Monday, August 3, 2015

Hike along major trout stream’s headwaters

Kinnickinnic Headwaters Fish and Wildlife Area
Day hikers with a taste for bushwhacking can explore the headwaters of a Class 1 trout stream at the Kinnickinnic Headwaters Fish and Wildlife Area and Trumpeter Swan Preserve.

Located east of Roberts, the two natural areas offer an untamed landscape in a rapidly urbanizing region as the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area moves eastward. If following old jeep trails (that by midsummer are mostly overgrown), a 1.4-mile round trip walk will take hikers at the FWA through a prairie and along the South Branch of the Kinnickinnic River to the preserve’s edge.

To reach the trailhead, from Interstate 94, take Wis. Hwy. 65 north. Turn right/east onto 70th Avenue then go right/south onto 150th Street. A parking lot is on the road's right/west side.

The serene fish and wildlife area stretches before the lot. Walk south from the lot’s southwest corner to the treeline then head right/west straight along the woodline and through the meadow. The uplands is a restored a prairie area, intended to look the way it did before pioneers plowed under the landscape for growing crops.

In about 0.3 miles, the prairie gives way to the banks of the South Branch. To the southwest in the FWA, the branch joins the main Kinnickinnic, which locals have nicknamed the Kinni.

The Kinnickinnic runs 22 miles and is the last major tributary to the St. Croix River. Until reaching the city of River Falls to the south, the chilly Kinni is a Class 1 trout stream, known nationally for its brook and brown trout.

Back at the FWA, walk north along the South Branch’s wooded shoreline. Groundwater seeps feed the branch and the main river. Songbirds whistling from and woodpeckers tap-tapping on and shore trees provide for a peaceful setting.

In another 0.3 miles, that sense of being removed from the world of concrete buildings and asphalt parking lots diminishes slightly as the South Branch reaches overhead power lines.

On the branch’s northwest side is the 48-acre Trumpeter Swan Preserve that the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust holds an easement on. Consisting of wetlands and planted pine and oak trees, the preserve used to host a trumpeter swan nesting site.

At the power lines, retrace your steps back to the lot.

Also see:
Map of Kinnickinnic Headwaters Fish and Wildlife Area
Map of Kinnickinnic Watershed

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