The Wetlands of North Pikes Creek

Wetland communities have a common characteristic - they are periodically saturated with or covered by water. There are dozens of wetland types, which are characterized by vegetation, soil type, and degree of saturation or water cover. The North Pikes Creek Wetlands are comprised of a variety of wetland habitats including...

Alder Thickets. This wetland type is found along the shoreline of North Pikes Creek and its tributaries occupying the zone between the creek and the forest. These thickets are characterized by small trees less than twenty feet tall, and woody shrubs such as alder and dogwood. Ferns, sedges, grasses, and wildflowers grow among the shrubs. Seasonal flooding keeps these thickets from becoming forests. Alder thickets provide valuable habitat for migratory and nesting songbirds, and game birds like ruffed grouse and American woodcock.

Forested wetlands, often referred to as "swamps", occur along North Pikes Creek and are dominated by trees greater than twenty feet tall. The soil is saturated during much of the growing season and is covered by standing water seasonally due to snowmelt and runoff from rain. Two types of forested wetlands occur in the watershed:

Hardwood Swamps. This type of northern forested wetland is dominated by deciduous hardwood trees, primarily black ash, with some aspen, red maple, and Northern white cedar. Hardwood swamps provide important habitat for owls, hawks, bats, amphibians, warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, woodpeckers, and wood ducks.

Coniferous Swamps. This type of forested wetland is predominantly cedar, white spruce, and balsam fir, but also includes some black ash, aspen and paper birch. 

Ephemeral ponds within the forested wetlands fill with water following snowmelt and spring rains but usually dry out by mid-summer. These ponds provide breeding habitat for invertebrates and many amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders. They also provide feeding, resting and breeding habitat for songbirds. More than 100 species of birds and seven species of bats benefit from the robust insect production in these seasonal ponds.

For more information about wetlands, visit the Wisconsin Wetlands Association or the Wisconsin DNR websites.