By Amy Bayer
As the fourth largest county in the state, Douglas County has an impressively large amount of natural features.
As a matter of fact, there are more than 270,000 acres of forest available for public use. In addition, there are several natural areas of state and national significance like Pattison State Park – home to Wisconsin’s largest waterfall; two state recreation trails – the 98-mile Gandy Dancer Trail that weaves between two states and the North Country National Scenic Trail, which crosses seven different states; the unspoiled splendor of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and Brule River State Forest; and of course the shores of Lake Superior.
Scenic beauty and natural wonders abound in the northwest corner of the state. Come explore and see for yourself and while you’re in the area here are seven natural destinations to get you started on your next adventure.
One of the most scenic bridges on site is a covered foot bridge over the Amnicon River; however, there are also opportunities to view the various falls and rapids from trails throughout the property.
In addition, visitors can make their way down to the river’s edge for a refreshing retreat on a hot summer’s day. Take your time to explore this stunning natural attraction located near South Range – you won’t regret it!
More commonly known as the "Bird Sanctuary," this expansive property covers more than 4,000 acres in the southern part of the county between Solon Springs and Gordon. More than 200 species of wildlife have been documented in this natural area that protects one of the regions remaining grassland savannas, necessary for the survival of the rare Sharp Tailed Grouse.
Hike five miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail that crosses the plain and be prepared to see miles of fields with wildflowers, or explore the property on horseback since more than 15 miles of horse trails are located on site.
Mooney Dam County Park is located along the western boundary of Douglas County on the Eau Claire River and Lower Eau Claire Lake of the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes. This chain is made up of 11 spring-fed lakes known for their deep, clear waters and excellent fishing opportunities. The area is well known as trophy muskie waters and also has plentiful walleye, large-mouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike and panfish.
Another popular activity includes canoeing and kayaking along the wild Eau Claire River with its peaceful, scenic beauty. The river’s headwaters begin at the Mooney Dam and paddlers can travel 15 miles all the way to the St. Croix River along a largely undeveloped route. From deer to loons and the occasional black bear and otter, wildlife abounds in this naturally scenic area.
Stretching three miles into Lake Superior, forming the Allouez Bay, is Wisconsin Point. This peninsula, along with Minnesota Point, forms one of the largest freshwater sandbars in the world. Along the Allouez Bay side of the peninsula pine trees line the way, while on the Lake Superior side are sand dunes, wetlands and beaches.
Hike the Wisconsin Point Trail or picnic on the beach soaking in the sites of the historic Superior Entry Lighthouse, which was built in 1913. Bird watching is popular in the area as the forest and wetlands are a resting spot for numerous migratory species.
If the Lake Superior shore peaks your interest you should also travel east to explore the Mouth of the Brule River, located at the northernmost point of the Brule State Forest. The scenic spot has a picnic area on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior, and the area is known for its incredible fishing and swimming opportunities along the sandy beach.
Located west of Gordon on the 1,900-acre St. Croix Flowage at the head of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is Gordon Dam County Park. The rugged beauty of this northwest destination is a perfect escape for nature lovers who appreciate water. With 29 miles of undeveloped shoreline, the flowage offers numerous opportunities for boating and paddling.
Several scenic islands and peninsulas provide plentiful exploration opportunities for visitors. The park has 30 campsites, as well as a walking trail over the top of the Gordon Dam that shares spectacular views of the river.
The Superior Municipal Forest has more than 4,400 acres of forest and natural habitat, making it the third largest forest within a city in the United States. The forest surrounds a state natural area and Pokegama Bay, with trails on either side, and is a popular place for hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and even skijoring with your dogs.
In the winter there is an access point along the bay for ice fishing, and at the tip of Dwight’s Point is a primitive campsite. This forest has it all – including an archery range and canoe/kayak launches. Explore the beauty of northern Wisconsin while embracing a variety of outdoor activities.
Just west of Bennett on the 38-acre peninsula along Lyman Lake is one of the county’s five day-use parks. Anna Gene County Park is a great place for fishing and paddling on the 403-acre lake.
The shoreline offers excellent spots for picnicking, and there are opportunities for hiking through the wooded property. Spend a day relaxing and enjoying the scenic natural wonders in central Douglas County.