Monthly Archives: April 2014

April 30, 2014

State Bike Trails to Ride this Spring

Wisconsin is home to dozens of excellent state bike trails. Most of these trails are built atop railway beds, making them quite level. The surface makes this type of trail ideal for riders of every ability level. Here are four of Wisconsin’s best state bike trails.

West Bend Bike Trail

Eisenbahn State Trail – West Bend

The name of this 25-mile trail comes from the German word for railroad. The five-mile section of the trail that passes through West Bend is paved, making the Eisenbahn suitable for every type of bicycle. See the peaceful, rural countryside filling with green color as spring remakes the landscape. As the trail runs northward from West Bend, it passes just west of the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, a storybook landscape of ridges and rolling green hills.

Learn more about the Eisenbahn and other West Bend trails.

Wiouwash Trail

Wiouwash State Trail – Oshkosh

The Wiouwash State Trail is the perfect place for a spring ride. The trail runs north from Oshkosh for 22 miles, passing through wetlands, prairies, patches of forest and sprawling farmland. The southernmost trailhead is located in Oshkosh at Westwind Drive. This trailhead is linked to Oshkosh’s Riverwalk via a series of local trails. That means a bicyclist starting in downtown Oshkosh can head straight out into the country, traveling along bike paths the entire way.

Learn more about the Wiouwash State Trail.

Oneida Bike Trail

Bearskin State Trail – Oneida County

Pedal through the pines on the Bearskin State Trail. This 18-mile trail runs through classic white pine forests. The lakes and streams that the trail traverses are crossed by 13 train trestles. The trail surface is composed of compacted granite and is perfect for most types of bicycles. The trail was once the corridor through which trains hauled white pine logs out of Wisconsin’s northern forests. Today, it’s a haven for woodland birds and other wildlife.

Get a map of the Bearskin and other Oneida County trails.

Oneida Bike Trail

Great River State Trail – Onalaska

Following the course of the Mississippi River, the Great River State Trail offers views of the river as well as the towering bluffs. The trail passes over 18 different waterways and crosses the Black River on a 287-foot former railroad trestle. The trail begins in the friendly community of Onalaska and runs for 24 miles to the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge – a great place to hop off your bike and spend some time on the refuge’s wetland observation deck. This is one of the best rides in Wisconsin and arguably the Midwest.

Learn more about the Great River State Trail.

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April 9, 2014

Top Spring Birding Spots

bluebird

Wisconsin is a great place to go birdwatching. The complex mix of habitat types and the abundance of public land combine to attract hundreds of species of birds. Everything from tiny hummingbirds to the massive American white pelicans spend part of their year in Wisconsin. The variety of species is incredible.

The period running from late April through mid June is the best time to be out birding. If you’re interested in seeing many dozens of species in a single outing, this is the time of year to be out in the field. You can really help your chances of seeing more birds by going to proven birdwatching locations.

Here are seven of Wisconsin’s best birding spots, in no particular order.

1. Pheasant Branch Conservancy

This 550-acre nature conservancy in the heart of Middleton is a gem. It serves as a wildlife oasis amid a bustling community, attracting hundreds of species of birds each spring, including warblers, wading birds, hawks and more.

2. Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge

Running along the Mississippi River near the community of Onalaska, this enormous refuge is the place to go to see migrating waterfowl. During the spring, you’ll have a chance to see a variety of diving ducks, bald eagles, tundra swans, pelicans and a vast array of migrating songbirds.

3. Willow Flowage

Many people compare Oneida County’s Willow Flowage to the Boundary Waters Canoe area, and for good reason:  this remote complex of islands, sloughs and channels is one of the wildest places in Wisconsin. Species include blue herons, ospreys, mergansers and kingfishers.

4. Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest

This piece of Vilas County is made up of pine forests and shimmering lakes. The state forest is one of your best places in the state to see pileated woodpeckers and other birds of the deep forest.

5. Buena Vista Grasslands

The Buena Vista Wildlife Area near Stevens Point is home to a number of rare species, including Henslow sparrows, short-eared owls, northern harriers and, most famously, the greater prairie chicken. It’s the ideal place to see prairie species.

