Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Short trail heads past lake and its beach in Willow River State Park

Little Falls Trail
links old dam,

A pleasant walk alongside a clear blue lake awaits day hikers on the Little Falls Trail in Wisconsin’s Willow River State Park.

The paved trail skirts the southeastern shore of Little Falls Lake for 0.6 miles one-way (1.2-miles round trip). It’s also referred to as the Green Trail because of its color on park maps and signage.

To reach Willow River State Park, take Exit 4 from Interstate 94, heading north on U.S. Hwy. 12 for about 1.6 miles. Then follow County Road U for about 0.3 miles to County Road A. Turn left/west into Willow River’s main entrance and drive the park road to its end, where the last or northernmost parking lot can be found. The trail can be accessed from the lot’s right/east side.

Beach and fishing
Once on the trail, head northwest to Little Falls Dam. The concrete barrier backs up the Willow River, which flows from its headwaters in the Cylon Marsh about 40 miles before meeting the St. Croix River. The river effectively bisects the state park.

After taking in the dam, retrace your steps between the parking lot and lake. Continue past your lot as the trail heads south.

Little Falls Lake covers 170 acres and discounting an island on the eastern side, offers 4.12 miles of shoreline in the park. Home to panfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and northern pike, the lake reaches a depth of 18 feet.

A beach stretches for 400 feet along this section of the shoreline. Amenities include picnic tables, beach house, playground, and restrooms, all located between the trail and the sand.

Woods and boat launch
At the first trail intersection, go left/east. The trail soon leaves the beach area for a mixed hardwood forest.

The next site along the trail is the boat launch. Non-motorized watercraft are allowed in the lake. Much of the Willow River is stocked with brown trout, making the waterway and reservoir popular with fishermen.

The trail next reaches 300 Campground. Though a new segment links the trail to 200 Campground, rather than walk through the campsites, turn around here.

Bicycles and roller blades are allowed on the trail, so be sure to give them the rightaway.

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