Friday, September 20, 2013

Day hike ‘forest primeval’ on Brule Bog Boardwalk Trail in northern Wisconsin

Brule Bog Boardwalk Trail. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Route leads through wetlands between rivers

Visitors to the Solon Springs, Wis., area can day hike what feels like the forest primeval on the Brule Bog Boardwalk Trail.

Located in southern Douglas County’s Brule River State Forest, the 2.3-mile boardwalk cuts through a wooded bog. Part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, it is entirely handicapped accessible.

To reach the trail, from downtown Solon Springs take County Road A north for about three miles, rounding the northern side of Upper St. Croix Lake. Watch for signs saying the North Country Trail is “1000 Feet Ahead”, then turn into the boat landing where you can park.

Across the road from the parking lot, the trail heading right/northeast is the Bois-Brule-St. Croix Historic Portage Trail. The boardwalk trail heads left or directly north.

Continental divide
An elevated boardwalk takes hikers through a conifer swamp at the bottom of a narrow valley. The valley is part of a continental divide – all rivers to the south ultimately feed the Mississippi River while those to the north flow into the Lake Superior, which is part of the St. Lawrence watershed.

In short order, the boardwalk crosses St. Croix Creek. You’ve now entered the heart of Brule Bog. Ferns and moss, as well as several varieties of orchids, cover the ground while white cedar, balsam fir, and spruce crowd out the sunlight.

Several rare plants and animals can be found in the bog. Among the insects you’ll quickly notice is the zebra clubtail dragonfly. Songbirds include the black-backed woodpecker, golden-crowned kinglet, Lincoln’s sparrow, olive-sided flycatcher, and saw-whet owl. Plants include the sheathed and sparse-flowered sedges and the endangered Lapland buttercup.

The sense of having traveled back in time to the ancient Carboniferous Period is temporarily interrupted as the trail crosses County Road P, which runs smack down the middle of the bog.

Rebounding land creates bog
After County Road P, the boardwalk trail veers northwest. You’ll come to the edge of the bog against a hillside, where the trail begins to meander. The uplands above the bog consist of sandy pine barrens.

Some 9,000 years ago as the Ice Age ended, a river flowing from the much higher Glacial Lake Duluth carved out the valley where the Brule River, this bog, and Upper St. Croix Lake now exist. Released from the retreating glacier’s weight, the land rose, causing water to flow in the opposite direction. As Lake Superior’s depth gradually dropped and the flow of the prehistoric river declined, we were left with the terrain that exists today.

The boardwalk ends at a spur off of Croshaw Road. This is the turnaround point.

A final note: You’ll definitely want to apply insect repellant before hitting this trail, and be sure to carry it with it in case it sweats off.

Read more about Douglas County day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of Douglas County guidebook.