Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sedge meadow trail passes local history

Blanding's turtle at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area

Grass harvested
to make carpet,
wicker furniture

Day hikers can walk near a wetlands once harvested to create carpet and furniture on the Dike 3 Sedge Meadow Trail at Wisconsin’s Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.

To reach the trailhead, from the County Roads F and D intersection, take County Road F north. In about two miles, turn right/east onto Main Dike Road. Just past Dike 3 Flowage, turn left/north onto West Refuge Road. In less than a mile, turn left/west onto a jeep trail. Park in the lot at the end of the jeep trail.

Walk it back to West Refuge Road for a 1-mile round trip out-and-back-trail.

Camp Five
The trail crosses a narrow bit of dry land between the sedge meadow for Rices Lake to the north and the Dikes 3, 4 and 5 flowages to the south. It crosses a water transfer ditch running from the refuge east of the trail to the Dikes 4 and 5 Flowage.

Southwest of the trail once was the sight of one of three carpet camps that existed in the wildlife area from shortly before World War I to the Great Depression’s early years. At that time, the Crex Carpet Company owned much of what is now the wildlife area, harvesting the sedge to make grass carpets and wicker furniture.

In fact, Crex Meadows garnered its name from that entrepreneurial era. The carpet company took its appellation from sedge grass’ scientific name, Carex, shortening it to Crex. Local residents called the marshes “meadows,” so when the carpet company was there, the area became “Crex Meadows.”

Nothing remains of Camp Five south of the trail – or of any of the other camps in what is now the wildlife area. Building foundations for Camp 6 still exist at the Fish Lake Wildlife Area southwest of Grantsburg, however.

Potholes created for ducks
As the trail nears West Refuge Road, watch for ducks, herons and kingfishers in the skies. Wildlife area officials bulldozed potholes, or small ponds, for ducks to nest alongside the road. In all, about 300 potholes exist across Crex Meadows.

Logs can be seen floating in a number of the potholes. Ducks like these loafing logs for preening and sleeping, while herons and kingfishers – as well as turtles and frogs – feed or sunbathe on them.

Where the trail meets Wild Refuge Road, to the west lies a 2,400-acre wildlife refuge that is closed to people. Migrating waterfowl come to the refuge by the thousands during spring and autumn.

As the flowages are human constructions, water levels in the wildlife area can be raised and lowered. The management pool on the road’s opposite side is lowered during waterfowl migrations to create shallow ponds and mud flats; this makes feeding on aquatic insects and various other invertebrates easier for the migrating birds.

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