Also known as Halfway Prairie Dane County Wildlife Area, this was a brief stop on my drive from Tower Hill back to Madison. I had seen it on my way to Spring Green that morning and thought to myself, Hey! Didn’t I see a picture of that on Flickr earlier? Maybe I should check it out on my way home! So that’s precisely what I did.
There’s really not a lot of information about this place online, probably because it’s still relatively new (opened to the public in 2012) and relatively obscure. Fortunately, there was some signage at the site to provide some background!
Visible from the road are two structures: a barn and some ruins. These make up what is left of the Matz Farmstead. German-born Friedrich Matz came to Milwaukee in 1848. Upon reuniting with his brother, he got a job working on the railroad (all the livelong day, I’d wager). In 1852, when he had enough funds, he headed west to the town of Berry (near Cross Plains) and bought some land. Even though the house burned down in 1949, the farmstead stayed in the Matz family until the land was donated to Dane County and designated as a wildlife area.
Matz had himself a pretty big chunk of land when all was said and done; 128 acres split into two sections (95 acres on one side of Matz Road and 33 acres on the other). There is a 2-mile loop available for hiking or snowshoeing on the property, which covers a nice portion of the 95-acre section of the park.
Sadly, I was not in any shape to explore even a fraction of the area. My foot had really started bothering me about halfway through my time at Tower Hill, and when I got out of my car at Halfway Prairie, I realized it definitely still hurt. A lot, actually. Nonetheless, I was there, so I hobbled about and took a few photos.
I hope to get back when I’m a little more able-bodied to take in the trail and see if I can stumble across some wildlife. (I also want to visit Indian Lake County Park, which is just across WI-19.) For now, I’m glad I stopped and took a quick look around, even if it was brief (and painful).
If you want to visit Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area, here are some things you should know:
- Uses for this area are listed as follows: Hunting, Trapping, Hiking, Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing, Wildlife Viewing, and Foraging. Not allowed? Horses, motor vehicles, camping, and biking.
- Dogs are allowed but have to be on a leash (8′ or shorter) during bird nesting season (roughly April through July).
- There’s not so much a parking lot as a gravel patch on which to park one’s car. It’s fairly small, but odds are good you’ll find a spot.
- You can get up close to the barn; the ruins are behind a fence, but you can still get pretty close to them, too.