Friday, June 27, 2014

Wildlife abounds at along Beaver Creek Trail in Wisconsin northwoods

Sharp-tailed grouse performing dancing mating ritual in spring.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

Open areas offer
to see animals

Day hikers stand a good chance of spotting a variety of wildlife on the Beaver Creek Trail at Kimberly Clark State Wildlife Area.

The 1.8-miles round trip trail sits in the 8,700-acre natural area on the west side of Price County, Wisconsin. The area’s ecosystems range from bracken fern grasslands and tamarack/black spruce bogs to upland aspen/fir and northern hardwoods. No admission or vehicle permits are required to use the wildlife area.

To reach trail, from Winter, Wis., take County Road W east through the Flambeau River State Forest. Upon leaving the state forest, the road enters Price County. Turn left/north onto Price Lakes Road. About a quarter mile after crossing Price Creek, head into the dirt parking lot on the right/east.

The trailhead for the jeep trail is on north side of parking lot. Go right/east onto trail. Note that none of the wildlife area’s trails have formal names; for convenience’s sake, we’ve named this one after the waterbody it heads to.

Sharp-tailed grouse
A woods sits on the trail’s left/north and an open grasslands to the right/south. Watch for sharp-tailed grouse along the roadway, especially if hiking in the morning. During the early 1990s, this wildlife area boasted the second largest sharp-tailed grouse population in Wisconsin.

There probably will be some impressive birds in the sky, too. The wildlife area is home to three nesting pairs of osprey and a nesting pair of eagles. The osprey have prospered so well here that chicks have been moved to Iowa to help grow that state’s small population of the bird. Sandhill cranes also often stop in the wildlife area on their spring and fall migrations.

In about 0.4 miles, the jeep trail comes to a junction. Before you is a wide expanse of more grassland with limited tree cover. Turn left/north.

As walking this stretch, watch for a variety of other animals that inhabit the wildlife area, as many come out into the open, especially at dusk for feeding. Among them are deer, badgers, bears, coyotes, foxes, turkeys, and even wolves.

Beaver Creek
To ensure this abundance of wildlife, over the years more than 17 miles of firebreaks and several small flowages have been constructed in Kimberly Clark. The flowages in particular attract waterfowl and sport wild rice that can be harvested.

After a half-mile, the trail reaches Beaver Creek and a small flowage and wetlands to the northeast. Beaver Creek flows from the wetlands to Price Creek, which links the three waterbodies of Upper Price, Middle Price and Price lakes.

Upon reaching Beaver Creek, turn around and head back the way you came.

While the trail is nicely flat and wide, it’s also open. You’ll want to don a sun hat and sunscreen before hitting it.

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