The Plant

This massive, 7354-acre plant produced propellant for 3 wars and was maintained in readiness between each, playing an important role in national defense and forever changing the regional economy and culture.



Date: 1951

Source: Badger History Group Collection

Brief: The 1951 map marks the 10,500 acres taken from landowners in 1942 and the 3,000 acres sold or transferred in the years immediately after World War II. It identifies the owners of the 118 parcels taken in 1942, farmers and non-farmers alike. Of the 118 parcels, nearly all the acreage was in farms, but at least 24 lots were in Weigand’s Lake Wisconsin recreational subdivision. The three schools, three churches, and three cemeteries are indicated; the “Mueller Cemetery” is not marked because it was not a cemetery in 1942 or earlier. No one is buried there. 

Badger Ordnance was about average size for World War II munitions works. Indiana, Alabama and Sunflower (Kansas) Ordnance covered about the same or a little more ground.  The combined Elwood Ammunition Plant / Kankakee Ordnance Works in Illinois ran to 23,500 acres.

Acreage was important for security and safety. The first construction project at Badger in February 1942, was a wire perimeter fence. A paved perimeter road soon followed, patrolled by guards mounted on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Guard towers were also erected at intervals but manned for only a few months.

Only a fraction of the property was used for production and those areas were surrounded by buffers of vacant ground. Within production areas, individual processes took place in separate structures spaced according to “The Table of Explosive Distances.”

Between 1945 and 1947, the status of the Ordnance Works, in part and whole, changed. Early on the War Department was ready to turn over all the property to the state of Wisconsin. State agencies had more than a few plans for the place, but the strategists in the Pentagon changed their minds. They decided that the new and all-but-unused rocket propellant area at Badger was important enough to remain in the American arsenal and with it the nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin and acid/chemical works that were vital to its operation.

More than 3,000 acres were sold to new farmers or transferred to Devils Lake State Park. The Kingston Cemetery was returned to the cemetery association that held it prior to World War II. It is the only plot of land taken for Badger that was returned to its pre-war owners.

Download a pdf of the map – CLICK HERE [pending]


Author(s): Olin Corporation

Date: 1966-1979

Source: Badger History Group Collection

Brief: This map is an invaluable illustration of the powder plant in its most productive years. All production areas were reactivated in 1966 to supply propellant for the war in Southeast Asia. The acid / chemical works, nitroglycerin, smokeless, rocket and Ball Powder areas were all up and running. For the first time, Ball Powder from Badger was making a significant contribution to an American shooting war. Propellant from Badger played a greater role in Southeast Asia than in Korea and World War II.

All production areas are indicated in detail [list as pdf pending]. Other highlights include: the two railroad marshalling yards; the TNT area that never made TNT; the burning grounds that remain the source of groundwater contamination; the “barracks” built to house World War II soldiers willing to work while furloughed, later housed workers’ families, and then became the Conservation Club. The location for item No. 13 as the magazine storage area is unclear; a horizontal line extending into the magazines is there but faint. As a result, the number is floating over the USDA / UW Dairy Forage Research Station.

Download a pdf of the map and legend – CLICK HERE [pending]


Author(s): U.S. Army

Date: ca. 1942-1997

Source: Badger History Group Collection ; Pink Lady Transit Commission (November 2000)

Brief: The presence of two railroads nearby was one of the main reasons Badger was sited on the Sauk Prairie: Badger was part of a national system of munitions plants. The Chicago & North Western line (currently Wisconsin & Southern) from Merrimac and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road) running on the south and east sides of the plant from Prairie du Sac connected Badger to other facilities from Nebraska to Pennsylvania and Illinois to Louisiana. The CNW also converted to the US Army Government Railroad once inside the plant.

Covering 26.46 miles of track inside the fence, Badger had both standard and narrow gauge rail. Standard gauge lines (Milwaukee Road and CNW-US Government Army Railroad) moved goods in and out of the place. Narrow gauge lines (BOW / BAAP internal trackage) moved goods around the facility. On the map (lower left), pink indicates standard gauge, yellow narrow gauge. The locomotive shops and store were located in Building 501.

Download a pdf of the map – CLICK HERE [pending]


Author(s): U.S. ARMY

Date: ca. 1942-1997

Source: Badger History Group Collection ; Pink Lady Transit Commission (November 2000)

Brief: (see entry for railroad maps above)

Download a pdf of the map – CLICK HERE [pending]


Author(s): United States Geologic Survey (USGS)

Date: ca. 1994

Source: compiled and annotated by Mike Mossman

Brief: This full view of the site (a composite of four USGS topographical maps) is best viewed in combination with the 1966-79 map where each area is identified.

Download a pdf of the map – CLICK HERE [pending]


Author(s): Olin Corporation for US Army

Date: 1974, updated 1992

Source: U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center

Brief: Olin Corporation was the operating contractor when this conservation planting map was drawn. It reflects standard commercial forestry practices of the time. Pine and spruce to be logged for pulp wood in the future were the leading species planted, along with white cedar.  Smaller tracts were planted in sugar maple, and black walnut that could yield high grade lumber for milling, along with black locust.  Two shrubs that became the bane of prairie restoration planners—multiflora rose and autumn olive—were also planted.

The map also illustrates that the largest volume of land at Badger—4367 acres was devoted to agriculture, with 1071 in woodland, 1595 as “plant facility” and 300 left for “wildlife.” While most of the agricultural land was in crops, considerable acreage was pasture where cattle grazed right next to pipelines and propellant processing structures.  Not on the plan were the 16 acres the Army Commander’s Representative Dave Fordham and the Sauk County Natural Beauty Council planted in t 1984 in the southwestern corner outside the security fence and along side US Highway 12. It was the first attempt at prairie restoration on the site.

Download a pdf of the map and plantings legend – CLICK HERE [pending]

This Badger History Group webpage for improved Access & Engagement was supported in part, by a grant received in 2023 from the Sauk County Extension Education, Arts & Culture Committee and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.