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Outdoor ReportPublished December 20, 2019

Ice jam on the Flambeau River. - Photo credit: DNR
Ice jam on the Flambeau River.Photo credit: DNR

This weekend's Winter Solstice officially marks the beginning of winter, but areas of the north have already endured plenty of winter-like weather. There have been over 45 inches of snow recorded at the Brule River State Forest ranger station since the first snowfall.

Some additional snow late last week improved cross-country ski conditions and allowed a few more counties to open snowmobile trails on the travelwisconsin.com Snow Conditions Report. Several northern parks and forests are reporting cross-country ski trail conditions ranging from good to excellent. Northern ice anglers are finding deep snow and mud to be an issue.

Gun hunters will have one more opportunity, the holiday hunt, to harvest an antlerless deer in the farmland zone.

Early results from Christmas Bird Counts are reflecting the slow pattern prevalent much of this fall and winter. Exceptions include some resident species like cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers.



FISHING

Buffalo County

Ice has started to form on Fountain City Bay, although there are still some slushy sections on the ice. There have been a few early ice fishermen.

Iron County

Ice fishers are finding deep snow and mud to be an issue.

Polk County

Ice thickness is between 3.5 and 7 inches with snow and slush on top near Amery. Ice fishing has been slow.



HUNTING & TRAPPING

Iron County

Although deer hunters may be struggling to get into their bow stands, hound hunters will find favorable conditions with no crust on top of the snow.

Marinette County

The December statewide antlerless rifle season has ended. Gun hunters will have one more opportunity, the holiday hunt, to harvest an antlerless deer in the farmland zone of Marinette County.



WILDLIFE

Vilas County

Travel is difficult for wildlife, but the birds seem to go about their business of foraging up and down the trees, picking salt and dirt off the roadways and visiting area bird and suet feeders.



SEASONAL CONDITIONS

Ashland County

Early results from Christmas Bird Counts are reflecting the slow pattern prevalent much of this fall and winter. Exceptions include some resident species like cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers. Downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers continue to show increasing populations, while red-headed woodpeckers remain as far north as Florence and Sawyer counties this year thanks to good acorn crops. This season's third and fourth varied thrushes photographed in Ashland and Outagamie counties.

Door County

We received 5 inches of fresh snow on Dec. 12, adding to the 8-inch base. Trail work is continuing on trails that suffered tree damage from the Dec. 1 snowstorm. Most trails are accessible now for skiing, hiking or snowshoeing. Temps are seasonal and mild, ranging from the low 20s into the 30s.

Douglas County

There has been no shortage of snow in Douglas County. The Brule River State Forest grooming crew, which mainly consists of two staff members, has been working on the after-hours ski trail system every day since Dec. 2. There have been over 45 inches of snow recorded at the state forest ranger station since the first snowfall of the season! The snow depth at the monitoring site measures at 23 inches as of Dec. 17. Skiing and snowshoeing conditions are excellent in the state forest now. Please take the opportunity over the holidays to get outdoors and enjoy it.

Iron County

There are two feet of snow and counting throughout the county. Snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and downhill enthusiasts are reaping the benefits of the abundance of snow; conditions are perfect!

Marinette County

Deep fluffy snow (12+ inches) covers much of the county, making getting around the woods taxing. Snowmobile trails are reported to be open in some areas, but the heavy snow we received earlier this month really pulled down a lot of trees, and many trails are still being worked on. Deer are now keying in heavily on food sources, primarily acorns or corn.

Milwaukee County

Lack of snow cover and slightly milder temperatures in the south are also allowing several migrant species to linger longer than usual, albeit in very small numbers, including gray catbird, Baltimore oriole, Eastern phoebe, Nashville and orange-crowned warblers, chipping sparrow, and Virginia rail. Rarities found this week were Townsend's solitaire in Milwaukee, the easternmost found in the country this month save for one in Massachusetts.

Sawyer County

Near Flambeau River State Forest, snowmobile trails are opening up, but use caution, as many of the swamps and low areas are wet and hazardous. Lake ice conditions are poor to fair at best. Ice depth is inconsistent with large amounts of snow, slush, and water on top, with some areas having open water still. Ski trails still have not been groomed due to mechanical issues but should be back on track soon.

Washburn County

We have fantastic snow conditions for skiing and snowmobiling near Spooner. About 14 inches or so in southern Washburn County, more as you go north. Rough-legged hawks are abundant.

Vilas County

A heavy blanket of snow covers the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, giving one the impression that it is mid-February and not mid-December. Snowshoes are a must if one wants to "take a hike."



PARKS & TRAILS

Ashland County

The groomer is back up and running at Copper Falls State Park and the cross-country ski trails are in good shape. There are some ruts in the meadow from hauling damaged equipment out earlier this week. The trail is groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and was tracked on Friday, Dec. 13.

