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Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Wooded river walk, artesian well and Indian mounds

Description of the Conservancy

Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a regionally significant natural area located on the north side of Middleton, Wisconsin. It contains a marsh with open water, springs, prairies, meadows, lowland forest, and wooded hills. 

The diverse topography of the 160 acre site provides panoramic as well as close up views of prairies, wooded hillsides, the Pheasant Branch Creek wetlands and several predominant springs that provide fresh water for Lake Mendota. 

A relatively flat walkway with some stretches of slight elevation will lead around the perimeter of the conservancy. However, you will need to navigate about 20 rough steps to access the artesian wells. 

A significant hill climb is required to visit a few low Indian Mounds and for a spectacular view of Pheasant Branch marsh and creek.

The Walk

A three mile walk along a wide graded path makes this walk one of the more accessible we'll offer this year. 

This walk includes access to multiple artesian wells.

An optional add-on to the walk is to climb  Fredrick's Hill to view the effigy mounds. This hill provides an elevated view of the majority of the Conservatory.  A compromise to climbing to the top of the Hill is to stop mid-climb (perhaps, to rest) for the views of the land.

Length of Walk

A 3+ mile walk will allow you to circumnavigate Conservancy, including the springs. Another 1/2 mile steep climb will bring you to the top of Fredricks Hill.

Trail Accessibility 

The 3 + mile walk around the water system has relatively flat surfaces that can be accessed with wheelchair (with assistance) or cane.  The footing is secure.

To access the springs, however, you will need to negotiate well maintained paths over short hills. The access paths to the springs are challenging by wheelchair and require an assistant.

The optional climb up Fredricks Hill is accessible to those needing ambulatory assistance

Driving and Parking Information:

  • There are three smaller parking lots on the east and north side of the Conservancy.  
  • However, I recommend using the parking lot at Orchid Heights Park, 3960 Valley Ridge Road, Middleton.  DIRECTIONS.
  • Access from Orchid Heights Park provides access to the relatively flat and wide paths along the creek and marsh.  It also provides access to the Springs and Fredricks Hill.

Additional Information


    Comments or questions about the walks?

    This self-guided walk was developed from a list of successful docent-led walks Carla and I and other faithful volunteers have conducted over the last four years.  I will be adding more to the list as the pandemic continues to keep us isolated.  Building these self guided walk is very much a "work in process".  If you have ideas for improving communications about the walks or additional information I could provide, please let me know.

    If you have a favorite walk please drop a note and I'll get back to you shortly.  Please mark the subject line of the email "PLATO Walks" so that I can get to them quickly.

    Mike DiIorio at or text me at 608 520 4448.

    I hope you enjoy the walks. Stay healthy, stay safe.

    PLATO is proudly supported in part by Oakwood Village.

    PLATO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in association with:

    for more information, contact us at:


    6209 Mineral Point Road #203
    Madison, WI 53705

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