Sunday, February 16, 2014

Trail crosses peaceful Wis. woodlands, river

Wild Rivers Trail bridge over Namekago River.

Wild Rivers Trail segment
runs along former rail line

A tranquil stroll through the woods with a bridge view of the Namekagon River awaits day hikers on a segment of the Wild Rivers Trail in Trego, Wis.

At a little under 2.2-miles round trip, the segment is just a small portion of a trail that runs for 104 miles across three counties on an old Omaha and Soo Line Railroads rail line. The trail connects Rice Lake, Wis., in the south with Superior, Wis., to the northwest.

To pick up the trail in Trego, when U.S. Hwy. 53 enters the village from the south, turn right/east onto Oak Hill Road. Turn left/north onto Park Street. When Park Street curves west, you’ll notice a large open gravel parking lot. Leave your vehicle there. The trail runs alongside the lot’s eastern side.

Take the trail northeast. Nicely forested with typical northern hardwoods, the trail is fairly isolated from built-up areas.

This section of the trail also is part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The 1200-mile Ice Age Trail essentially follows the edge of where the glacier last seen in these parts towered some 10,000 years ago.

In about a quarter mile, the trail begins to skirt the backside of the Namekagon Visitor Center grounds, which offers displays about the riverway. Unfortunately, there’s no path leading from the Wild Rivers Trail to the center; when finished with the hike, consider a drive to it (take Hwy. 53 north and turn right onto U.S. Hwy. 63), especially if children are with you.

The trail then crosses busy Hwy. 63 and in another 100 feet spans the Namekagon. From the river bridge looking west, the Namekagon breaks into a couple of back channels.

After the river, the trail re-enters the peaceful woods. You’re likely to spot white-tailed deer, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks along the way. Songbirds are plentiful, providing a sweet soundtrack to the hike. In 0.75 miles, the trail reaches Ross Road, which is a good spot to turn back; by this point, you’ve actually left the scenic riverway.

During spring and early summer, be sure to carry insect repellent when near the river. And while the trail cuts through woodlands, it is wide and mostly open, so also be sure to don sunscreen.

Learn about nearby trails in Day Hiking Trails of Washburn County.