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ATVing on the Tuscobia State Trail
Last Updated: 1/14/2014
The Tuscobia State Trail is a 74-mile, multi-use, rails-trails conversion that spans four counties in northern Wisconsin. It was once the Omaha Line and for seventy years it was the transportation backbone of the region’s logging and farming industries. It took 15 years to build the line between Rice Lake and Park Falls. When it was completed in 1914, it quickly became the best way to transport pulpwood to the burgeoning Flambeau Paper Mill in Park Falls. But times changed. By the mid-50s the line was abandoned in disrepair. In 1968, development of the Tuscobia State Trail began.
While the full length of the trail is 74 miles, only 62 miles are open to ATVs. The westernmost 12 miles of the trail, from Rice Lake to Birchwood, are closed to ATVs. Despite that, the trail from Birchwood east to Park Falls offers some terrific scenery and plenty of ATV adventures. With six towns along the route, lodging, food and fuel are readily available.
In Park Falls, a large parking area is located at the Park Falls-Tuscobia Trailhead County Park, which has an ATV loading ramp. The city of Park Falls is ATV friendly; riders can travel through town on posted roads. If you like camping, Smith Lake County Park & Campground just west of the city has direct access to the trail. Located on the shores of the Flambeau River, the park offers year-round electric hookups, flush toilets and showers April through October, and an ATV loading ramp.
Park Falls is a district headquarters for the nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. At the district office, (1170 4th Ave S), you can pick up a map showing the forest roads and trails posted for ATV use.
Heading west on the Tuscobia State Trail, you’ll encounter varying terrain from thick forest sections to open expanses that cross creeks and streams that are tributaries of the Flambeau River. Crossing into Sawyer County, you’ll hit a spur trail running south 40 miles into the Flambeau River State Forest.
Back on the Tuscobia, the next two little towns are Draper and Loretta where food and fuel are available. Here, the old railroad bed on which you ride is ever present – beneath the sod of the trail you can still see the old railroad ties. The trail cuts southwest, crossing the Brunet River on its way to Winter. Stop to check out the river, known for its musky and trout fishing. Food, fuel and lodging are available in Winter. You might want to check out the original railroad station downtown to catch a glimpse of the golden age of the railway in northern Wisconsin.
From Winter, the trail runs west to meet the Chippewa River at Ojibwa. Just before reaching town, Ojibwa Park offers 350 acres of heavily wooded land with campsites and electric hookups. For those traveling the Tuscobia’s entire 62 miles, this marks the halfway point. In Ojibwa, just south of the trail, history buffs might take note of a large white house. Once a hotel that was built in the 1870s, it is the oldest standing building in Sawyer County.
From Ojibwa, the trail follows the Chippewa River to Radisson – a particularly pretty stretch offering some great views of a wild river. From Radisson, the trail parallels Hwy 27/70 to Couderay where it breaks southwest diving deep into miles of lush, green forest on its way to Birchwood. This 17-mile section crosses the Blue Hills, remnants of an ancient mountain range that towered above northern Wisconsin a billion years ago.
Birchwood is the end of the ATV line on the Tuscobia State Trail. (Note: riders can cross the bridge to the west side of the Red Cedar River to connect with trails headed north.) From here, hikers on the Ice Age National and State Scenic Trail fill the last 12 miles of the Tuscobia to its western terminus at Rice Lake.
If You Go...
Distance: 62 miles one way from Park Falls to Birchwood.
Trailhead location(s): In Rice Lake and in Park Falls.
Season: April 15 to November 15.
Other trails in this region: Wild Rivers State Trail, Flambeau Trail System, Flambeau River State Forest Trail, the Pine Line Trail, Georgetown Trail, and Dead Horse Trail.
Note: The Tuscobia is closed to ATV use from Rice Lake to Birchwood. Traveling on posted roads in Park Falls is permitted; signs will indicate designated routes. Headlights and taillights must be on within the city limits. Drivers and passengers under the age of 18 must wear a helmet.
Caution: Trail is open to other outdoor enthusiasts. Please use caution and good trail etiquette to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all trail users.