Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beaver pond awaits day hikers on park trail

A boardwalk runs over a beaver dam built several decades
ago but that still stands near Lake Wissota.

Hike heads through comely
woodland at Lake Wissota

An overlook of a beaver pond awaits day hikers on the Beaver Meadow Nature Trail in Wisconsin’s Lake Wissota State Park.

Many park visitors consider the 1.2-mile round trip to be among Lake Wissota’s most scenic trails. Both summer and autumn mark great times to hike it, with each season offering its own play on the area’s natural beauty.

Bluff top view
To reach the state park and trailhead, from Chippewa Falls head north on Wis. Hwy. 178. Turn right/east onto County Road S. Immediately after the Chippewa River bridge, go right/east on County Road O. The park entrance is about 2 miles on the right. Park in the lot off the park entry road just before the group campground.

The trail heads south from lot across the park road and runs on a bluff top overlooking Lake Wissota. The man-made lake covers more than 6000 square acres.
Beaver Meadow Nature Trail map,
courtesy Wisconsin DNR.

After passing a small inlet of Lake Wissota, the stem comes to the loop. Go left/east on it.

Along the way, you’ll pass through a pine forest and by a marsh. It’s mostly shaded, however.

On the loop’s east side, the pathway comes to a junction with Staghorn Trail. Stay on the main trail (or veer left).

Beaver pond overlook
You may want to bring a guidebook about Wisconsin plant life with you. The trail includes mushrooms, the rare ghost plant (aka as the Indian pipe), and ferns.

Coming to the loop’s end, the trail reaches an overlook of a beaver pond. Beavers build dams to keep predators at bay and to create ponds so that they have a ready supply of food during winter. Like human engineers, beavers begin their dam construction by diverting the stream’s flow to lessen the amount of water pressure on their main dam when it’s being built.The dam has since been abandoned, but an overlook and a bridge over the dam give a good sense of how they terraformed the area.

After taking in the views, cross the stream draining into the inlet, and follow the stem trail back to the parking lot.

As the trail heads past a bog and stream, it can be buggy. Hike the trail at midday when the heat will keep the insects at bay, and be sure to don and carry mosquito repellent with you in summer.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.