Burnett County

The Brandt Pines Ski Trail System at Governor Knowles State Forest is groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and were tracked on Dec. 16. Trails are in excellent condition.

Chippewa County

Lake Wissota State Park cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and tracked for classic cross-country skiing on Dec. 14 and are in excellent condition.

The Nordic cross-country ski trails at Brunet Island State Park were groomed and tracked for classic cross-country skiing on Dec. 19 and are in good conditions.

Columbia County

With even a light dusting of snow, the MacKenzie Center's woodland trails spring to life with the tracks of many species. On the Hardwood and Wildlife Trails, the leaf-off allows excellent views through the trees. Possible wildlife sightings include white-tailed deer, raccoon, coyote, fox and many species of songbirds and raptors.

Douglas County

Winter has arrived at Pattison State Park in a short time. We received 30 inches of snow over Thanksgiving, and then a few days later, another winter storm left us with over 10 inches of snow. Both Big and Little Manitou Falls are open for viewing. Winter trails are not maintained, but parking is available. With so much snow in a short time, it has been very challenging working on the cross-country ski trails. Currently, all ski trails have been rolled only, and with so much snow, this will take time as we are trying to compact all the snow to a ski base that can be groomed and tracked.

Although it seems like we have already endured plenty of the northland's weather, this weekend's Winter Solstice officially marks the beginning of winter. Currently, the snow depth at the Brule River State Forest measured 22 inches, and the total recorded accumulation since early November adds up to more than 46 inches. The weekend forecast calls for a bit of a warm-up. With highs in the mid 30s, it should be a great time to get outdoors and enjoy all the snow! On Monday and Tuesday staff groomed and tracked the entire After Hours Ski Trail system. The classic only trail is rolled but not tracked at this time due to equipment maintenance. The skate lanes are in good shape and with the recent cold weather should be firming up nicely. The trails are in excellent shape. There is at least 8-10 inches of base.

Dunn County

The Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie to Downsville is groomed, and an excellent classic track is set as well as a groomed skate lane. There are two classic set tracks with a middle skate lane from Menomonie to Irvington (3 miles), and a single classic track with a wide skate lane from Irvington to Downsville (4.5 miles). Plenty of snow with a good base. The ice wall and Red Cedar River are in fine winter form. There are excellent skate ski conditions at the Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area, with 90 percent groomed. Classical cross-country tracks will be set soon.

Fond du Lac County

The Norther Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest has received no significant snow since Dec. 1. Very little snow base is left on cross-country ski trails. Leaf and twig debris throughout. Hikers and pets are prohibited form ski trails when snow is present, or when warm weather hiking creates ruts on the ski trail base. All other hiking trails are open, as are the horse and mountain bike trails.

Iron County

The MECCA cross-country ski trails at the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area were groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and were tracked on Dec. 13 and all 21K are in excellent condition. Snowshoe trails also excellent! Trails are on rolling glacial terrain through pine, spruce and tamarack forests. A heated chalet with a vault toilet, wax bench, and changing room is located at the Cabin trailhead. There is a second trailhead at the Little Turtle Flowage parking lot.

Lincoln County

There's plenty of snow for skiing and snowshoeing at Council Grounds State Park. Turkeys, deer and other wildlife make use of park trails to get around more easily in the deep snow. Keep that in mind if you'd like to see wildlife during your visit.

Marinette County

Cross-country ski trails at Governor Thompson State Park and Peshtigo River State Forest were groomed and tracked on Dec. 13. Trails are in excellent condition at Gov. Thompson and good condition at Peshtigo River. Due to limited staffing over the Holidays, grooming will not occur again until after Jan. 1.

Polk County

Cross-country ski trails at Interstate Park and were groomed and tracked for classic on Thursday, Dec. 12. Trails are in good condition. Due to limited staffing over the Holidays, grooming will not occur again until after Jan. 1.

Vilas County

Cross-country ski trails in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest are in good condition. Trails were tracked Dec. 17 at Escanaba and Raven with good to very good conditions. There is 16-18 inches of snow in the undisturbed woods. McNaughton and Madeline trails were groomed Dec. 15 after the forest received about 2 inches of fluffy snow over the weekend.

Waukesha County

The lower manmade snow cross-country ski loop at Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest was groomed Dec. 19 along with tail end hill and the lower section of magic carpet hill. Some extra snow was made on Magic carpet overnight to help solidify the hill. The new snow was not able to be groomed yet due to it being soft. Please use caution on magic carpet and at the bottom of magic carpet. Skiers should stay to the right while coming down the hill to avoid the fresh snow. Reminder the ski loop is counter clockwise direction of travel to prevent accidents and injuries.



Last Revised: Friday, December 20, 2019

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