Local Outdoor Recreation and Engagement

Whitewater is very close to significant outdoor recreation and involvement opportunities that allow you to get out and connect with nature and enjoy some of the best of what Wisconsin geography has to offer.  Some of what is offered in our area has been connected to our Volunteer Opportunities since engaging students in sustainability practices involves cultivating an appreciation for natural systems while 

Ice Age Trail

ice_age_trail_logoThe Ice Age Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails in the United States.  It is a 1,000-mile footpath roughly following the outline of the terminal moraine left behind from the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago (known as the Wisconsin glaciation) and takes you along some of the most scenic terrain in Wisconsin.   

Whitewater is special for glacial history because it lies near a unique formation formed near the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation.  A series of ridges 120 miles long formed between two immense lobes of glacial ice. Scattered among them, areas of crater- or kettle-like depressions were created by large chunks of melting ice. Geologists named this region the Kettle Moraine and the studies that began here during the 1870s led to key discoveries and the first map of the extent of continental glaciation in North America.  Many of the buildings on campus bear the names of glacial features (Moraine Bookstore, Drumlin Dining Hall, Esker Dining Hall and The Kettle, and Laurentide Hall) and examples of their namesakes can be found just a short drive away.


Whitewater is very fortunate to be located near 26 miles of the Ice Age Trail that run through the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit.  The Walworth/Jefferson County Chapter is the local volunteer chapter that has been maintaining our local trails and promoting use of the trail through events like guided hikes since 1993.  Check out their page for newletters, Trail Tales, and the events calendar.  If you are an avid hiker and would like to discover everything this local resource has to offer, consider becoming a "Kettle Trekker" by traversing all of the Ice Age Trail segments in our local chapter's territory.  There are similar programs in many of the other local chapters, including the Waukesha/Milwaukee Chapter's "Walk the Wauk" and Rock County Chapter's "Walk Acorss Rock County."  Chances are pretty good that if you're from Wisconsin, you probably have a segment of the Ice Age Trail nearby!

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit

The Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit is a unique natural area and among the first areas to be protected as a key recreational resource for nearby Milwaukee.  Today, you will find a wide variety of glacial hills, kettles, lakes, prairie restoration sites, pine woods, and hardwood forests in the 22,000 acres of area extending from the village of Dousman to the City of Whitewater.  The forest headquarters is also just a short drive up Highway 59 about three miles west of the village of Eagle.  Besides the Ice Age Trail that runs throughout the forest, there are opportunities for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiiing, camping, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, geocaching, and more.  

Consider exploring their website or reviewing the pages of this companion guide (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5) to learn more about the great variety of activities the Kettle Moraine State Forest has to offer with a short bike ride outside of Whitewater.  For example, the popular Whitewater Lake is at the southern tip of the Kettle Moraine and located near a guided nature trail for Rice Lake and a trailhead for the Ice Age Trail near the Whitewater Lake campground.  Whitewater Lake also contains an esker, where some of the most valuable real estate in our area can be found!  Nearby Natureland County Park has been a popular recreation spot for UW-Whitewater students for many years.  You can also stop at the Flowing Well on Clover Valley Road on your way out and back to get some fresh water.

State Natural Areas

sna_logoThere are a number of State Natural Areas (SNAs) in the immediate vicinity of UW-Whitewater.  While these areas are near pristine examples of our local wilderness, they are often not readily accessible for visitation.  Check out this guide or the web pages for each of the individual SNAs:

Clifford F. Messinger Dry Prairie & Savanna Preserve (No. 230)
Ottawa Lake Fen (No. 128)
Kettle Moraine Low Prairie (No. 88)
Scuppernong Prairie (No. 6)
Eagle Oak Opening (No. 66)
Kettle Moraine Oak Opening (No. 229)
Young Prairie (No. 132)
Bluff Creek (No. 271)
Clover Valley Fen (No. 213)

Adam Birding Conservancy

The Adam Birding Conservancy is a privately-held, 331 acre mix of prairie, wetlands and woods along the Bark River in Cold Spring, about three miles north of Whitewater, Wisconsin. Established in 2015, part of this e-Bird hotspot floods in the spring as the Bark River overflows its banks, creating an interesting habitat for migratory waterfowl. In addition to 166 different birds recorded on the site; pheasants, turkey, deer, coyote, otter, least weasels, zapus (jumping mice) and many other creatures call this land their home. The wet-mesic and upland prairie host a wide variety of plants, sedges and trees (135 species and counting, including too many nasty invasives.) The small woods contains a number of large burr oak; some were noted in the state's original surveying done in the 1830s.  The Adam Birding Conservancy is located here.

To gain permission to walk the property, please click on the "Join" link on top of their page to read and accept the rules.  Thank you!

Adam Birding Conservancy map

Local Organizations

If you are interested in connecting with organizations in our area that have a focus on sustainability issues, there are a few to choose from.  Some focus on particular environmental issues and others tackle the tasks involved with maintaining the integrity of outdoor spaces.  Many of these organizations depend on volunteer labor to sustain their efforts and the Sustainability Office has been exploring new partnerships with some of them to support their mission while exposing UW-Whitewater students to the value of community service.

The City of Whitewater Urban Forestry Committee is participating in Bird City Wisconsin and Tree City USA.  You can read more about each program on their respective web site pages.

More organizations will be added to this section at a later date.