For The Birds

Kemper's Woods preserves land for public study, enjoyment of nature

Megan Ault, photos by Hanna Agar

When Dr. Charles Kemper was first approached with the idea of selling his land to create a county park, he was not overly enthusiastic about the idea. However, his mind was changed when he was presented with the overall vision of what the Chippewa County hopes to create from the property.

The 80 acres of woodlands fit into the Chippewa County Land Conservation Department’s goal of bringing together the woodlands with the swamp and prairie lands of surrounding properties. If all three could come together, then the preserve would be able to house a plentiful array of birds.

Kempers Woods in Lake Hallie is now open to the public. Kemper used the site for over 50 years as the location for his studies on birds. In his research he would band birds, record his data, and then re-release them. To date, Kemper has banded and released close to 88,900 birds.

When banding the birds, he records the serial number along with the gender and location where it was found. After this information is recorded, he sends it into the United States Fishing and Wildlife Service. The recording of this data enables the government to get a sense of the current migration patterns.

For Richard Smith, a board member of the Chippewa County Land Conservancy, the bird banding still presents a challenge that he enjoys. He explained, “It’s like fishing in the sense that you never know how successful you will be in catching the birds.”

In spite of the challenge that bird banding presents, Kemper continued his research because of the original owner of the land who allowed him to conduct his research studies on the property. After the owner was offered quite a bit of money to turn the land into a housing development, Kemper decided to buy the property himself to continue his research and preserve the land.

Realizing the uniqueness of the land and its prime location, Kemper decided to sell the land to the community. The purchasing of the land was made possible through fundraising efforts in the last year and a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant. The land was originally acquired by the Chippewa County Land Conservation Department and then ownership was transferred to Chippewa County.

Smith played a huge role in making the purchasing of the land possible because he believes in the importance of the property for the county. As he put it, “You have something extraordinary in this property.” Smith elaborated on this stance by pointing out the scientific value of the property and its prime location in between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls.

The hope is that the public will be able to enjoy the land with the land’s unique facilities for studying nature and enjoying the outdoors. The county is planning on leaving it as it is aside from adding some walking trails, a gazebo, and a parking lot. Kemper is planning on continuing to conduct his research on the grounds.

Kemper recently released his new 200-page book entitled Birds of Chippewa Land that includes many color photos of birds and the findings of his research over the last 50 years. Copies of the book are available at several local libraries and bookstores.

To get to Kempers Woods, go south on Woodward Ave from Hwy 124, immediately turn left on take Prairie View Rd, and follow it about 1.25 miles. Prairie View becomes South Ave and then 50th Ave. After passing over the Hwy 29 freeway, watch for the sign on the right.

Learn more about the Chippewa County Land Conservancy at