6. Blue Hills

Located west of Ladysmith in Rusk County, the Blue Hills offer an outstanding trail system. These trails provide birders with access to a variety of bird habitats. During the spring migration, look for warblers in the canopy who’ve stopped to rest on their journey north.

7. Dike 17

This wetland in the Black River Falls area attracts good numbers of waterfowl each spring. Canada geese are common, but you’ll also find the full range of ducks and wading birds. The surrounding Black River State Forest  is also a great place to look for woodland species.

The best thing about birding in the spring is the variety. Every day brings new species of birds to the state. Some stay for just a few days and others spend the rest of the summer here raising their young. Make plans this spring get out there and see these birds while they’re here.

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April 1, 2014

Five Places to Fish the Spring Opener

Woman with fish

She examines a recently caught fish

On May 3, Wisconsin’s gamefish season opens. If you’re an angler, it’s the most exciting day of the year. Make plans to be out on the water that weekend in a place that offers great fishing. These five destinations are your best bets for the opener.

Vilas County

The walleye fishing is incredible in Vilas County. Most of the county’s 1,300 lakes are home to good populations of walleye. The biggest, deepest, clearest lakes, such as Trout Lake, harbor some enormous fish. But, during the first days of the season, look for smaller, shallower lakes, which warm up earlier and provide more action. Anglers can target smallmouth bass, but they must be released between May 3 and June 20. Largemouth bass are fair game. Vilas County is also one of the best musky destinations in North America – their musky season begins May 24. Vilas County’s 12 resort communities offer lodging as well as shopping and dining.

Oneida County

Just south of Vilas County, you’ll find Oneida County, home to hundreds of lakes and a beautiful landscape of towering forests. Anglers targeting walleye in Oneida County will find plenty of excellent lakes, including Boom Lake, a flowage on the Wisconsin River in the heart of Rhinelander. Boom Lake is also famous for its musky and smallmouth bass. Oneida County shares the same season dates as neighboring Vilas County (see above). Anglers will find eight friendly communities in Oneida County offering hotels, resorts, cabins and cottages.

Lake DuBay, Stevens Point Area

At 6,700 acres, Lake DuBay is big. This flowage on the Wisconsin River has a fishery to match its size. Big bass, fat walleye and hefty northern pike all swim in these waters. During the first days of the fishing season, a wise angler will turn his attention to some of the shallower backwaters and bays where the water will be the warmest. Anglers shouldn’t overlook the panfish that call Lake DuBay home, particularly crappie. And, this lake is one of the state’s premier musky lakes (the musky season on Lake DuBay begins on May 24). After a day of fishing, take a tour of one of the Stevens Point area’s four breweries, including the famous Stevens Point Brewery.

Lake Winnebago, Oshkosh

Unlike the other destinations on this list, bass and walleye fishing is open year-round on Lake Winnebago. The 138,000-acre lake’s walleye fishing is second to none. The natural reproduction on the Winnebago System is outstanding. The lake is also becoming well known for its bass fishing, with good numbers of both largemouth and smallmouth. Panfish are plentiful on the lake, with perch being the most targeted species. Trolling is the most popular method for catching walleye and yellow perch. Bass can be found close to shore in weeds and around docks and other structure. You’ll find hotels and numerous boat launches in Oshkosh.

Flambeau River, Rusk County

The Flambeau River is home to a wide variety of fish species, from panfish to sturgeon. But, smallmouth bass are what put this classic riverway on the map. The Flambeau boasts huge smallmouth bass. Anglers will find smallies in all sections of the river, from the flowages (Ladysmith, Big Falls, Dairyland, Thornapple) to the wild river stretches. During the spring, look for smallmouth bass in the shallow sections of the flowages and in deep pools along the river. Canoeists and kayakers will have a distinct advantage when it comes to accessing some of the Flambeau River’s most secluded pools. It’s an exciting place to fish. Ladysmith is Rusk County’s hub for lodging, shopping and dining.

These are just five of Wisconsin’s many fantastic fishing opportunities. Find more great places to fish this spring.

For complete fishing regulations, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Hook and Line Fishing Regulations.

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