Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Red Cedar State Trail ©  DNR File

Red Cedar State Trails shadows the steep walls of the Red Cedar Valley from Menomonie to its connection with the Chippewa River State Trail.
© DNR File

June 2013

Wisconsin Traveler

Rivers, rails to biking trails.

Ellen Corso

When the Chicago and North Western Railway removed tracks and sold land to the Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin built the nationís first rails trail the Elroy–Sparta. Today, Wisconsin has over 127 state bicycle trails, 38 of which are rail trails. Start your bicycling season out on a river–rail– trail and bike for free (no trail pass required) on June 1 and 2. For information on state bike trails visit DNR Bicycle Trails or the Wisconsin BIKE FED .

The 26–mile Chippewa River State Trail in northwestern Wisconsin was built in 1990. The trail takes off from Phoenix Park in Eau Claire at the junction of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers. It travels south along the Chippewa River through river bottoms, prairies, sandstone bluffs and wetlands before joining the Red Cedar State Trail and the Danville Wildlife Area near the confluence of the Red Cedar and Chippewa rivers. It winds up at the town of Durand. After operating for almost 100 years the Milwaukee Railroad line along the Chippewa River was abandoned in 1980, and a decade later transformed into this trail. South of Carryville the trail is rugged and forested. It provides bird and wildlife watching including encounters with frogs and salamanders. Relax in the shade on one of the many benches along the trail.

The 15–mile Fox River State Trail in eastern Wisconsin was developed in 1991. Trains ran this line for 116 years, but service was discontinued in 1989. The primarily flat trail meanders between Green Bay and Hilbert. The north end is asphalt paved for 11 miles; the remaining trail is surfaced with limestone screenings.

Traveling south through downtown Green Bay, homeowners showcase their gardens for riders. The Friends of Fox River Trail maintain the trail with fall and spring cleanups plus trail improvement fundraisers. From Green Bay to De Pere the trail darts in and out along the Fox River. Riders pass Heritage Hill State Park heritagehillgb.org

In De Pere riders will find the De Pere Riverwalk and wildlife viewing pier www.depereriverwalk.webs.com Stop in for frozen custard at Zestyís on Riverside Drive (open April through September). Then bike through vineyards heading south towards Greenleaf. The LedgeStone Vineyard offers wine tastings and more Thursday 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The winery is easily accessible from the trail. Visit ledgestonevineyards.com or call (920) 532–4384. Continuing south from Greenleaf to Ott Road riders find small towns and rolling hills, farms, wetlands and wildlife.

Bridge at Sugar River State Trail ©  Ryan Afflerbaugh
Clarence Cover Bridge replica.
© Ryan Afflerbaugh

The 12–mile White River State Trail in southeastern Wisconsin was built in 1999, following the former Soo rail line between Elkhorn and Burlington. This trail wanders over bridges and passes scenic vistas, quaint towns, farmlands and wetlands. Riders report seeing deer, coyote and chipmunks.

Visit the old Springfield depot, now the Pedal & Cup, which offers bike rentals, lunch specials and more (open May 1 to October 13). Call (262) 249–1111 or visit pedalandcup.com

The Friends of White River State Trail donated 12 benches to give riders a break and the group encourages trail expansion and improvements. In Lyons an old trestle bridge spans the White River. Biking east, the trail runs into Burlington at Spring Valley Road. Then itís a short pedal north on Highway 36 to downtown Burlington, known as Chocolate City USA. Visit the Chocolate Museum. Cycling from Burlington west to Elkhorn on the trail is more invigorating due to the overall incline.

Sugar River State Trail © U.S. DNR File
The Sugar River State Trail passes by farmland, woods and rolling hills.
© DNR File

The 24–mile Sugar River State Trail in southwestern Wisconsin is the sweetest. Built in 1972, this trail follows an abandoned railroad line from New Glarus to Brodhead. The Sugar River Trail headquarters in New Glarus is a restored 1887 railroad depot. There is ample parking and the headquarters offers bike rentals.

Cycling south towards Brodhead riders cover 14 trestle bridges crossing the Sugar River and its tributaries as the trail travels by farmlands, woods, rolling hills, scenic meadows, remnant prairies and glacial topography. Just before Brodhead, the trail goes over the Clarence Covered Bridge replica.

North of Albany to Monticello is the most scenic. The Albany Wildlife Area houses cranes, deer and snapping turtles. The trail is primarily flat but a few hills and sharp turns make for wonderful adventure. This is a great family trail. Take time to study railroad history at the Depot Museum.

The 29–mile Tomorrow River State Trail was built in 1996 along an abandoned railroad in central Wisconsin. The trail runs between the Plover and Manawa. Nearby is a separate adjacent path for horseback riders. The easy riding surface is packed crushed limestone. The trail passes through agricultural and forested areas. At Amherst Junction it passes the 143–acre Lake Emily Park with picnic tables, scenic views and bathrooms. West of Plover the trail connects to the Green Circle Trail and goes over the Tomorrow River at Amherst. The Tomorrow River was aptly named; it took Native Americans 24 hours to travel its full length.

Ellen Corso is Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine's Circulation Manager.