Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Student Group Tour magazine will continue to provide ideas for planning educational travel. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information. 

Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, is dedicated to the children of tomorrow.

The idea, said Harold J. Friestad, the conservancy’s longtime chairman, is to protect the largest watershed on Geneva Lake for current children and future generations. Land and water must also be protected for those who cannot speak for themselves, he said, such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.

Student groups can take guided nature hikes through the 231-acre conservancy with social distancing.

“The most important thing that I see students getting out of a walk in Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy is both the physical benefit of getting away from their computers and enjoying a 3- or 4-mile walk in the beauty of nature at its finest,” Friestad said. “We can introduce them to such a wide variety of natural areas, from wetlands, prairies and woodlands.”

Students are able to walk along streams and take boardwalks over sedge meadows. All the while they view examples of the over 375 varieties of flowers, sedges and grasses found at the conservancy. Some they may never have seen before. 

“In our woodlands, many oak trees are over 200 years old, with our oldest 350 years old,” Friestad said. “I love to get students in the woodlands and get them to stand back and view the size of a 200-year-old oak and step up and give it a hug and smell the bark. I want to get them to view, touch, smell and enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature.”

When Friestad takes groups for walks in mid-August, there are areas where big bluestem grasses reach a height of 10 feet tall on both sides of the trail. The tall native grass blocks out sounds. 

Credit: GTM/David Hoekman

“For older groups, when I get to this area, I take out my cell phone and ask Siri to play Simon and Garfunkel, ‘The Sounds of Silence,’” he said.

“It is all about beauty and love,” Friestad said. “In these very difficult times with COVID-19 and politics, there is nothing better for your mental health than a walk in nature, anytime of day.”

Volunteers maintain the conservancy by removing invasive species and replacing them with native trees, grasses, and wildflowers. They also maintain more than 4 miles of trails.

Over the years, the conservancy and volunteer corps has completed many projects, including the construction of boardwalks, a pavilion and a four-story viewing platform.

The parcel on the north shore of Geneva Lake became a nature conservancy in 1990. Its restored wetlands filter the water entering Geneva Lake. The name Kishwauketoe was selected because of its Potawatomi origin and loosely translates as “clear water” or “Lake of the Sparkling Water.” It’s a good name, Friestad said, for a place that encompasses the beauty of Geneva Lake, with its lush and expansive pockets of nature, while also honoring the Potawatomi.

For more information go to friendsofknc.org.