Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Dane County Parks manages 319 acres at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, which was formerly known as Bellefontaine Conservancy. This site has a diverse topography and provides a panoramic view of the Capitol building, downtown Madison skyline and Lake Mendota. Native Americans chose the high point vistas as a location for burial grounds. Below the hill to the south visitors can find the Pheasant Branch Creek wetlands and several predominant springs which provide fresh water for Lake Mendota. The lands above the hill to the north are being restored to prairie and wetland habitat and will offer additional recreational opportunities. Hiking, bird watching and interpretative signage are enjoyed at the Conservancy.

In 2019, Dane County purchased a 159-acre property (former Acker Farm) as an addition to Pheasant Branch Conservancy.  View planning and restoration projects related to this property.

This park is supported in part by the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

Information on Dogs at Pheasant Branch:
A community conversation occurred earlier this year regarding the presence of dogs in the portion of Pheasant Branch Conservancy that is owned by Dane County. Dane County manages the northern most 319 acres of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The managed lands are a partnership between county-owned lands (259 acres) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-owned lands (60 acres). The City of Middleton owns the southern two-thirds of the conservancy. Some users are concerned that the presence of dogs negatively impacts birds and wildlife using the conservancy. Other users are concerned that limiting dog access will negatively impact their use and enjoyment of the conservancy. 

The status of the issue is as follows:

  • Dogs continue to be welcome at Pheasant Branch Conservancy consistent with existing dog rules:
    • Dogs must have a valid Dog Permit
    • Dogs must be leashed and restrained by a 6-foot static leash  
  • Parks staff will increase monitoring and enforcement of dog rules.
  • Only designated trails to specific use areas will be maintained (see map below).
    • Firebreaks and vegetation access paths that were developed for activities such as prescribed prairie burns or prairie plantings, will no longer be maintained.
    • A firebreak and trail will be maintained around the perimeter of the prairie and adjacent to private lands.
  • Changes to recreational access and vegetative management may occur in the future.


Google Maps are provided for reference. Trails, park boundaries, parking lots and other features on this map may not be up-to-date. Please check the official maps for up-to-date information.