Monday, April 13, 2015

Lake Superior beach walk offers true get back to nature experience

Bear Beach. Photo courtesy
of Wisconsin DNR.

Bear Creek Trail rambles for 3.4 miles

A walk along a pristine sand beach awaits day hikers of the Lake Superior shoreline in Wisconsin’s Bear Beach State Natural Area.

The unmarked trail runs for up to 3.4-miles round trip along narrow Bear Beach. While the Brule River State Forest begins with the woodline bordering the sand, the beach itself is set aside as a state natural area.

Wading creeks
June through September mark the best time to hike the trail, but be sure to bring a sweatshirt or windbreaker. In addition, always check the weather and tide schedule; storm surges and high tide will inundate most of the beach with water.

To reach the trailhead, from Brule take U.S. Hwy. 2 west. In Maple, turn north onto County Road F. Next, go left/west onto Wis. Hwy. 13 then right/north onto Beck’s Road. Park in the dirt lot at the end of Beck’s Road near the Lake Superior shore.

From the lot, head northeast to the mouth of Pearson Creek. You’ll need to wade the creek, which can reach about knee high, so always wear sandals and shorts, or be prepared to take off and put back on your hiking boots and socks.

Shorebirds and driftwood
Hiking the beach, you’ll get a good sense of what this area of the world looked like before Euro-Americans settled it. A thick woods of paper birch, balsam fir, speckled alder, trembling aspen, white pine and white spruce hugs the beach’s southern side while the lake stretches wide beyond to the north. Cobblestone and driftwood gardens also can be found.

Don’t be surprised to see paw prints for bears in the sand and osprey flying overhead. Sometimes otters will play a game of hide and seek as they follow you from the safety of the lake’s waters.

During migration season, the beach is a favorite of several bird species, especially gulls, shorebirds, snow buntings, terns and water pipits. They particularly congregate around the estuarine lagoons where the creeks flow into Lake Superior.

A number of small streams flow into Lake Superior, and as each needs to be waded, any one of them mark a good spot to turn back based on your energy levels. Haukkala Creek is a half-mile from the trailhead, and Nelson Creek is in 1.7 miles. Several smaller streams can be found between Pearson and Nelson creeks. You also can double the length of the hike by walking another three miles until the beach runs out near the Bois Brule River mouth.

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