Overview of the Preserve

Pleasant Valley Conservancy State Natural Area

For downloading (PDF): Photo overview and brief history

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Pleasant Valley Conservancy State Natural Area No. 551 is a 140 acre Preserve in western Dane County, Wisconsin. It consists of extensive restored oak savannas, dry, mesic, and wet prairies, wetlands, and oak woods. Scenic views and wildlife viewing are excellent, and several trails provide ready access to the Preserve. Especially noteworthy at Pleasant Valley are the fine restored oak savannas, once common in the Midwest but now very rare. The Preserve has many large open-grown white and bur oaks, which can be viewed from Pleasant Valley Road, and seen close up from the trails. The herbaceous layer in the savanna is highly diverse.

The Preserve provides excellent habitat for cavity-nesting birds, including red-headed woodpeckers, a characteristic bird of oak savannas. Red-heads breed in the Preserve and can frequently be seen from the upper ridge trail. Breeding bird surveys have found around 70 species, including a number of rare and/or interesting species.

Over 300 species of flowering plants have been recorded, including several rare ones.

Purple milkweed, a species endangered in Wisconsin, is found extensively in the savanna areas and is thriving. Other plant species found here that are threatened or of special concern include: upland boneset, cream gentian, glade mallow, yellow giant hyssop, prairie turnip, and sweet Indian plantain.

Pleasant Valley Conservancy is a site of The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE), an organization active in the upper Midwest. Part of the Conservancy is owned by TPE and the rest is permanently protected by a conservation easement donated to TPE by Kathie and Tom Brock.

 

 

Field Trips

Field trips are jointly sponsored by the Prairie Enthusiasts and Madison Audubon Society.

For details of future field trips see this link or call Kathie or Tom Brock at 608-238-5050.

Public Visitation

 

 

 

Public Trail Map

Pleasant Valley Conservancy is a natural area, not a recreation area. Motors, bicycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, or any other mechanical vehicles are not permitted. Walking and nature study are the principal activities possible. Walking is restricted to the trails shown on the map. Removal of plants and seeds is strictly prohibited. No dogs!

Download a PDF Version of the Map

Directions: The Conservancy is 5.5 miles southwest of the Village of Black Earth. Head south from the center of Black Earth on County Highway F/Wisconsin 78. Turn right at County F/County KP/Madison Street. Turn left on County F about 1.1 miles. Go 3.7 miles to Pleasant Valley Road, which enters from the left. Turn left on Pleasant Valley Road. The preserve will be on both sides of Pleasant Valley Road. To reach the trail entrance and Parking Area from the road junction, drive 0.5 miles past the steep hillside until you reach an open area and walking trail entrance on your left. Cars should be parked off the road facing the entrance.

Entrance to the hiking trail at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. The address is 4554 Pleasant Valley Road, Black Earth, WI 53515. Park facing the Preserve and follow the trail across the prairie (Pocket Prairie) to the marked trail up into the oak savanna. This entrance also has a rack for bicycles.

 

Bicycling

Bicyclists find the hill country surrounding Pleasant Valley Conservancy attractive, and a visit to the Preserve can easily be combined with a pleasant bike trip. A convenient rack is available at the Preserve entrance where bicycles can be locked.

An excellent outing is to drive with your bike to the Village of Black Earth and begin your bike tour there. There is a nice village park (Veteran's Memorial Park) where you can get set, and you can park your car in the shade on Park Street.

From Black Earth go west on County F/KP and take County F at the tee intersection about a mile west. Continue on County F about 4.5 miles until you reach Pleasant Valley Road, which starts at your left. You are now on Pleasant Valley Conservancy land on both sides of the road. Enjoy the great prairie remnant on your left, and the extensive wetland on your right. Travel about 0.5 miles until you reach the Conservancy entrance and Parking. Lock your bike and walk on the marked trail through the prairie and up into the savanna.

NOTE: Bicycles are not permitted on Pleasant Valley Conservancy hiking trails!

Above: Bicycle group from the Land Trust Alliance annual meeting arriving at Pleasant Valley Conservancy.
 
Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie State Natural Area
On your way to Pleasant Valley Conservancy from the Village of Black Earth you will pass another preserve that is definitely worth visiting: Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie State Natural Area. This preserve, also managed by Tom and Kathie Brock, is about 1 mile west of the Village of Black Earth at the corner of County F and Fesenfeld Road. This small but high-quality prairie remnant is one of the "jewels" of southern Wisconsin. The preserve entrance is about 1000 feet west from County F on Fesenfeld Road. Park in the small parking area or on the north side of Fesenfeld Road.
 
Winter activities
The hills make Pleasant Valley Conservancy an interesting place for cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. Although there are no groomed trails, if snow conditions are suitable, one can follow a good route from the entrance all the way to the west end of the savanna, where there is a bench and fine Overlook. A round trip can be accomplished in an hour or two. Although the regular savanna trail can be used to climb the hill, it is best when descending to stay on the service road which ends up at the same place.

 

Hunting

Hunting is allowed by permit only. Only deer hunting is permitted.

The regular Wisconsin deer hunting regulations apply. Pleasant Valley Conservancy is within the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) deer eradication zone of the Department of Natural Resources. For information on deer hunting, call Tom or Kathie Brock at 608-238-5050.

Protected Natural Area

Pleasant Valley Conservancy is permanently protected. It is owned in part by The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) and in part by Tom and Kathie Brock and TPE holds a conservation easement on the Brock portion of the Conservancy. Pleasant Valley Conservancy is a State Natural Area (number 551). No dogs!

Volunteer Activities

Pleasant Valley Conservancy welcomes the help of volunteers in its restoration work. Two activities that make considerable use of volunteers are controlled burns and seed collecting and planting. Burns are conducted in both the spring (March-April) and Fall (November). Seed collecting is a major activity from late August through early November. Planting is usually done in the spring after burns are completed.

More detail on volunteer activities.

For information about activities, including volunteer work parties, call Tom or Kathie Brock at 608-238-5050 or send a message.