Photo by Jim Rogala
Marowski Bluff Prairie
“I’m very happy to save this unique piece of land as it represents not only disappearing habitat but also the very character and uniqueness of the Driftless Area.” — Dr. Marowski, the generous landowner preserving a prairie for future generations.
When Dr. Marowski, a cardiologist living near Milwaukee, stood upon a steep bluff above the town of Ferryville, he was in awe of the stunning view. The Mississippi River, blue and majestic stretched below him, and to the north and south, the unique and ancient landscape filled the horizon. At his feet, he took notice of prairie flowers rarely seen any more and quickly understood the conservation value of the property.
Coulee Region Chapter
ACCESS & DIRECTIONS
Description & Significance
The Prairie Enthusiasts seek to protect as many prairie remnants as possible, especially when they are part of a larger complex. In the Driftless Area, these complexes are often a series of noncontiguous bluff prairies on south- to west-facing slopes that are sometimes called archipelagos. The Wisconsin DNR has identified Rush Creek State Natural Area as a high-priority protection area, in part because of the extensive bluff prairies found along the Mississippi River. A little further south along the river, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), owns and manages Sugar Creek Bluff, another State Natural Area with high-quality bluff prairies. Between these two properties are a series of privately-owned bluff prairies above Ferryville, WI.
Marowski Bluff Prairie contains a high-quality prairie with a full complement of bluff prairie plants such as dwarf blazing star, silky and aromatic aster, hoary puccoon, short green milkweed, leadplant and prairie dropseed. “I’m very happy to save this unique piece of land as it represents not only disappearing habitat but also the very character and uniqueness of the Driftless Area,” Dr. Marowski enthused. “The strategic location of the land between Rush Creek State Natural Area and Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area facilitates migration of many species of animals between both areas”. That was evident in our sighting of a black rat snake crossing the road by the site during one of our visits. The site’s position within the large archipelago also provides potential for exchange of plant genetics across the otherwise isolated bluff prairies.
The prairie is open to the public. Uses allowed must align with the Village of Ferryville.
In December 2023, Dr. Marowski generously arranged for the protection of his 11-acre property by The Prairie Enthusiasts, ensuring the land will be stewarded and enjoyed for generations to come. Additional support from Mississippi Valley Conservancy, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program helped make this protection project possible. Dr. Marowski also gifted The Prairie Enthusiasts with a land management endowment, which will provide resources to steward the habitat far into the future.
Stewardship of this prairie already began back in July of 2022. Working with Dr. Marowski, The Prairie Enthusiasts Coulee Region Chapter began restoration work on the bluff prairie. Volunteers removed some areas of sumac, red cedars and other aggressive vegetation from the site. There was already a healthy plant community there, with prairie plants like dwarf blazing-star and leadplant, as well as various birds, insects and reptiles that live on the site. The stewardship work that started and will continue in perpetuity will ensure this rare prairie ecosystem thrives.
This land, now named Marowski Bluff Prairie, is situated between Rush Creek and Sugar Creek State Natural Areas and contributes to an important protection corridor linking them together. Even though the remnant prairie at the site is in outstanding condition, it will need consistent land stewardship to remove and prevent tree and woody brush encroachment, which can shade out prairie plants. Part of that stewardship will be returning fire to the site using prescribed burns at regular intervals. The Prairie Enthusiasts Coulee Region Chapter invites the public to participate in upcoming work parties no matter what your experience level. Work parties will be scheduled this winter as weather permits. Additional volunteer opportunities and field trips will be available in the future.