Monday, March 14, 2016

Wis. trail leads to sawmill dam from 1875

Glen Loch Dam and sawmill structure in Chippewa Falls, Wis.
Map of Glen Loch Dam Trail (in yellow),
courtesy city of Chippewa Falls.

Creek falls 37 feet
at Glen Loch Dam

A nearly 150-year-old dam and a century-old bridge over a deep, narrow ravine await day hikers on the Glen Loch Dam Trail in western Wisconsin.

The 1.4-miles round trip trail sits in Chippewa Falls' Irvine Park. It's not the official name of the trail that essentially follows two narrow park roads doubling as walking paths.

To reach the park, from downtown Chippewa Falls head north on Wis. Hwy. 124. Turn left/west onto Bridgewater Avenue. Go right/north onto County Road Q/Wheaton Street then right/east onto County Road S. Head right/south onto Ermatinger Drive and upon entering Irvine Park, use the first parking lot on the left.

Walk south on Ermatinger Drive. The paved path is nicely shaded, and in autumn offers up great fall leaf displays.

Between the trees, you’ll can catch views of Glen Loch. It covers 39 acres and was created by backing up Duncan Creek so the dam could power a sawmill managed by local businessman William Irvine. The Pure Ice Company cut frozen water from atop the lake beginning in 1935 and sold it as ice.

About 0.2 miles into the hike, the trail comes to the Rumble Bridge. The narrow, steel bridge – built in 1914 – crosses a deep ravine. Irvine paid for the bridge so parkgoers had access to the park’s north side.

In 0.4 miles from the bridge, the walkway junctions with Irvine Park Drive. Turn left/southeast onto the road.

An overlook of the dam is in another 0.1 miles. Glen Loch Falls and an old saw mill structure sit at 900 feet elevation.

The Chippewa Lumber and Boom Company Sawmill built the dam in 1875 to serve what at the time was the world’s largest sawmill within a single building. A mere four years later, Hector McRae erected a flour mill next to the dam. The mill could produce 100 barrels of flour a day. It was tore down in 1924.

The dam has survived three major floods. In 1959, it was modified. Today, it stretches 149 feet wide with a 37-foot drop.

When Wisconsin’s logging days were over in the early 1900s, Irvine donated the lake and surrounding land to the city for a park.

Once taking in the view of the dam, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

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