Naturalist Journeys, LLC - Small Group Birding and Natural History Tours

Aldo LeopoldAldo Leopold’s Wisconsin
Exploring Special Places Touched by Leopold’s Land Ethic: A Special Departure for the Aldo Leopold Foundation
October 13-19, 2013


Aldo Leopold Shack, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonIf you are interested in conservation, places wild and wild things, there’s a good chance you are familiar with Aldo Leopold’s lyrical essays in A Sand County Almanac.  Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. Through the Aldo Leopold Foundation, his legacy lives on.

This tour, framed in Wisconsin’s glorious fall colors and heralded by the call of Sandhill Cranes preparing to migrate, is a great opportunity to learn more about Aldo Leopold’s life, work and philosophy.  Join us to spend time at the Leopold farm and Shack, where the inspiration arose for many of his essays. You will have time to contemplate and discuss Leopold’s conservation ideas and to visit the new Leopold Legacy Center, where the inspiring work of advocating a land ethic continues. In addition to generous time at the Shack and with the Aldo Leopold Foundation staff, you will explore Wisconsin places where Leopold, his family and students worked, learned and planted the seeds of a land ethic that continues to grow and endure.

Prairie Wildflowers Aldo Leopold Wisconsin Tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonLeopold, deservedly known as the “Father of Wildlife Management,” wrote the first text and taught the first course at the University of Wisconsin. A superb teacher and researcher with a great ability to connect with landowners, he and his students were involved early on with farmers on the prairie near Lake Mills in a cooperative research and wildlife management project. From the Milwaukee airport we head to Faville Grove Sanctuary where we explore wonderful prairie and see how a conservation ethic continues to spread in the community.

Given to new ways of thinking, Leopold saw opportunities to try and restore health to land “worn out” by bad management. He and his colleagues at the University tested those ideas with the first ever prairie restoration at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum—the second stop on our tour.

After our initial night in Madison, we settle in for the remaining five nights at River’s Edge Resort, on the Wisconsin River a few miles upstream from the Leopold farm. From this central location, it is a short drive to the International Crane Foundation where you will see the world’s 15 species of cranes. Then we head north to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week. Leopold and his students did pioneering work here too. Today, the refuge is involved in a project to reintroduce and establish a migrating flock of wild Whooping Cranes.Wisconsin Prairies, Aldo Leopold Tour, Wisconsin Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembleton

Wisconsin was also the boyhood home of John Muir and we enjoy a gentle morning hike through the glacial terrain that instilled him with a love of landscapes. In the afternoon we explore the Leopold farm with the Aldo Leopold Foundation staff. We will see the family’s restoration work and learn how the staff continues to manage and protect this special place, then end our day with a Dutch oven meal and watch Sandhill Cranes come to roost in the Wisconsin River.

Leopold’s interest in practicing all-inclusive land management led him to be involved in the first watershed soil conservation project at Coon Valley. When you see the beauty of this rolling farm country it will not be hard to imagine the past. Likewise, the fall beauty found in the meandering Kickapoo River Valley will capture your senses and make you rejoice that people cared enough to protect this special place.

Our last day starts at Devil’s Lake State Park, perhaps Wisconsin’s most beautiful landscape, which harbors a variety of plant and animal communities in a setting that spans most of the geologic history of the state. We conclude our day at the Leopold Center with a land ethic discussion and our farewell dinner.



Wisconsin Wildflowers, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin Tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonSun., Oct. 13  Arrivals in Milwaukee / Lake Mills / Welcome Dinner/Madison
Please plan your arrival at Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, before 2 pm. Once you arrive, go up to the information desk on the main level where we gather for our departure. This is one floor above baggage claim with elevators conveniently located. If you arrive early, visit the Mitchell Gallery of Flight Air Museum near the information desk. Milwaukee was vital and General William Mitchell played a colorful leadership role in aviation. Almost hidden in the museum is the story of Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, whose leadership and steady hand saved that spacecraft and his crew.

Wisconsin Wildflowers, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin Tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonArriving by rail? The Milwaukee Airport Railroad Station serves rail passengers connecting to flights at Mitchell International Airport.

This would also be a good opportunity to slip on your field footwear and get ready for our first adventure to one of the places where Aldo Leopold and his students began pioneering studies in ecology and wildlife management.

