MINDS @ UW-Madison

Landscapes of Change: Badger Army Ammunition and Sauk Prairie

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Silverman, David R.; Crilley, Gabe M.
May 2009
Landscape Change; Badger Army Ammunition; Sauk Prairie
A north-facing view from atop the Prairie du Sac dam affords a fleeting glimpse of something wholly different from the picturesque Lower Wisconsin Riverway (LWR) and its pastoral surroundings. For nearly 40 years the Badger Army Ammunition Plant (BAAP) has sat vacant and idle on Sauk Prairie, tempting any onlooker to explore the mysteries that lie beyond its chained gates. The more than 1,000 buildings occupying this 10,OOO-acre swath of land on the glacial outwash plane that is Sauk Prairie are visual reminders-monuments-to the unprecedented landscape transitions that took place here. Like any relic of this scale, questions arise as to its genesis, evolution, and purpose. However, within the confines of this class we have chosen to narrow our scope to just two landscapes of change, specifically, the ways in which BAAP changed the physical and socio-economic landscapes of Sauk Prairie and surrounding counties. After analyzing PLSS notes, historic images and accounts, aerial photos, labor statistics, census data, and Plant publications we claim that BAAP contributed to Wisconsin in less than visible ways. BAAP is a blight on the landscape and much of it is contaminated with toxic chemicals, however, if BAAP never occupied Sauk Prairie the region would not have been awoken from the great depression when it was, nor would the region have been so connected with cheap and reliable transportation. Further, though contaminated, the land that BAAP occupies is a wild area with bird species seen few other areas in Wisconsin and vegetation the Prairie has not seen in thousands of years. We do not aim to defend the War Department in their decision to build BAAP on Sauk Prairie, however, consideration of the various benefits that BAAP brought to surrounding communities lead to a more nuanced view of its history.
Includes maps, airphotos, diagrams and photographs.
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