Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hike Wis. trail along scenic St. Croix River

Path marks western start of 1,200-mile
Ice Age National Scenic Trail

You can walk atop billion-year-old volcanic rock surrounded by the deep blue of a river and the lush green of a forest on the Indianhead Flowage Trail in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Located in Polk County, Wis., along Wis. Hwy. 87 about a mile north of St. Croix Falls (the self-proclaimed and richly deserved “City of Trails”), the 1.5-mile trail begins at Lion’s Club Park. The trailhead is on the park road’s southwest side.

That the path sits near the western start of the Wisconsin’s famed Ice Age Trail is appropriate. When the last glacier covering this region melted thousands of years ago, massive floods smashed through the area, carving the St. Croix River Valley out of volcanic basalt bedrock that formed some 750 million years before dinosaurs walked the Earth.

The trail cuts winds through forests and wetlands with bridges crossing streams that flow into the St. Croix River. At some spots, the trial comes within 20 feet of that waterway.

A warm, dry spring day marks an excellent time to hike the trail. Colorful wildflowers from trilliums and marsh marigolds to blue flag iris and wild geraniums carpet the area. In summer, the forest greenery dominates, but watch for trailside raspberries in July.

A variety of migrating songbirds also can be heard during spring. Squirrels, chipmunks, white-tailed deer and raccoon abound as well through summer and autumn.

Be sure to carry insect repellent, however, as mosquitoes, deerflies and horseflies sometimes can be an annoyance. Always check for deer ticks after returning from the walking path. Also, make sure kids stay on the trail, as poison ivy grows in the area (Remember: “Leaves of three; let it be.”).

The handicap-accessible trail ends at a riverside campground. A primitive trail continues on but is not recommended for a day hike. Bathrooms, a playground, picnic area, and boat launch are located at Lion’s Club Park.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in my guidebook Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.