Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Three trails explore Chippewa bottomlands

The broad floodplains along Wisconsin’s Chippewa River as it flows into the Mississippi River makes it more easily to traverse by boat than foot. Still, three primitive trails in the Tiffany Bottoms State Wildlife Area give some access to this unique and interesting wilderness area.

The 13,000-acre wildlife area stretches alongside both sides of the Chippewa River just south of Durand to the Mississippi. It is one of Wisconsin's largest continuous bottomland hardwood forests.

Because of the protected space’s vastness, a variety of wildlife are able to call the bottomlands home. Among them are beaver, otter, muskrat, raccoon, ruffed grouse, wood ducks, and whitetail deer. It's also a great area to spot several endangered and threatened species, including bald eagles, great egrets, red-shouldered hawks, Blanding's turtle, and the massasauga rattlesnake.

In Pepin County, on the Chippewa River's west side, two trails run through the wildlife area.

The Swede Ramble Trail runs about 4-miles one-way through a meadow and the bottomland hardwood forest. Start at the parking lot off of Swede Rambler Lane southeast of Little Plum Creek and end at another lot off of Tulip Lane east of Big Hill Road. A couple of spur trails run west off of the main trail.

South of that area is the Five-Mile Bluff Prairie Trail, which runs about 3-miles total. From a parking lot at the end of 16th Creek Road, the trail heads north at the base of Five Mile Bluff then loops to and over its top, which is more than 300 feet above the river.

On the Buffalo County side of the Chippewa River, the Thibodeau to Trevino Trail rambles about 15 miles, often alongside various sloughs including a crossing of Buffalo Slough. For day hiking, a 10-mile round trip hike from the parking lot, off of Wis. Hwy. 25 just north of Thibodeau Road, to Buffalo Slough is a long enough route. If making it a point-to-point trail, the full trail ends at a boat ramp off of Wis. Hwy. 35 on the Chippewa's eastern shoreline.

Be forewarned that the trails are not marked, and especially during spring are prone to flooding. Always carry insect repellent with you and stay on the walking path.

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