Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trail heads through haven for waterfowl

Wood duck. Courtesy WI DNR.
Topo Map, August Wildlife Area Trail.
Day hikers can explore an region being restored to its pre-settlement habitat on the Augusta Wildlife Area Trail.

The 1.2-miles round trip jeep trail sits in the 2,503-acre Augusta Wildlife Area between Augusta and Lake Eau Claire. The trail is one many undesignated paths that cut through the state-run public land.

To reach the trailhead, from Augusta head north on County Road G. After Solie Road, take the first unnamed dirt road going right/east. This heads into the wildlife area. Park at the road’s end.

From there, the trail heads straight southeast into a woods. Before the 1930s, white, black and bur oaks, with a few white and red pines, dominated the southern part of the wildlife area while Jack pine, scrub oak, and oak barrens covered the northern
half. Most of it was cut down while wildfire burned the rest.

The trail next curves south and passes a pond on the left/east with wetlands just beyond the woodline. Melting glaciers formed those peat and marshlands about 10,000 years ago. At the time of the timber harvest, the marshlands were drained away, resulting in major habitat loss for ducks and geese.

Once past the pond, the trail curves west and enters an open area.

Beginning in the early 1940s, the state purchased land here in an effort to restore those wetlands. Three flowages were added over nine years while potholes and ditches were constructed.

Today, the area is populated with blue-winged teal, mallards and wood duck. Muskrats, beaver, ruffed grouse, and whitetail deer also call the wildlife area home.

Where the grassland gives way to field, turn back and retrace your steps to where you parked.

Some maps also refer to the public facility as the Augusta State Wildlife Area.

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