We depart east to Lake Mills for exploration of some beautiful prairie lands at Faville Prairie State Natural Area and Madison Audubon’s Faville Grove Sanctuary. In the 1930’s landowners invited Aldo Leopold and his students to study wildlife and provide advice and assistance on how to manage and protect habitat that would sustain those populations. Leopold established close relationships with the farm community and recognized the unique qualities of the 2500 acre expanse of wet bottomland Crawfish Prairie that bordered the west side of the Crawfish River. Realizing that this prairie was being converted to grazing and crops, Leopold persuaded private donors to purchase and donate 60 acres to the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in the 1940s. It was designated as Faville State Natural Area in 1952, honoring pioneer homesteader Stauton Faville. In recent years, Madison Audubon and local landowners have purchased over 500 acres of surrounding lands and restored more than 200 acres to native prairie flora. Leopold’s efforts to connect people to the land and to an idea of land ethics have continued to grow for 75 years.

We continue to Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, for our welcome dinner and overnight accommodations.
Accommodations in Madison, WI. (D)

Mon., Oct. 14 University of Wisconsin Arboretum / Prairie Restoration / Leopold Shack and Center
University of Madison Arboretum, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin Tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembleton
After a good night’s rest and breakfast, we check out of our lodging and head to the nearby University of Wisconsin Arboretum. Simultaneous with his research efforts at Faville Grove, Aldo Leopold was a member of the University’s Arboretum committee. With foresight they focused their efforts on restoring landscapes with native vegetation to conditions similar to those prior to large-scale human settlement and alteration. With six years of assistance from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) starting in the heart of the depression, the arboretum became the birthplace of ecological restoration. The Arboretum has continued restoration efforts ever since and now has both the oldest and most extensive collection of restored ecosystems. We hike through head-high grasses of the first prairie restoration ever attempted and visit several of the other restorations at the Arboretum.

After lunch, we head north into the famed “sand counties” that inspired many of the essays in A Sand County Almanac, and where Aldo Leopold and his family spent many of their weekends at their beloved “Shack” on the banks of the Wisconsin River.

Aldo Leopold Foundation, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin Tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembleton

We arrive at the Leopold Legacy Center, where the Aldo Leopold Foundation staff gives us an introduction to this innovative and award winning campus that serves as headquarters, visitor center and meeting space. In 2007, the U.S. Green Building Aldo Leopold Shack, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonCouncil certified the center as the first ever carbon neutral facility and awarded it their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification with the highest rating in the world at that time. The new center, sometimes described as “putting a roof on the land ethic,” was designed and constructed to embody and carry forward Leopold’s thinking and philosophy for future generations.

After touring the Legacy Center, we devote the remainder of our afternoon to the first of several explorations of the Leopold farm and Shack. Whether it is your first visit, or a return, this is inspiring ground and evening is a wonderful time of day to experience the place that is revered in conservation history.
Accommodations at River’s Edge Resort, Lake Delton, WI (B,L) Dinner is on your own.

Sarus Crane at ICF, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonTues., Oct. 15 International Crane Foundation / Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
After breakfast, a short drive takes us to the International Crane Foundation (ICF) where you will visit all 15 species of the world’s cranes, six of them considered endangered, including North America’s Whooping Crane. The elegant beauty of these birds will capture your imagination and give you insight to Aldo Leopold’s graceful descriptions of Sandhill cranes in his Marshland Elegy essay. The restored prairie vegetation at ICF enhances our experience as we tour this amazing facility devoted to saving cranes.

ICF has continually expanded its efforts since the 1970s, when cofounders Ron Saugey led efforts to protect Siberian cranes wintering in India and George Archibald led a campaign to Brolga at ICF, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembletonprotect the marshes of Hokkaido for the endangered Red-crowned cranes. Over the years ICF pioneered conservation techniques and partnerships throughout the world. Today, ICF works globally to establish habitat and protection to secure a future for all crane species beyond this local facility.

After a picnic lunch, we head north to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, the perfect place to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week. With more than 68 square miles (43,000 + acres), Necedah has a varied mix of prairie, savannah, pine-oak forest, wetlands and sedge meadow habitats and is large enough that Northern Gray Wolves are residents. Prairies here harbor Bobolinks and the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly; the oak savannahs shelter a population of Red-headed Woodpeckers, and wetlands host many species of waterfowl including Trumpeter Swans and Whooping Cranes.

