Skip to main content

Franklin Savanna

No. 409


Photo by Thomas A. Meyer/DNR


Franklin Savanna is an outstanding example of the oak savanna community that once covered most of southern Wisconsin, including portions of western Milwaukee County, previous to European settlement in the 1800s. Large open-grown bur, white, and black oak dominate the site and exhibit the spreading branching pattern indicative of the site's former open condition. Although the site suffers from woody species invasion due to past fire suppression and grazing impacts, the structural integrity of the savanna is intact and is among the best in the region.

Savanna understory remnants are still present in some places and include such characteristic species as big bluestem, little bluestem, shooting star, May-apple, and yellow star grass. Other species include whorled milkweed, New England aster, hoary frostweed, stiff goldenrod, wood anemone, Pennsylvania sedge, and starry false Solomon's-seal. The uncommon autumn coralroot orchid also grows here. The southern portion of the savanna is essentially a closed canopy due to fire suppression and the subsequent infilling of fire-intolerant species such as big-tooth aspen, basswood, red elm, American elm, and viburnum.

With restoration management such as woody species removal, prescribed burning, and interseeding with native understory species, this site may eventually support a broad continuum of savanna plant species and may also be large enough to support avifauna such as red-headed woodpecker, eastern bluebird, and orchard oriole. Franklin Savanna is owned by Milwaukee County and was designated a State Natural Area in 2004.

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the Maps tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

The good majority of SNAs are isolated and have few or no facilities. Some SNAs have vehicle access lanes or parking lots, but their accessibility may vary depending on weather conditions. Parking lots and lanes are not plowed during winter. Hiking trails may be nonexistent or consist of undeveloped footpaths. A GPS unit or compass and a detailed topographic map are useful tools for exploring larger SNAs.

Non-DNR lands

Entrance fees: For non-DNR-owned SNAs, we are unaware of any vehicle or admission fees. However, please contact the landowner for more information.

Please see Chapter 47-Parks and Parkways in Milwaukee County's Municipal Code Ch. 47 [exit DNR] for approved recreational uses.

Hunting and trapping

This is a non-DNR-owned SNA: Opportunities for hunting and trapping depend on the landowner. Please contact them directly to find out about their rules for hunting and trapping. You can find a link to other owner websites under the Resources tab.

Other activities

Other allowable activities such as - but not limited to camping, geocaching and bicycling are determined by the landowner. Please contact them directly or visit their websites for details.


Located within Milwaukee County Parks, Milwaukee County. T5N-R21E, Section 29. 85 acres.

Driving directions

From the intersection of Highway 45 and West St. Martin's Road in Franklin, go southeast on West St. Martin's for 0.7 miles, then south on S. 92nd Street for 1.5 miles, then west on W. Oakwood Road for 0.5 miles. Park along the road and walk north along the fencerow 0.15-mile into the natural area.

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities.

Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details. The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries. To create your custom map where you can zoom to a specific location, please use the DNR's Mapping Application.

Property Map [PDF]

Franklin Savanna is owned by: Milwaukee County