams, springs, seeps, and wetlands that add much to its biological diversity. 

The Prairie Enthusiast’s long-term goal for the Mounds View Grassland is to restore, as much as feasible, its original prairie, along with some limited oak savanna.  It is also TPE’s intent to expand the preserve should opportunities arise.

The current cover on the 572-acre preserve is:

Planted prairie 33%
Non-native cool-season grass 22%
Active cropland 16%
Active cropland 9%
Woodland & brush 9%
Pastured remnant prairie sod 7%
Wetlands 3%

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Natural history

Mounds View lies near the eastern edge of Wisconsin’s driftless, or unglaciated, region.  Its bedrock geology was formed 450-470 million years ago during the middle Ordovician period of the Paleozoic era. The Galena, Decorah and Platteville Formations remaining as dolomitic ridges rising 1150 feet above sea level surround the site, providing breathtaking panoramic views.  The gently rolling hilltops of dolomite slope down to shallow valleys with the side slopes covered in St. Peter’s sandstone (Figure 2). The excavations of recently constructed badger dens can be observed in the easily excavated sandy soils.   The St. Peter Sandstone is underlain by dolomitic rocks of the Prairie du Chien Group (Figure 3), which are not observable at Mounds View.

The Galena and Platteville Ordovician formations contain more fossils than any other geologic strata in Wisconsin.  While stromatolites and oolites are lacking, the environment at the time was very hospitable to a broad range of bottom-dwelling, shell-forming animals such as brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, clams, and crinoids.

From: Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey Preliminary Geology of Iowa County, Wisconsin Plate 1
W.G. Batten and J.W. Attig  2010

From: Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey Preliminary geology of Iowa County, Wisconsin Plate 2
W.G. Batten and J.W. Attig   2010

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Limited restoration work was begun in 2000, but most has been started since 2007, after permanent protection began to occur.  In addition to planting prairie vegetation, land has been cleared of dense trees and brush that had invaded the site over the previous 60 years.  Some restoration of the cold-water streams and wetlands has been started (Shea unit). 

The restoration and management work has been done by volunteers and interns, and aided by contractors paid for with grants from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, WI Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, Paul E. Stry Foundation, Alliant Energy Foundation, and private donations.

Ongoing management efforts include clearing trees and shrubs, weed control, use of prescribed fire, and planting of prairie seeds.  There is still much to do, and it will take many decades to even begin to approach what the original ecosystems were like. 

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Plant List

Over 400 plant species can be found on Mounds View, nine of special concern, state or federally threatened, or endangered.  Click HERE to see comprehensive plant inventory.



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