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Cherokee Marsh

Oct / Nov 2022

In this edition

Brothers remember growing up on a farm at Cherokee Marsh

Jan Axelson

Fellow board member Jim Mand and I recently had a chance to walk in Cherokee Marsh - North Unit with Nick and Ed Hornung, brothers who grew up on a farm that is now part of the North Unit. Also on the walk with us were Nick’s daughter Stefanie and her daughter Lara.

Nick and Ed were two in a family of three boys and five girls. The farmstead was north of Wheeler Rd between N. Sherman Ave and Packers Ave, east of where St Peter Church is now. (A relative donated land for the church.) The stone farmhouse, no longer present, had two large cedar trees in front. The family had farmed the land since the 1890s.

The farm grew corn, oats, and three crops per year of hay. The family milked about 35 cows and had chickens, which their grandfather cared for. When the boys were young, there were horses, and Nick had a pet pig for a while.

Nick and Ed remember taking the tractor with their grandfather to the river to fish with cane poles and catching carp and turtles.

In the spring, to haul away rocks that had heaved up in the farm fields, they used a tractor-pulled sled called a “stone boat.” The men wondered if the rock piles they made still existed on the land.

Near where the Lu’s Pond and Bluebird trails meet (trail map), the Darling Company had a rendering operation. Meat scraps were dumped into barrels mounted on platforms and processed for use as dog food.

In more recent times, Madison Parks has called on Nick and Ed’s brother John to harvest marsh hay from the wetland east of N. Sherman Ave. Doing so is possible only in a dry year when a tractor can get onto the land. Harvesting the hay (much of it invasive reed canary grass) removes excess nutrients from the land and can also provide farmers with much needed hay in a drought.

The patch of woods on the southeast corner of N. Sherman Ave and Wheeler Rd has long been known as the Hornung Woods. The City of Madison recently purchased this parcel, which will likely be added to the adjacent Whitetail Ridge Park to the south.

The men were pleased with how the landscape looked, the many trails, and the large number of people enjoying the park on a Sunday afternoon. We very much enjoyed talking with Nick and Ed and appreciate their taking the time to share their stories with us.

Recent happenings around the marsh

On September 28, we held the last of four phragmites workdays this year in the Cherokee Marsh State Natural Area. We also held two phragmites workdays in Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park's South Unit. Thanks to all who helped keep these areas clear of invasive phragmites.

Welcome to Jazmine Bevers (above), newly hired Conservation Technician Trainee at Madison Parks. Part of Jazmine's responsibilities will be working with volunteers. 

We enjoyed hosting State Senator Melissa Agard and her staff for a paddle on the upper Yahara River.

Thanks to our donors for the Prairie Partner interns

Big thanks to everyone who donated to support this summer's Prairie Partner interns. In their 12 weeks with us, the interns worked hard pulling and cutting invasive plants at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park and Yahara Heights Park. The important work they accomplished wouldn't have been possible without your help.

Thank you to:

Susan Agee
Karl Anderson
Mary Arnold
Jan Axelson
Mary Binkley
Marsha & Peter Cannon
Richard Chatlosh
Janet Battista
Teague Devitt
Frederick & Cheryl Ellsworth
Ron Endres
Marcia Finger
Susi Haviland
William & Anna Marie Hunnex
Mikie & Karen Kuhman
Lesleigh Luttrell
Dennis Tande/Mary Manering
Paul & MegMcCormick
John McNeil
David Moyer
Wayne & Jackie Pauly
Nathaniel Ruck
Nancy Schlimgen
Elizabeth Tande

Upcoming events

Unless otherwise indicated, events are free with no registration required.  

Sign up to receive notices about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities including announcements for last-minute events and volunteer opportunities that don't make it into the newsletter.

See the full calendar for latest information.

Bird and Nature Adventures

Sunday, October 2, 1:30 - 3 pm, Fall Colors at Cherokee, with naturalist guide Sean Gere, Cherokee Marsh, North Unit


Sunday November 6, 1:30 - 3 pm, Ice Age Geology, with naturalist guide David Mickelson, Cherokee Marsh, North Unit. 

The first Sunday of EVERY month, year-round, ALWAYS 1:30 pm – 3 pm

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - North Unit, 6098 N Sherman Ave. Follow N. Sherman Ave. north to the parking area at the end of the gravel road.

Contact: Paul Noeldner,, 608-698-0104

Madison Parks bird and nature adventure page

Meet the Friends at the Northside Farmers Market

Sunday, Oct 2, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm

We'll be tabling at the market. Stop by and say hi!

Northside TownCenter, 1865 Northport Dr, near Willy St Co-op. 


Tour the North Unit with Parks Staff

Wednesday, October 12, 5:30- 7 pm

Join Madison Conservation Parks staff on a tour to see the progress that has been made in restoring oak savanna and oak woodlands. Increased fire management and invasive species removal efforts have transformed much of the uplands in the park. We’ll look at the results so far, and also look ahead to some plans for restoring wetlands as well. No registration needed, just show up. More information

SAWW Level 2 chainsaw safety training

Wednesday, October 12
Thursday, October 13

Details and registration

Hayrides and Hikes

Saturday, October 22 1:00 to 4:00 pm

Tour Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - North Unit aboard a tractor-pulled hay wagon, take a short guided hike, or do both! Plus enjoy free hot cider, a campfire, and marshmallows to roast on the fire. Hayrides are $3/person (Free for children 2 and under). Volunteers from the Friends of Cherokee Marsh  lead free, short nature hikes. No reservations needed; visit any time from 1 pm to 3:30 pm. More information

Board Meetings

Wed, October 19, 5:30 - 7 pm


Wed, November 16. 5:30-7 pm

Our board of directors is responsible for planning, coordinating, communicating, and managing our activities. Everyone is welcome to attend board meetings. We've resumed in-person meetings in the Warner Park Community Recreation Center or outdoors at the Warner Park rainbow shelter. Contact to confirm location.

Self-guided nature adventures

Get ideas for your own self-guided nature adventures at Cherokee Marsh and other locations.
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