Birding and hiking remain perennial favorites among outdoor enthusiasts, and Rock and Jefferson counties offer prime opportunities for both.
Much of the Greater Lake Koshkonong Important Bird Area is located in Jefferson County. The Important Bird Area (IBA) program is worldwide, initiated in Europe in the mid-1980s and brought to the United States in 1995. In 2004, IBA was launched in Wisconsin and, according to the Wisconsin Birds website, over 90 areas around the state now have this designation.
The Greater Lake Koshkonong IBA is notable for its large migratory waterfowl population. The area includes all of Lake Koshkonong and surrounding wetlands, the Lake Koshkonong Marsh State Wildlife Area and Rose Lake and Red Cedar Lake State Natural Area.
To receive the designation, an area must meet certain criteria and surveys must be conducted. Penny Shackelford, secretary for the Lake Koshkonong Wetlands Association, said her group helped complete the survey, which included documenting all the bird species in the area. The process, she said, took two years.
Shackelford highly recommends visiting Dorothy Carnes County Park and Rose Lake State Natural Area, just west of Fort Atkinson. Visitors will find miles of accessible trails and a platform overlooking the lake. Birds are abundant and the woods and views of the lake are beautiful.
Birders and hikers can also follow segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail at Riverside Park in Janesville and the Rock River Trail. At Riverside Park, the Devil’s Staircase is especially popular.
For further adventure and exploration, the Wisconsin Wetland Association website provides a comprehensive list of wetlands to explore as well as “100 hidden wetland gems in Wisconsin.”
For more information, check out the following sites: