Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trail heads through Wisconsin game park

Satellite map of Lions Club Game Park Nature Trail.
Day hikers can seek buffalo, elk, deer and waterfowl up close on the Lions Club Game Park Nature Trail in north Menomonie, Wis.

The 0.5-mile loop at the Lions Club Game Park essentially circles a pond with animal enclosures always on at least one side of the trail. There’s no fee to enter.

Feed the animals
To reach the trailhead, from U.S. Hwy. 12/N. Broadway Street in Menomonie, go east on Pine Avenue. Upon reaching Wakanda Park, turn left/north onto Game Park Road. A parking lot is at the road’s end.

Animal pens can be found on the parking lot’s east side. The buffalo enclosure is on the north side.

Upon reaching the buffalo, head right/east on the trail between the fences. The route here cuts between two ponds.

Though a small game park, the buffalo eat about 600 bales of hay a year while the elk eat 12 large round bales. If the animals approach you, don’t be afraid – they’re just expecting a little something to eat, and feeding the animals is entirely okay here. All of them enjoy leftover garden greens, especially corn, and the elk particularly like green leaves from deciduous trees.

Waterfowl on pond
At the next trail junction, go right/southeast. You can go the opposite direction, but that heads toward the freeway so can be noisy.

The freeway, though, is the whole reason the park came to be. During the 1950s when Interstate 94 was being built here, community leaders thought adding elk that could be seen from the freeway would be a good way to bring people to town. It worked, and today people still can spy some of the animals, usually the buffalo, as zooming through.

When the trail reaches the next junction, turn right/west. The dirt road going left/east leads to a street. As the trail heads along the south side of pond, look for the ducks, geese and pheasants that have staked out a claim in the wetlands and wooded areas.

Once the trail reaches Game Park Road, turn right/north, walking along the fenced side back to the parking lot. A couple of animal enclosures are located along this leg of the trail.

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