If you’ve been daydreaming about getting away to somewhere amazing with your special someone, look no further. Horicon Marsh and National Wildlife Refuge is a one-of-a-kind natural oasis in southeast Wisconsin that will blow you away with its serene beauty. From miles of scenic trails, stunning waterways and charming surrounding areas, this is one outdoor escape you and your partner will want to revisit again and again—and one you can even come back to with the kids. Read on to discover all there is to explore together in and around Horicon Marsh.
Connect with Nature and Each Other
Spanning over 30,000 acres, Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the whole United States. And the best part? This ecological wonder is just over an hour drive from both Madison and Milwaukee, making it perfect for a memorable day trip or an easy weekend escape.
A great place to start your visit is the Education and Visitor Center. Here, you and your special someone can pick up trail maps, read about the kinds of wildlife that call the Marsh home and get tips and recommendations from expert guides. You can also check out free binoculars, field guides and snowshoes in winter for the ultimate adventure.
The area around the visitor center offers plenty of picnic spots with breathtaking views of the marsh’s greenery and waterways. As you “cheers” to spending quality time together in this picturesque place, you’re sure to glimpse some of the over 300 species of birds that have been spotted here including herons, pelicans, egrets, owls, songbirds and many more. If you visit in early fall, you may even catch sight of the largest migratory flock of Canada geese in the world, with peak numbers reaching more than 200,000!
Explore Together on Foot
Starting from the Education and Visitor center, a variety of walking trails offer the opportunity to stroll along peaceful waterways and visit forested islands within the marsh. Take the quarter mile-long boardwalk to the Indermuehle Island Loop for an easy one-mile journey or try the Bachhuber Loop for a slightly longer jaunt.
Head north towards the city of Waupun to find more trails—including a breathtaking floating boardwalk that gets you up close to chirping frogs, swimming turtles and of course, all kinds of birds. This section of the marsh also includes a three-mile paved Auto Tour, named the Horicon “TernPike,” perfect for comfortable wildlife spotting from the car. Or, bring bikes along to hop on the Wild Goose State Trail that runs along the west side of the marsh and offers spectacularly serene views. However you choose to explore with your loved one, you’ll be immersed in fresh air alongside good company.
Paddle Through Wonderful Waterways
Another great way to experience Horicon Marsh is from the water. Note that the southern half of the marsh—the state wildlife area—is the only section where paddling is permitted. You can find waterway maps at the visitor center or Wisconsin DNR website to help you plan the perfect paddle. Bring your own kayaks or canoes or check out kayaks and life jackets for free at Clausen Bowling Green Park, located right on the Rock River, that leads you directly into the Marsh.
For a faster boat tour led by local experts, Blue Heron Landing in Mayville offers Mud Boat Adventure Tours that get you into the heart of the Marsh. These guides are excited to educate travelers about the history of this natural oasis and all the wildlife that calls it home and each tour is customizable for whatever you’re looking to explore. From otters to Bald Eagles to turtles and nesting Blue Herons, you and your partner will be amazed by this thriving ecosystem just waiting to be discovered.
Enjoy Charming Small Towns
While the Horicon Marsh itself feels secluded in nature, multiple charming towns are not far away. Stop in the town of Horicon for a scoop (or three!) at Horicon Ice Cream Station, or head west to Mayville to stroll the charming downtown. The Open Door Coffeehouse here serves up delicious espresso drinks with quick eats while down the street the Audubon Inn is the perfect place to stay together for the weekend. You and your sweetie can relax in the attached Beaumont Bar where even the stained-glass windows are decorated with beautiful designs of local birds.
Looking for more wonders to explore together? Discover even more romantic resorts for nature lovers throughout Wisconsin.