Necedah NWR, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonIn the early 1930s Aldo Leopold’s graduate students, Frederick and Francis Hamerstrom, carried out pioneering research on Greater Prairie Chickens that were near extinction in Wisconsin. Their work established the refuge as a leader that now has a long history of successful wildlife restoration efforts that include Canada Geese in the late thirties, Wild Turkeys in the fifties, Mallard Ducks in the sixties and Trumpeter Swans in the nineties. Today, those efforts continue with reintroduction of Whooping Cranes in an attempt to establish a new wild breeding flock, and the state’s largest restoration of native prairie-savannah habitat.

After an orientation at their new (2011 LEED certified silver) visitor center, we hike some of Necedah’s mix of habitats and then explore the best wildlife observation points. With a bit of luck we’ll spot Red-Headed Woodpeckers and Whooping Cranes and many others from the refuge’s check list of 221 species. If we are really lucky around sunset we may get to see wolves or even a Black Bear.
Accommodations at River’s Edge Resort, Lake Delton, WI (B,L,D)

Necedah NWR Visitor Center, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembleton

Wed., Oct. 16 Muir Childhood Park / Kettle Lakes / Leopold’s Pines and Prairies / Dinner at the Shack and Crane Watching
Fall Color, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonJohn Muir is among the long list of Wisconsin’s great conservation leaders. His intense work ethic, love of the land and appreciation for its esthetic values was honed on the glacial landscape of his childhood home. The Muir homestead is so close that a visit is an opportunity too good to miss.

A short post-breakfast drive takes us to a wonderful hike around 30 acre Ennis (Fountain) Lake at John Muir Memorial County Park. Ennis is a glacial kettle lake formed in a ground moraine approximately 12,000 years ago, and the Park is included as a segment of the 1,000-mile Wisconsin Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The beautiful two-mile foot trail around Lake Ennis will take us through a series of Wisconsin plant communities including; prairie, sedge meadows, wet forest with tamarack, dry forest with a mix of oaks, and other hardwoods.Wisconsin Forests, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembleton

After a picnic lunch, we return to the Leopold Shack. We explore and learn from the Dutch Oven Cooking, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonFoundation’s staff how they plan and carry out a scientific program of ecological and restoration management. We will walk among the pines planted by the Leopold family that supplied much of the lumber for the new Leopold Legacy Center, examine the restored prairie and learn how the staff maintains its health, and see how they contend with invasive plant species and other contemporary issues.

Depending upon the weather we will move up to the Legacy Center or remain near the Shack to enjoy this evening’s dinner, prepared in the Leopold tradition of Dutch oven cooking. This leisurely time and informal meal gives you time to contemplate and discuss your impressions and experiences.

Sandhill Cranes, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonWe cap off the evening with an experience that will thrill your heart and refresh your spirit. We take a short walk down to the banks of the Wisconsin River behind the Shack to the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s viewing blind, where we watch and listen to Sandhill Cranes coming into the shallow waters and sandbars to roost for the night.
Accommodations at River’s Edge Resort, Lake Delton, WI (B,L,D)

Thurs., Oct. 17 Coon Valley / Kickapoo Valley Hike/ Evening Campfire and Readings
Today we head southwest toward the small town of Coon Valley and the scenic “bluff land” farm country east of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin’s Western Uplands. We enjoy this charming bucolic farm country with steep hills and narrow valleys during fall harvest, one of the most colorful times of year.

When this country’s first soil conservation project started more than seventy-five years ago the area would accurately have been described as devastated by erosion. Missed by the glaciers, this  “driftless” area has steep hills composed of fertile but highly erodible wind-blown soils.

Wisconsin Farmland, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonBy the 1930s, more than a century of farming left the landscape deeply scarred with gullies and plagued by floods that washed the upland farms into valleys, ravaging riverside farms and villages and destroying streams. Conditions were so bad that Coon Valley farmers were offered free supplies, labor and services for signing on to the project. The U. S. Soil Erosion Service brought in the Civilian Conservation Corps for labor as well as experts in many fields. Instrumental in the project, Aldo Leopold worked as part of the team that provided landowners with advice about wildlife habitat restoration.

A decade later, when Leopold wrote The Land Ethic essay, he lamented how many farmers had given up conservation practices that were not immediately profitable once their five-year contracts had expired.  Leopold might not be totally pleased today, but he would likely have a bit brighter reflection on the continuing positive impacts of this project. Even as farm economics have shifted, farmers maintained conservation practices that stopped severe erosion and restored valley streams, so that they support healthy trout populations once more.

