It is the habitat that provides the enviroment for the biodiversity that exists at Crex Meadows. With its 30,000 acres containing multiple habitats, Crex Meadows provides food and shelter for a wide variety of plants and animals.
Conifer stands, mixed decidious hardwoods, brush prairie, sedge meadows, marshes, and shallow lakes provide the environments where the diverse populations can take root, thrive and even expand their foundations.
Probably the most significant part of the success of this restoration effort is the presence of the wetland areas, including the shallow lakes provided by the dike system in Crex Meadows. 18 miles of dikes create the 11,000 acres of wetlands here in the meadows, with 3 streams originating within the Crex Meadows Boundries. Of this 11,000 acres of wetland, aproximately 6,000 acres is considered open water areas.
The image above is the wetland above Phantom Lake. Many marsh birds including swans, ducks, bitterns and cranes use this wetland.
The image to the left is taken near the Diversion Pump station as I faced north. One of the deeper pools, frequently loons can be seen here.
Talking with the Wildlife Biologist at the Crex Meadows visitor Center, as a general baseline, the depth of the lakes is 6-8 feet deep along the dikes and these slope upwards, getting shallower as you move over the water and away from the dikes.
The image below is looking west from the diversion pump on Main Dike road.
I should also note that the diversity of the meadows itself is aided by the nearby Govenor Knowles State Forest area and the Burnett County Forest Areas that border the meadows boundries in spots.
Currently Crex Meadows contains between 7 and 8 thousand acres of restored prairie, with other areas in various stages of restoration.
One current effort is begining along the southeast portion of the existing Crex Meadows area near Main Dike road and East Refuge road.
Logging has removed many board feet of timber and the first spring of this cleared area has seen sunshine again.
Each of the remaining trees was marked with a red mark to show it was to remain and not be harvested by the loggers who purchaced the lumber.
The picture above is taken on the east side of this cut, facing west. Clicking the image will open a picture with a wider view of this newly deforested area.
When settlers and farmers moved into the area, fire suppression, drainage, and general agricultural practices changed the meadows significantly. The prairie was lost to field and forest.
Remarkably, while these native plants no longer showed themselves on the surface in these areas that were changed, their root systems endured below the surface and it was discovered, that once the forests were removed, the prairie plants resurfaced to populate these places they had once claimed as theirs.
The picture above was taken on June 28, 2007, and shows some of the new growth that has occured this year.
There have been similar discoveries in other areas where a once prairied area returns after the forest is removed, or other agricultural practices are stopped (dependant on which practices occured on this former praire).
The picture on the left is another view of the same area. Picture taken at the corner of Main Dike road and East Refuge Road. The view is facing south-southwest.
Another ongoing effort is restoration of Shorebird habitat. One example is a recently cleared area along West Refuge road, just past the Main Dike road (when traveling north) located on the Refuge side of the road.
This clearing is the begining stage of creating a shorebird habitat to provide a specialist habitat and increase the numbers of shorebirds that choose Crex Meadows as a stopping place and even to hopefully raise new broods.
The image to the right and the image below are portions of this new shorebird area under development.
This American Bittern was foraging in this newly altered area. I am going to assume the nest or young were nearby due to the fact this bird did not fly away even though I walked up and down the road above, several times.
The bird did not fly away or run even when I moved my car and saw it again. I took the pictures from the car window.
In an effort to ensure the long term health of this brush prairie area, the taking of live plants or their seeds is generally prohibited. If you have questions about a particular plant and whether you can harvest some of the seeds or plants for personal use, please stop at the Crex Meadows Visitor Center and discuss your need with one of the representatives. There are Dept. of Natural Resources officials who will do their best to accomodate requests. They will also issue tickets to persons who violate the laws that are applicable. Personally I have found the people at the Visitor Center to be very willing to help someone with their requests.