Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hike through three wetlands areas on Wisconsin boardwalk

Interpretive Boardwalk Trail heads through wooded wetlands.
Photo courtesy of Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

Boardwalk trail runs 0.75 miles near Ashland

Day hikers can wander along a northern Wisconsin trail that wends its way through three coastal wetland ecosystems: a sedge meadow, a black ash swamp, and a cedar and tamarack swamp.

The Interpretive Boardwalk Trail runs 0.75-miles at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center west of Ashland.

To reach the trail, from Ashland take U.S. Hwy. 2 west. Turn right/west onto County Road G. The visitor center is the next right/left. Park in the center’s lot.

On the lot’s north side, take the paved trail heading northwest. After about 30 yards of lawn, the trail enters a sedge meadow and turns into a boardwalk.

Three coastal wetlands
Sedges – which look like tall grass – rushes and forbs dominate the sedge meadow. Those plants flourish on the wetland’s saturated soils.

Thanks to the sedge meadow and the center sitting next to the Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the trail offers a number of birdwatching opportunities. Among the highlights are bald eagles, migratory raptors, and spring warblers.

As the trail reaches the northern edge of its loop, it leaves the sedge meadow for the wooded swamp ecosystems.

The black ash swamp, so named for the tree that dominates that wetlands, also is known as a northern hardwood swamp. It typically occurs alongside lakes or streams. Because the landscape drains poorly, often the soil is a mucky sand.

A cedar and tamarack swamp, sometimes called a coniferous swamp, is named for the northern white cedar and tamarack that rule this type of wetlands. A foot of water can inundate it. When the flood recedes, ferns often grow in the understory.

Fun visitor center
As veering southeast, the trail runs along the border of the sedge meadow and the wooded swamps. At the first intersection in that transition area, continue straight/southeast.

Upon reaching the lawn area at the loop’s end, the trail becomes paved again. Turn left/south to re-enter the parking lot.

If you have children, be sure to stop at the visitor center, where they can crawl through a beaver lodge and engage in other fun (but educational!) activities. Admission is free.

As you’re entering wetlands, don and carry bug spray on the hike. The trail is handicap accessible.

Read more about day hiking Bayfield County, Wisconsin, in my Day Hiking Trails of Bayfield County guidebook.