Kickapoo River Valley, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed PembletonOn our return trip we stretch our legs with a hike in the beautiful Kickapoo River valley, which is home to both Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. These areas protect more than 12,000 acres of scenic forests, bluffs and rock outcropping surrounding the twisting Kickapoo River.

Similar to Coon Valley, the Reserve is a story of land misuse and restoration. Plowing and cutting of forests in the Kickapoo River watershed led to such severe flooding that a dam in the Kickapoo River valley was proposed, authorized and partially completed. The project, overcome by environmental concerns and economics, was finally halted in 1975. In 1996 the purchased lands were transferred to the state of Wisconsin and the original Native American inhabitants, the Ho-Chunk Nation, for educational purposes and low impact tourism. Today, forests are recovering, the natural character of the land is returning, and the winding Kickapoo River is recovering.

After dinner, we gather around a campfire, read some of our favorite Leopold essays and reflect on our experiences.
Accommodations at River’s Edge Resort, Lake Delton, WI (B,L) Dinner on your own.

Fri., Oct. 18 Devil’s Lake / Baraboo Hills / Aldo Leopold Center / Catered Dinner
We start our day with a hike at Devil’s Lake State Park a beautiful site with unique plant communities and striking geologic contrasts that are truly highlights of the 1,000-Devil’s Lake State Park, Aldo Leopold Wisconsin tour, Naturalist Journeys by Ed Pembletonmile Wisconsin Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The oldest rock in southern Wisconsin forms the 500 foot walls of the gorge while the youngest geologic glacial deposits block both ends to form the lake in Wisconsin’s most popular state park. With 200 nesting bird species, almost 900 species of plants and four State Natural Areas, this is a spectacular place, made all the richer by splendid fall foliage. Long recognized for its rich diversity, the park and its surrounding area inspired the designation of the state’s first natural area and many other pioneering conservation efforts.

After our morning of exploring Devil’s Lake and enjoying a picnic lunch, we return to the Leopold Legacy Center for a special discussion with the Aldo Leopold Foundation staff about our relationships to land and building common ground for others to share our values and build upon Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic.” The Foundation is so committed to building a community dialogue of this nature that they are training people from across the country in the art of these discussions as part of their Land Ethic Leaders Program.

We conclude our day and our tour with a catered farewell dinner at the Leopold Legacy Center followed by an informal reception for Foundation staff, board and supporters.
Accommodations at River’s Edge Resort, Lake Delton, WI (B,L,D)

Sat., Oct. 19 Departures 
We check out of our accommodations at 9:00 AM and depart for Milwaukee General Mitchell Airport (MKE) for flights scheduled after 1:00 PM.


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Aldo Leopold said,
“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”

Ed Pembleton   Sil Pembleton

Ed and Seliesa (Sil) Pembleton count themselves among those who cannot. The couple delights in introducing children and adults to the wonders of the natural world. For over 30 years as educators, naturalists and conservationists the Pembletons have led field trips to explore landscapes, celebrated wild things and marveled at the annual gathering of more than 500,000 Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska.  They spent their honeymoon in the Ozarks (on a canoe adventure) and have returned ever since. As a 14-year employee of the National Audubon Society, Ed was instrumental in directing national and worldwide attention to the river and the cranes. As director of the Leopold Education Project, he promoted Aldo Leopold’s philosophy of land ethics. An accomplished photographer, Ed’s pictures appear in books and national magazines.

Sil has written wildlife books for children, worked at the Smithsonian Institution and for 10 years was director of environmental studies at Hard Bargain Farm, an outdoor education facility on the Potomac River. She has been invited to Japan several times to teach environmental education “American style.” The couple enjoys birding, hiking, gardening and canoeing. They look forward to sharing their expertise on rivers and prairies on upcoming Naturalist Journeys adventures.

Cost of the journey is $2295.00 per person, based on double occupancy, from Milwaukee, WI (MKE).  This cost includes: accommodations for 6 nights, most meals as specified in the itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), airport welcome and transfer or hotel shuttle, land transportation during the journey, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. A portion of the tour fee will benefit the Aldo Leopold Foundation, working to carry on the legacy of Aldo Leopold. Single supplement is $375.00

Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Milwaukee, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, or gratuities for luggage handling or personal services. With fewer than 6 participants, a small-group surcharge (typically $100-200 per participant) may apply, or we may request that you pick up the cost of a few additional dinners in lieu of this surcharge.

