A Piece of the Ice Age Trail
The Polk Kames Kettle Hills Nature Preserve (Polk Kames) contains some of the finest kettle moraine topography in Wisconsin. The property has a total of 448 acres of mixed landscape, including forests, wetlands, and farm fields. Walking trails wind through the second largest cluster of kames in the state of Wisconsin. Kames are steep hills that were left over from the last Ice Age as the glaciers retreated. Early settlers used these steep hills for timber and grazing, but luckily much of the pre-settlement plant composition persists in the forest at Polk Kames.
On the property is the Cedar Lakes segment of the Ice Age Trail, which covers over three miles. These trails pass through a hardwood forest of old oaks, sugar maples, birch, and beech trees as well as along planted agricultural fields.
The spring months present a scattered display of woodland and prairie wildflowers, including trillium, wood anemone, mayapple, violets, jack-in-the-pulpit and a variety of ferns. During the warmer days of the year, frog-laden ponds create an early morning and late evening echoing chorus. At Polk Kames, there is also 0.8-mile kame trail loop, which curves around a prominent kame. Look for a large area of shooting star wildflowers on the hilltop north of the kame. It’s a good place to explore, and the fall colors are spectacular.
The Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation (CLCF) purchased the 108-acre Zuern Family Homestead in 2008. Geoff Maclay, founder of CLCF, began talking with the Zuern family about preservation in the 1980s. Charitable contributions raised by the Foundation under a long-term project entitled “Kettle Hills Nature Preserve” made the organization’s eventual purchase of the Zuern Family Homestead possible. Contiguous with properties which were previously preserved, the combined 435 acres of mid-kettle moraine landscape will remain as natural woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. In 2023, the DNR added an additonal 13 acres to Polk Kames, bringing the total acerage to 448.
Polk Kames benefits the public through the preservation of Wisconsin’s vanishing natural heritage, protection of wildlife corridors and improved water quality. CLCF transferred ownership of the lands it had purchased to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and is proud to have the Ice Age Trail Alliance and the WDNR as conservation partners on this extraordinary property.
You can enter the property from the parking lot on the south side of County Hwy NN, about
1/4 mile east of the intersection with State Hwy 144 at the south end of Big Cedar Lake.
The trail hike will present multiple wonders as you explore the ancient geological features, native wildflowers and tree species. Hope to see you outside!
Support What You Love!
Your gift will help us sustain the abundant natural beauty, clean water, and biodiversity of the Cedar Lakes region for generations to come.