A hike on the Eau Claire Dells Segment can start at the large picnic shelter on the west side of County Highway “Y” that splits the park in two. Progressing west and southwest following the Eau Claire River along its north side, the views are stupendous. The footbridge that takes the hiker to the south side of the river—locally simply called “High Bridge”—is one of the highlights of the hike. Built by the CCC and administered through the Works Progress Administration (that highly successful 1930s version of an “economic stimulus package”) it has withstood the test of time; beautiful, functional and tough as nails.
Progressing west and southwest—now on the south side of the river—one soon crosses into the south half of the northern hemisphere, having very quietly crossed the 45th Parallel; just one of those informational special things usually only hiker-types are privy to. The Eau Claire River is testament to glacier activities. Eons ago it was tributary to the Plover River, but it now drains the large area created by a huge glacial debris plug that forced the river into its present bed. Within this gorge are numerous plant varieties that are found as far north as Canada: blue beads, lily-of-the-valley, star flower and princess pine. A portion of the southwest part of the park has been listed as a Scientific Area by the state, an area that contains a prehistoric riverbed and is home to rare plant communities.
Jutting rhyolite schist terraces and snaking river make for dramatic views of the Dells of the Eau Claire and a dramatic hiking experience. Even if you’ve been to the Dells before, there’s always something new to admire, The trail passes Sandberg Island on the west side as it leaves the park and and the Annual Conference Friday hike will be no exception. Photo by Eric Sherman, IATA continues along the bank of the river before heading south through maple and oak and hardwoods, ending at County Highway “Z”. Information Systems Coordinator.
Plover River Segment (Saturday, 8:00-11:30 am) This new Ice Age Trail gem in Marathon County was completed in September 2010 and is the Chapter pride and joy. The southwest starting point is four miles east of Dells of the Eau Claire County Park. The trail segment trends northeast for 2.3 miles to a troad (a former road adopted as a trail) and is all within the Plover River State Fishery. The Plover River Segment takes the hiker along the spectrum of glacial moraine features: kettles, eskers, drumlins and apparent kames. The hike starts through an open meadow that has recently been planted in hardwood tree seedlings, crosses a wooden bridge over a small unnamed creek and continues another ¼ mile before entering a primarily deciduous woodland, undulating through the complex topography. The crossing of a snowmobile trail halfway through is the only sign of humanity. At about 1.5 miles the trail suddenly drops into the coniferous wooded wetland area that follows the Plover River—a Class 1 trout stream—for about 700 feet. The Plover River drops 70 feet in elevation from Highway 52 to Sportsman Drive, making for ideal trout environment. Huge, rounded boulders are scattered along this section, adding to the challenge of hiking the irregular and partially wet tread of the trail Lovingly built by volunteers in June of last year, the Plover River Segment follows the river from which it along the river. takes its name along newly minted tread. Rightly called The hike takes about an hour to complete and provides enough a gem, the segment is our featured hike for this year’s diversity and steep climbs that when the hiker reaches the other end Annual Conference. Photo by Eric Sherman, IATA there is a tendency to look back and reflect with a mild “wow”. This Information Systems Coordinator. segment is a true Wisconsin treasure.
2011 annual conference
A Mobile Skills Crew project scheduled for June 22-26 of this year will complete the segment to the north from the troad to State Highway 52, adding about another 0.8 mile of trail. A partially cleared corridor now exists.
MAMMOTH TALES | Spring 2011 | www.iceagetrail.org
A quarterly publication of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, about the Ice Age National Scenic Trail