Tour participants are asked to be a member of the ALF to join this special tour.

Group Size: Maximum of 12 and minimum of 4 participants.

The airport for this journey is Milwaukee, WI (MKE).  Most major airlines serve Milwaukee including: Air Canada, AirTran, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and United Express. Plan on arriving in Milwaukee no later than 1:00 PM on Oct. 13 and departing after 1PM on Oct. 19.

Naturalist Journeys, LLC is an equal opportunity service provider and committed to the goal of ensuring equal opportunity for all in employment and program delivery.

Photo Credits:
All images, ©Ed Pembleton.

Fostering the Land Ethic through the legacy of Aldo Leopold

The Aldo Leopold Foundation's mission is to weave a land ethic into the fabric of our society; to advance the understanding, stewardship and restoration of land health; and to cultivate leadership for conservation.

The five children of Aldo and Estella Leopold (pictured above) established the Aldo Leopold Foundation as a not-for-profit conservation organization in 1982.

About the Foundation
The Aldo Leopold Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, donor-supported organization based at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The foundation’s mission is to inspire an ethical relationship between people and land through the legacy of Aldo Leopold. Leopold regarded a land ethic as a product of social evolution. “Nothing so important as an ethic is ever ‘written,’” he explained. “It evolves ‘in the minds of a thinking community.’” The foundation's membership forms a modern day "thinking community," and the foundation's programs create opportunities for rich, diverse, and productive dialogue with members and others about humanity’s relationships to land, allowing the idea of a land ethic to unfold in myriad ways.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation owns and manages the original Aldo Leopold Shack and 300 surrounding acres, in addition to several other parcels, and we also manage much of the remainder of the 1,800-acre Leopold Memorial Reserve. The foundation is committed to the ongoing restoration of the Leopold Shack and Farm, where, in 1935, Aldo Leopold and his family undertook a revolutionary experiment in returning health to a worn out farm. Celebrated in Leopold’s classic A Sand County Almanac, the transformed land now supports vibrant forests, wetlands, and prairie and draws visitors from around the world. First published in 1949, A Sand County Almanac has sold over two million copies in ten languages.

The foundation’s headquarters are located in the Leopold Center, located less than a mile from the Leopold Shack and Farm. Opened in 2007, the Leopold Center was built using pines the Leopold family planted in the 1930s and ‘40s and implements a wide spectrum of green building techniques and technologies. The Leopold Center begins to demonstrate the many ecological, economic, and cultural harvests we may begin to reap when we commit to caring for land.

As the primary advocate and interpreter of the Leopold legacy, the foundation manages the original Leopold farm and now-famous Shack, serves as the executor of Leopold's literary estate, encourages scholarship on Leopold, and serves as a clearinghouse for information regarding Leopold, his work, and his ideas.

The foundation's land stewardship initiatives work with neighbors and others to foster an understanding of the total land community. Science and Stewardship programs encourage ecological and ethical use of private and public land, promoting an understanding of the total land community. Education programsserve 5,000 - 7,000 visitors on-site each year, in addition to many thousands more served through this website, our Green Fire film, and other outreach programming, including a clearinghouse of Leopold teaching tools for educators.

Leopold's words have stirred many to a personal ecological awareness. The foundation's goal is to share the legacy of Aldo Leopold and to awaken an ecological conscience in the people of our nation. As long as we care about people, land, and the connections between them, we have hope for sustainable ecosystems, sustainable economies, and sustainable communities.

We invite you to connect with us to learn more and become engaged in your social networks on Facebook and Twitter. Tour participants are asked to be a member of the ALF to join this special tour.

Naturalist Journeys LLC, a top birding and nature tour company, offers specialty small group travel to many of the best nature destinations worldwide. Naturalist Journeys’ expert guides have decades of experience leading guided nature and birding tours as well as travel photography tours, all with a focus on responsible travel and eco-tourism. Naturalist Journeys also offer Utah hiking adventure tours and adventure travel in national parks and wildlife reserves ranging from in-depth Alaska wildlife tours to guided Texas and Florida birding tours. Costa Rica nature and birding tours are among our top-rated as are our Panama nature tours and African wildlife safari tours. Our many repeat clients enjoy dependable and diverse holidays on Galapagos nature tours, Arctic and Antarctica nature cruises, and birding and wildlife tours from Arizona to the Amazon and beyond.