Archived entries for Driftless Area

Scenic farm and bluffland property protected forever.

We received some wonderful news last week from our member land trust Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC). If you have a connection to the Mississippi River Valley, or simply care about protecting special places in Wisconsin, you’ll want to read MVC’s press release below:

Mississippi River Valley Property Conserved

A drive the through the Mississippi River Valley now features brilliant fall colors, and a short distance east of Ferryville, Mississippi Valley Conservancy has ensured 189-acres of scenic bluffland will remain intact for future generations. The Conservancy completed a conservation agreement with Ken and Deneen Kickbusch on Thursday, October 20th to permanently protect their 189-acre farm and bluffland.  The voluntary conservation agreement protects the scenic beauty and wildlife habitat by limiting future subdivision, development, mining, and other unsustainable activities that are inconsistent with the landowner’s wishes. The land remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

“The animals and the birds don’t always have contiguous habitat, and our land can make a difference for the wildlife,” said Deneen, “we have so many great memories here.” Their memories include hunting trips with sons and grandsons, camping within view of the Mississippi River, working in the prairie, serenades by whippoorwills, and startling wood ducks out of the ponds.  Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director for the Conservancy stated, “Ken and Deneen have been so thoughtful about the use of their land and the future of that land. We are honored to be a part of realizing their dream to protect the wildlife and its habitat.”



The Kickbusch 189 acre property is comprised of farmland, bluffland and prairie communities. Its protection ensures wildlife and native plants will have suitable habitat, forever.  

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

The Kickbusch’s bought the land in 1976, attracted to the rural character, the lack of buildings, and the wildlife. The land is a mix of agricultural land and wooded bluffs, with the steep rugged topography characteristic of the Driftless Area. Ken and Deneen recognized the importance of land preservation, watching changes to the landscape as commodity prices rise, stating, “a conservation easement would provide the kind of protection that this highly erodible land deserves”. Nationwide an acre of farmland is lost every minute from conversion to other land uses. Over the years, terraces and water retention ponds were added to the Kickbusch property to address soil erosion and runoff. “When we bought the property, we restored the ponds,” said Ken, “which were as full this year as they have ever been, and always used by the wood ducks. Once, I counted sixteen wood ducks flying out of the pond.”

The land also includes several “goat” prairies, labeled as such because the early settlers thought they were so steep, only a goat could climb them. The prairies include the same wildflowers and grasses that were present here 200 years ago. The agreement with the Conservancy ensures that habitat remains intact for wildlife, and future owners honor the conservation practices within the farmland. “There is just too much abuse of the land, devastating local communities, rivers, wildlife,” said Ken “we felt this was something solid, something real we could do for the future”.


Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid, found on the Kickbusch property. The orchid was recently added to the DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern”. The native wildflowers & grasses found today have been present on the Kickbusch land for over 200 years. 

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

“The Kickbusch’s land provides a great example of how little is known about the habitat right here in our backyard,” remarked Abbie Church, Conservation Director for the Conservancy, “as we walked through the prairie, we found a small stalk of snow-white blooms, and a Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid. We walked on to find five other stalks. This orchid was recently added to the Wisconsin DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern” and the University of Wisconsin herbarium has no previous records of this orchid being found in Crawford County. One week later we found yet another species of rare orchid, this time in the woods, another new record for Crawford County.” The prairie today is in great shape due to Ken and Deneen’s efforts. “Fifteen years ago Ken went out and cut the red cedars in the prairie,” according to Deneen, “It looks much better today than ever before; the prairie is so beautiful”.


Celebrate the Best of the Driftless Area with us this Spring

Our signature Land Legacy Gathering is approaching! This year the event will be held on April 27th at the Malcolm Stack Foundation in Ridgeway, WI – mark your calendars and make plans to join us!  The Malcolm Stack Foundation was established in 2001 to promote land conservation, education, and equestrian activities through scholarships, grant-making, educational opportunities, and use of its facilities.

The Foundation property, which has been permanently protected by the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, is situated in the beautiful driftless area of Iowa County and provides a unique ecosystem for a varied collection of plants and wildlife. Visitors of the land may see deer, red-tail hawks, bobcats, foxes, or even a bald eagle! In a sense, the driftless area is like a fossil: it shows how the entire Midwest looked before the glaciers altered the landscape. Because this land was spared from the glaciers it includes pine relics and oak savanna as well as dramatic rock outcroppings and natural prairie. On a clear day one can even see the Baraboo Hills from the Foundation property, which is one of the premier geological sites in Wisconsin and is home to Devil’s Lake State Park.


Some of the many rock outcroppings that can be found on the Foundation Property.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Foundation property is the story that is told by the valleys, caves, and rock outcroppings. Five-hundred million years ago Wisconsin, as well as most of North America, was sitting on the equator – about 13,000 miles from where it is now – under a shallow ocean. The solidified lime, mud, sand, silt, and shells that accumulated in this ancient ocean can still be seen today at the Foundation! These layers of rock are like pages in an ancient book, each page telling an exhilarating geological story.

Please mark your calendars and join us for the 6th annual Land Legacy Gathering in April where we will start off with a hiking tour of this special property and experience the story that it tells for ourselves.

Gathering Waters • 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 270 • Madison, WI 53703 • PH 608-251-9131 • FX 608-663-5971 •