Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trail offers view of migrating sandhill cranes

Sandhill crane. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

YCC Hiking Trail loops through wildlife area

Day hikers can view waterfowl galore inhabiting Crex Meadow Wildlife Area’s vast wildlife reserve from an observation platform along the YCC Hiking Trail.

The YCC Trail runs 0.75 miles in a loop. Autumn marks the best time to visit, as sandhill cranes and other migrating waterfowl are plentiful in the reserve and the Rest Area Flowage the northern part of the trail passes through. Bug populations also are down as cooler temperatures take hold.

To reach the trail, from Grantsburg follow the signs and yellow crane painted on the roadway north to the intersection of County Roads F and D. Turn right onto County Road D. After about three miles, turn left/north onto East Refuge Road. In another four miles, turn left/west onto North Refuge Road. Past the Monson Road junction, look for the rest area on the right side. Parking is available there.

Observation platform
The trailhead begins near the restrooms. Head clockwise or west through the woods.

About a quarter of a mile in, at the trail’s southwestern corner, a short stem trail leads to an observation platform, which looks out onto Reisinger Lake and the Crex Meadows State Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge, which people aren’t allowed to enter, annually attracts an amazing number of migrating birds. During mid-October, thousands of ducks and geese and up to 10,000 cranes inhabit the refuge.

To help attract waterfowl and other wildlife to the refuge, the state plants about 120 acres of corn, rye, buckwheat and other plants east of Reisinger Lake.

The platform offers a great spot to see the migrating waterfowl. Be sure to bring binoculars.

Picnic lunch
Standing atop it also will give you a good sense of what the area looked like before pioneers arrived in the late 1800s. Much of this region was prairie and wetlands that has been restored during the past few decades.

From the stem to the platform, the trail loops through the southern end of the Rest Area Flowage. It returns to the rest area, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch; picnic tables and fire grates are available. Camping also is permitted at the rest area Sept. 1-Dec. 30 with registration required at the Visitor Center.

The trail is named for the Youth Conservation Corps, which provides high school students with hands-on outdoor experiences during the summer. A YCC camp is located outside of Grantsburg.

Read more about day hiking Crex Meadows in my Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking Crex Meadows Wildlife Area guidebook.