Monday, August 31, 2015

Excellent trails crisscross Douglas County

The Black River drops 16 stories down Big Manitou Falls. 
Imagine a place where you can hike miles of shoreline along the world’s largest freshwater lake or stand at the base of a 16-story waterfall, where you can retrace the steps of ancient portages or hike trails beside a scenic river popular with American presidents, where the beaches you traipse yield up bear tracks or the woods you cross take you past rare, delicious berries. The place is real: It’s called Douglas County, Wisconsin.

Tucked in Wisconsin’s northwest corner, most of Douglas County’s population is concentrated in the city of Superior, leaving lots of open space for outdoor recreation.

Recent geological history largely accounts for the county’s layout. Glaciers during the last ice age scoured the landscape of topsoil and left behind plenty of sand that once sat under meltwater as the earth warmed. Because of this, pioneer farmers were slow to settle the area during the 1800s. The glaciers did leave behind a massive freshwater lake and river system that made for an ideal harbor, though, giving rise to the cities of Superior and neighboring Duluth, Minn.; they often are referred to as the Twin Ports.

Two of those riverways – the Brule and the St. Croix – offered key transportation routes linking the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River that Native Americans and later European traders took advantage of in pre-railroad days. Today, both of those riverways are almost entirely protected, offering a plethora of recreational activities from fishing and canoeing to camping and hiking.

Some great Douglas County day hiking trails include:
Wisconsin Point Trail
Big Manitou Falls overlook trails
Bois-Brule-St. Croix River Historic Portage Trail
Stoney Hill Nature Trail
Bear Beach Trail
Thimbleberry Nature Trail
Schoen/Louise Parks Jeep Trails

Read more about more Douglas County day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of Douglas County guidebook.