Friday, September 4, 2015

Rail line turned hiking trail passes museum

The Wild Rivers State Trail as it approaches the
Railroad Memories Museum.
Day hikers can learn about railroading on an old rail line turned hiking trail in northwest Wisconsin.

The Wild Rivers State Trail runs for 104 miles across three counties on a former Omaha and Soo Line Railroads route. The trail connects Rice Lake, Wis., in the south with Superior, Wis., to the northwest.

In Spooner, Wis., the trail marks the eastern edge of downtown. A 1.9-mile round trip segment of the trail makes for a pleasant urban hike.

Start at the city’s Railroad Memories Museum on Front Street. Parking is free but admission is charged for the museum.

The museum is located in a former Chicago & Northwestern Railway depot. Between the depot, and the parked train cars, and the locomotives are 12 different rooms that hikers can go through to explore the area’s rich railroad history.

At one time, Spooner was major railroad hub as lines for the Omaha and Soo Line Railroads and the Chicago & Northwestern Railway met in town. Passenger service existed until the early 1960s.

From the museum, head south on the trail. There’s one major road crossing, of Wis. Hwy. 70, as the trail leaves the downtown area.

The trail next crosses the Yellow River flowage. The river is so named because of the bright yellow sand at the bottom of the lake it flows through. Today, the flowage, created to prevent flooding, covers about 85 acres and is a prime fishing destination. More shoreline of the flowage appears on the right/west a couple of blocks up the trail.

Once the Wild Rivers approaches Lois Lane, Randall Lake comes into view. A bit smaller than the flowage at 40 acres, it’s also not quite as deep but still as scenic. Northern pike are common in the lake.

As Randall Lake fades in the distance, the route comes to an intersection with a spur line. This marks a good spot to turn back. Alternately, you can continue on for a 3.8-mile one-way walk to the Beaver Brook Wildlife Area.

Learn about nearby trails in Day Hiking Trails of Washburn County.