Monday, June 8, 2015

Spot white-tailed deer on stacked loops

The White Tail (Red) Trails skirts an open meadow and oak woods popular
with white-tailed deer.

Routes cross meadow near Willow River

A pleasant walk through a meadow awaits hikers of the White Tail Trails at Wisconsin’s Willow River State Park.

The trail consists of a stem leading to two stacked loops, allowing for circuit hikes of between 1.6 to 2.2 miles. Most of the trails’ surface is mowed grass, making this a great spring trail when other paths are still muddy from melting snow and rainfall.

To reach the park, from Interstate 94 take Exit 4 and head north on U.S. Hwy. 12 for about 1.6 miles. When Hwy. 12 turns east, continue straight on County Road U for about 0.3 miles to County Road A, where you’ll drive for another 1.5 miles. The park’s entrance is on the road’s left/west side. Park in the lot for the Group Campground on the entry road’s south side.

From the lot, walk east, looking for the orange blaze of the Knapweed Trail. That route heads up a knoll through a small woods that opens up to a grassy area. At the trail intersection upon reaching the prairie, go left/west along the tree line. This is the stem trail for the White Tail (Red) Trails.

State wildlife animal
The woodline consists mainly of oaks with a few other trees mixed in. On the opposite side of the woods to the north is the aptly named Oak Ridge (Brown) Trail.

To the south and west, however, is a restored meadow. White tail deer tend to graze here, hence the trail’s name.

While white-tailed deer can be found throughout North America, they’re ubiquitous in Wisconsin. About 1.2 million white-tailed deer roam the state, nearly one for every three residents. The state’s official “wildlife animal,” many hunters here await the annual November gun season with the same excitement as kids at Christmas.

White-tailed bucks usually top a hundred pounds with mature ones sporting large sets of antlers. Despite their skinny legs, they can run up to 40 miles an hour and jump nine feet.

Even if you don’t see a deer while hiking this trail, you’re certain to notice signs of their presence. Watch for deer tracks on the trail’s few sandy or muddy portions. Where the route skirts the forest, look for trees with bark chewed off the trunks.

Long vs. short trail
In addition to white-tailed deer, two badgers were spotted along the trail in 2010. Songbirds also are plentiful.

About 1.6 miles from the Knapweed Trail intersection, the stem comes to the two stacked loops that make up the White Tail Trails.

For the northern loop, go right/northwest. In 0.14 miles, the trail intersects the Oak Ridge Trail then in 0.51 miles reaches the second loop. To complete the northern loop, take the middle trail east through the meadow for 0.51 miles back to where the stem trail met the loops. This hike, including the stem trail, runs 1.6-miles round trip.

For the longer southern loop, go left/south. After 1.3 miles, the route junctions with the northern loop. Turn right/east onto the middle trail, and in 0.51 miles, you’ll reach the stem trail. This hike, with the stem trail, clocks in at 2.2-miles round trip.

Learn more about nearby day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of St. Croix County guidebook.