prairie trail


Wehr contains over five miles of maintained trails which loop through and link the Nature Center’s natural communities:  Woodland, Oak Savanna, Prairie, Wetland, and Lake.  Look for Interpretive exhibit signs that highlight and explain the unique natural history of each of these communities.

The Nature Center trails are open from sunrise to sunset 7 days a week. Please help us maintain your nature preserve by following these rules:

  • Please stay on designated trails
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Pets are prohibited
  • Do not collect plants or animals
  • Fishing is not allowed
  • Bicycles and jogging are prohibited on trails for consideration and safety of visitors

Thank you for your respect.

The hiking trail loops are organized by the type of natural community they pass through and are marked with color coded wooden posts. Unmarked connector trails help to link these loops to each other and to other parts of Whitnall Park.

Lake Loop

1.5 mi

Follow the shoreline of Mallard Lake to where it flows over a beautiful waterfall into the Root River. This trail leads you through wetland, lowland forest, and along the base of the prairie. It travels over level terrain with boardwalk, wood chipped and gravel trails.

Woodland Trail

1.0 mi
Moderate to Difficult

Take a tour of Wehr’s forests as you hike up and down moraines left behind by the glaciers. You can see maple trees in our Sugarbush, visit 200-year old oaks in our Oak Woodland and hike through an early succession forest. This trail is a favorite of white-tail deer, turkey, and many song birds. Be prepared for some extended, steep slopes with steps on paths covered in woodchips and gravel.

Family Friendly Trail

0.5 mi

This trail showcases the diversity of Wehr’s natural communities in a family friendly distance. It begins at the Amphitheater and takes you by Mallard Lake, the Wetland, and the Woodland before returning you to the Visitor Center.  Benches and photo opportunities are frequent as you walk over level to moderately sloping terrain on paths of woodchips and boardwalk.

Red Trail – Grasslands Trail

0.9 mi
Moderate to Difficult

Explore the native grasslands of Wisconsin along this scenic trail. Stop by the interpretative exhibits to learn the difference between an Oak Savanna and a Tall Grass Prairie. This trail features steep, long slopes and mowed grass and gravel paths.

Wetland Trail

0.3 mi

The Wetland trail will lead you though a variety of wet habitats and showcases the beauty of this valuable ecosystem. Enjoy the view of Mallard Lake from the pier and take a rest on one of several benches. Look for signs of beaver and raccoon, and listen for the many birds and insects that make their home here.  A gently sloped wood chipped trail leads to a raised boardwalk loop.


Natural Resources

Wehr Nature Center’s acreage contains several admirable and diverse natural areas not commonly found in a suburban park. The nature center is located in an area of Wisconsin where wildfires historically occurred naturally, burned and self-extinguished due to increased overall moisture. Wehr has a unique set of natural communities with some that are dependent on fire for maintenance.

Fire dependent examples are savanna-like Oak Openings with open grown spreading oak trees surrounded by small prairie-like communities of tall grasses and herbaceous plants. Woodlands adjacent to these openings are excellent examples of Southern Dry-mesic Forest containing sugar maple, both red and white oak, shagbark hickory, black cherry and basswood trees plus jack-in-the-pulpit, bellwort and several fern species.

Many spectacular native wildflowers and remarkable native plants can be found throughout the center’s natural communities. This delicate flora has survived years of disturbance. Sedge meadow and related wetlands were very common before Whitnall Park was developed, and many areas are still intact. Rich soils around Mallard Lake also host various uncommon native flowering plants such as gentian and orchid species.

Floodplain forest is a natural community found along the inlet and outlet of Mallard Lake. Look for maple, ash, oak, willow and river birch. Trees and plants growing here must tolerate times of high; sometimes fast-moving water and deposited silt. Though the lake was man-made, it has existed long enough to function in the same way as a naturally occurring lake.

Wehr’s natural communities include planted prairie and savanna that mimic natural communities not historically found at the nature center. The native prairie grasses and flowering herbs growing here evolved to fit the unprotected climate with little rainfall, consistent wind, and occasional drought. These plants thrive in intense sunlight, as well as extreme temperature and moisture conditions.

See the Pre-settlement Vegetation Map for locations of historical natural communities.