Brady’s Rocks

Brady’s Rocks was the site of my first major buckthorn cutting adventure!  Sometime in 1997 Pati and discovered the Ice Age Trail Alliance via a volunteer invitation fixed to a trail marker.  There we met a group of very inspirational people including: Ken Neitzke, Stacey Balsley, Mike and Yvonne Fort, Marlin Johnson, Dave Hock and many others.  They demonstrated how to make a difference on the land through hard work, planning and disciplined execution.  I began mowing the Eagle Segment of the trail and there encountered Brady’s Rocks.

In February 2000, I learned how to use a chainsaw to cut buckthorn while volunteering with Marlin Johnson at The Hartland Marsh.  The experience of clearing the understory of huge oak trees to reveal their majestic beauty was exhilarating and tremendously satisfying — I was hooked!  I began applying my new skill with a passion, cutting buckthorn at Brady’s rocks and along my favorite sections of the Eagle Segment of the IAT where the oaks were under attack.  Pati Holman was always there to help and support me.  In 2002 the Wisconsin DNR awarded Pati and I their “Volunteer of the Year Award”.

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Here is a description of Brady’s Rocks from the Ice Age Trail Alliance 2014 Guidebook (see page 272):

Brady'sRocks“The segment bends south and leads to a white-blazed loop trail (WK17) weaving between the 8-foot-high outcroppings of Brady’s Rocks, named for Irish immigrants Michael and Kathleen Brady who settled here in 1855.  These outcroppings are a portion of the Niagara Escarpment, a thick layer of dolomite that extends through Door County, dips under Lake Michigan and the state of Michigan and reemerges at the end of Lake Erie at Niagara Falls.  The cool, shaded area of Brady’s Rocks has a unique fern population, including the walking fern, fragile fern and cliff brake fern, found growing out of cracks in the dolomite bedrock.”

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Back in 2000, The Rocks were enmeshed in buckthorn and I remember sitting on my favorite perch there and contemplating how beautiful it would be to see through the thicket to the horizon on the west.  There were massive oaks among the rocks, intertwined with buckthorn and grape vines, and I imaged them free and clear.   My focus shifted from mowing the trail and working on IAT projects to cutting the buckthorn at Brady’s Rocks.

I used to park on the side of Hwy 67 and — pushing my gear in a wheel barrow — follow the Ice Age Trail along the escarpment all the way to The Rocks.   Buckthorn dominated the entire stretch of the trail obscuring the scenic views from the high ground on the escarpment to the Scuppernong River Habitat Area to the north and west.  The scope of my efforts gradually expanded to clearing the buckthorn from Hwy 67 all the way to Brady’s rocks and the wetlands just below them.

I called Brady’s Rocks home for 5 years while I worked there.

Check out this gallery of images from Brady’s Rocks that I captured on a recent visit.  I’m concerned about the lack of ferns.  There used to be numerous patches of walking fern, fragile fern and cliff brake among the rock ledges and now they are almost entirely absent.  Ron Kurowski, retired park naturalist, did warn me about this as a possible outcome of clearing the buckthorn: the increased sunlight and temperature would not be a suitable habitat for the ferns.  At the time I thought the amount of shade provided by the oak, hickory, cherry and basswood trees remaining would be enough, but it appears I was wrong and now ferns are almost gone (there may be other causes at play).  There is a lesson to be learned here and that is that major changes to the flora in an area must be considered for their effects on the ecosystem.  And obviously, you must consider the advice and recommendations of more experienced people when it comes to restoration work.

Going forward, I plan on working along the escarpment to keep the black locust and buckthorn at bay and also see what can be done to propagate the remaining ferns at Brady’s Rocks.  Visit the Volunteer page to see how you can get involved.

See you at The Rocks!

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