Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hike heads past nearly 200-year-old trail

Sandhill cranes are a common sight at Crex Meadows during the spring and
autumn migrations.

Flowage and sedge meadow highlight walk

Day hikers can travel past one of the first pioneer-era trails in northwest Wisconsin on the Middle North Fork Flowage Trail at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.

To reach the trailhead, from the County Roads F and D junction, take County Road D east. Turn left/north onto East Refuge Road. In a little more than two miles, go right/east onto Main Dike Road. In about a mile, turn right/south onto a jeep trail. Park at the end of the trail alongside Middle North Fork Flowage.

Controlling water levels
From the lot, walk to and then back from Main Dike Road for 1.5-mile round trip.

The first quarter mile heads between the Middle North Fork Flowage on the right and a sedge meadow on the left.

Hikers may notice a stream of water running through the sedge meadow’s center. This water transfer ditch is one of several running through Crex Meadows’ various marshes. The ditches play an important role in maintaining the area’s wetland habitats.

A diversion pump helps control water levels. The ditches, along with gates that can be raised or lowered, are used to control the amount of pumped water and where it goes. Up to 20,000 gallons of water can be redirected per minute. In one day, that amounts to flooding 100 acres a foot deep!

First established trail
As the Middle North Fork Flowage ends, a sedge meadow appears on the right while the higher ground to the left becomes wooded.

At Main Dike Road, you’re near the first trail established by the U.S. government in the area. The military trail and mail route, beginning in 1830, ran from Fort Anthony in St. Paul, Minn., to the village of La Pointe on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island.

As settlers from the east arrived, the trail became a “Tote Road.” Smith’s Stopping Place – a spot where travelers could rest for the night, was established in the open area to the right of the jeep’s trail junction with Main Dike Road.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.