Iowa County: Laura & Skinny Schlesselman Wildlife Area

schlessman2This wetland might win the prize for most “skinny” in name and shape!

I can’t find much information about either of the Schlesselmans, but their namesake wetland sure is skinny: about 100 feet (30 m) wide and 2,000 ft (600 m) long—so about 4 1/2 acres (1 ha) in area. Neither large nor especially pretty, it nevertheless had amphibians, ducks, blackbirds, Yellow Warblers, Skimmer dragonflies, etc.

This basin was excavated as a ballast pit, site of mining for rocks used to form the roadbed of the adjacent rail line. While visiting, the RR was doing maintenance and I observed the Ballast Regulator and the Mark IV Tamper. Both impressive, and incredibly LOUD machines.


The wetland is squeezed between the RR line and US highway 6. As we saw at Cottonwood Pits in Monroe County, mining operations may leave behind a basin of surprising ecological value.  Although I can’t help but imagine the heavy traffic over these transportation lines is disruptive to organisms here, I still see and hear much wildlife activity. Trails through the duckweed show paths of swimming animals. Calls of insects and birds were frequent and varied. The red-winged blackbirds and yellow warblers were especially active. I’m amazed at the many times I have visited natural (or semi-natural) areas and observed wildlife going on about their business, despite human activity.


The county conservation workers have provided a picnic table and trails, both obviously used. A nice place to watch the frogs hop, hear the red-wings yell at the trains, and in general consider the value of out-of-the-way wetlands.

What natural (or, not-so-natural) area do YOU enjoy?

Author: Paul Weihe

Associate Professor of Biology at Central College, traditional author (Textbook of Limnology, Cole & Weihe, 5th ed.; Waveland Press), and now...blogger!

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