From Glacier to Refuge

 Photographed April 18, 2015
Horicon National Wildlife Refuge
Waupun, Dodge County, Wisconsin
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Glacier to Refuge
Carved out by the Green Bay lobe of the Wisconsin glacier more than 10,000 years ago, Horicon Marsh has had a rich and colorful history.
This vast marsh, bordered on the east by the Niagara Escarpment, was a food source that drew Native Americans, such as the Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi, and eventually European immigrants to its rich waters. Soon after the European colonization, the marsh underwent drastic changes, some of which are still evident today.
Dam, Ditch, and Drain
The first of many changes began during the 1800s, when uplands were cleared for farming and a dam was built on the Rock River, transforming the marsh into Lake Horicon. When the dam was removed in 1869, the lake reverted to marsh and, once again, attracted large numbers of waterfowl. Horicon Marsh became widely known for hunting and underwent a 30-year period of minimally regulated market hunting. Two private hunting clubs leased and managed most of the marsh for waterfowl hunting until the early 1900s. Club members implemented some of the earliest hunting regulations in an attempt to decrease the effects of market hunting and ensure future populations of waterfowl.

More changes came in 1904. During an era when many people viewed wetlands as wasteland, the marsh was ditched and dredged in an attempt to drain the land for muck farming. In time, however, farming proved impossible, and the land -- dry and desolate -- often burst into spontaneous peat fires that lasted for days and sometimes weeks. 
Rally for Restoration
Disheartened by the condition of this great marsh, Louis "Curly" Radke rallied citizen groups to campaign to restore the marsh. In 1927, their efforts resulted in the establishment of the 10,000-acre Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. This area is made up of the southern third of Horicon Marsh and is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The remainder of the marsh was purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the protection and preservation of migratory waterfowl and established as the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in 1941. This 21,000-acre refuge encompasses the northern two-thirds of the 32,000-acre Horicon Marsh.
The marker is the first stop on the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Auto Tour & Trails tour. The entrance to the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge | Tempike Auto Tour is located on eastbound Wisconsin Highway 49, about three miles east of the Wisconsin Highway 151 exit, Waupun, Wisconsin 53963.

"Horicon" -- a Mohican word meaning pure, clean water.

Radke and citizen groups

Punt gun used by market hunters

Steamboat (M. Winter) on Lake Horicon

The marker is part of the display to the left.

The marker is located on the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge
Auto Tour & Trails in Horicon, Wisconsin.

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