The land on which Kishwauketoe sits was purchased in 1990 and formally became a protected nature conservancy “Dedicated to the Children of Tomorrow” on July 6, 1990. The land is steeped in Native American history, as the Potawatomi people, also called “Keepers of the Sacred Fire” or “The True People”, once inhabited the area. The name Kishwauketoe was selected because of its Potawatomi origin. It loosely translates as “Clear Water” or “Lake of the Sparkling Water” – a perfect fit for a place that encompasses the beauty of Geneva Lake, with its lush and expansive pockets of nature, while also honoring the Potawatomi. 

It is our honor and responsibility to recognize the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the 12 First Nations who have called the lands and waters in Wisconsin home for thousands of years. No matter where you are in Wisconsin, you are on land previously inhabited by these people. All of our programs (events, hikes, classes, tours, etc.) are being held in the traditional homelands of numerous indigenous peoples and cultures, most recently by the Potawatomi people, members of the Algonquin family. Each of us has an obligation to learn about and appreciate the history of the land we are on and the immense contributions of the indigenous peoples. We honor and respect the Potawatomi and their indigenous predecessors here at Kishwauketoe. 

Today, volunteers work diligently to remove invasive species and replace them with native trees, grasses, and wildflowers. They also continuously maintain the wonderful trails, so everyone can enjoy Kishwauketoe. While larger projects often require grants and/or support by other organizations and Citizens dedicated to supporting KNC’s Mission, the volunteers at Kishwauketoe have achieved an amazing amount of work, including:

  • Restoration of over over 65 acres of prairie
  • 4 miles of trails, cleared and maintained
  • A fifteen-acre arboretum, planted on the Harris Road entrance
  • Annual burns, to keep invasive species in check
  • Restored Historic Woodlands at Northeast corner of the property

When the area’s train route was decommissioned, opening the way for development of the area, developers immediately arrived on the scene with visions of building a large boat lagoon, hotels, shopping centers, and a complete golf community. Area residents filled the meeting hall for two years asking the Williams Bay Village Board to stop the developers, as had been done in the past.  However, the Board knew this would only be a temporary solution, as word was already circulating of yet another developer who had plans on trying to purchase the land in the near future. The Board felt that the best way to protect the land from development was to purchase it themselves. Even then, there was some discussion of selling the north end of the property to recoup the $1,575,000.00 that the 231 acres cost. Luckily, several Board and Plan Commission Members decided it was in the best interest of the Village to review its options of what would serve the Village best in the long term. The first thing they did was to create a name, The Park Committee, to get people thinking of the land as a park, not a piece of real estate. Next, they decided to dedicate the land as: Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy – Dedicated to the Children of Tomorrow. Soon after that, the Village Board created the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Commission to work on a long-term plan for KNC and begin the restoration process. At this point, it was decided that KNC would never ask the residents for any tax dollars to go towards the work of restoring and maintaining the nature conservancy. Everything is done with volunteers and donations, and this has been effective for 33 years. Today, Kishwauketoe represents a rare and evolving lakeside ecological area open to visitors 365 days a year.

Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy wouldn’t be what it is without your help! KNC would like to thank the volunteers, the citizens, the donors, and all others who have made, and continue to make, Kishwauketoe the wonderful place it is today – a beautiful nature conservancy for all to enjoy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

For more information, please read about some of the great progress and accomplishments from our volunteers for Kishwauketoe by reviewing our past newsletters and our social media history/updates.