Welcome to the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum

At one time, most of Fond du Lac County was covered by prairie -- native grasslands that were home to bison, prairie chickens, bobolinks and other wildlife. At the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum on the UW-Fond du Lac campus, a group of volunteers has reestablished the native plants that once grew on this site.

The project began in 1991, with the goal of representing the original plant communities of Wisconsin in a small arboretum. At present, volunteers have planted 42 acres of native prairie grasses and wildflowers, developed two wildlife ponds and planted 176 native trees and shrubs. Most of the wildflower seeds were collected from some of the last remaining original prairie sites in Fond du Lac County. To educate local residents there's an interpretive trail as well as six benches, two picnic tables, and a kiosk for recreation.

The Formal Arboretum is an innovative attempt to depict the native plants and plant communities of Wisconsin in a design representing the "Tension Zone" of our state. This is the area of overlap of northern and southern Wisconsin plant communities, which occurs in the Fond du Lac area. It consists of savannah, lowland forests and northern mixed forests, plus their associated wildflowers.

The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum is named for Bradley Gottfried, former dean of UW-Fond du Lac, and a major force behind the project's initiation and development. Dean Gottfried's vision and persistence have resulted in the restoration of a portion of native prairie for county residents to enjoy.

Educational Programs

America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie's Photo

America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie

Wednesday, January 16th 7:00 p.m.
Room UC-114 UW-FDL
Join us for a screening of the documentary America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie. Examine the history of the region that was once covered by the tallgrass prairie, and explore the future of agriculture in this fragile ecosystem.

America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie tells the rich and complex story of one of the most astonishing alterations of nature in human history. Prior to Euro-American settlement in the 1820s, one of the major landscape features of North America was 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie. But between 1830 and 1900 - in the space of a single lifetime - the tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed to farmland. This drastic change in the landscape also brought about an enormous social change for Native Americans; in an equally short time their cultural imprint was reduced in essence to a handful of place-names appearing on maps. America's Lost Landscape examines the record of human struggle, triumph, and defeat that prairie history exemplifies, including the history and culture of America's aboriginal inhabitants. The story of how and why the prairie was changed by Euro-American settlement is thoughtfully nuanced. The film also highlights prairie preservation efforts and explores how the tallgrass prairie ecosystem may serve as a model for a sustainable agriculture of the future. The extraordinary cinematography of prairie remnants, original score and archival images are all delicately interwoven to create a powerful and moving viewing experience about the natural and cultural history of America.

Nature's Second Chance

Steve Apfelbaum
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.
Room UC-114 UW-FDL


Join author Steve Apfelbaum as he discuses his personal experience of restoring the ecology of his Wisconsin farm. Steve's book Nature's Second Chance, which chronicles the thirty year project, has been described as the twenty-first-century sequel to Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac.

Steve Apfelbaum has been a full-time research and consulting ecologist with Applied Ecological Services in Brodhead, WI since 1978 when he founded the company. Steve has conducted ecological research projects in most biomes of North America, and since the early 1980s he has been one of the leading consultants in the U.S. in ecological restoration programs.