By Amy Bayer
Kenosha County is the southeast cornerstone of Wisconsin and a the welcome point for many visitors who come to explore our state. Whether you're crossing the border from Illinois or already a resident looking to experience more of your state, take a look at some of these natural wonders on your next scenic adventure in southeast Wisconsin.
Located in Pleasant Prairie, this natural area has four trails that meander through one of the largest and most diverse prairielands in the state. It is also the most intact coastal wetland in southeastern Wisconsin. More than 75 species of birds and 400 species of plants are located here, including numerous of rare and vulnerable status.
The northernmost section is home to the Kenosha Dunes, a protected area formed more than 13,000 years ago when Lake Michigan receded. There is a network of trails naturally occurring through the sand dunes, with beautiful views of the lakefront.
While this Kenosha park is 260-acres and mostly known because it has one of the best sandy beaches in southeastern Wisconsin, there are also several fantastic trails. Hike through open areas and wooded hills with scenic overlooks of Silver Lake and the surrounding countryside. In addition, there are several single track mountain biking trails and a disc golf course.
New Munster Wildlife Area is home to more than one thousand acres of protected land, which was established to provide a habitat for pheasants and upland game. This area was designed to protect the water quality, improve fish habitat, and provide the public with a destination for fishing, hunting, and trapping.
The New Munster Bog Island State Natural Area also is found within the boundaries, as well as two streams and a wetland, marsh and oak forest. As you can imagine, this destination is a rustic environment ideal for wildlife and bird-watching.
The county's oldest park, known locally as "Pets", is adjacent to the UW-Parkside campus. With a rolling landscape and natural hardwood forest, the park offers beautiful scenery, especially in the fall when the colors of the leaves are most vibrant.
Petrifying Springs Park also is home to an artesian well – pure, natural spring water from an underground aquifer that defies gravity by flowing upward without the need for pumping. This destination is popular among locals and visitors alike.
Open seasonally, this free, non-profit nature sanctuary's mission is to provide environmental education. The public can access the arboretum, nature trails through the woods of the Pike River Valley, prairieland and numerous gardens – all for free.
This county park has more than four miles of wooded hiking trails through a natural setting of forest, wetlands, oak savanna and prairies. Considered the most natural of all the destinations in the Kenosha County Park system, Bristol Woods is known for excellent bird and wildlife observation.
The Pringle Nature Center on the property is available to educate visitors on the natural environment through hands-on programs and guided tours.
Open year-round, the Richard Bong State Recreation Area covers four thousand-plus acres of grassland, savanna, wetlands and woods. With a dizzying array of wildlife, birds and butterflies, visitors will never know what they're going to see on more than 16 miles of trails to explore.
One of the nicest walks in the park is the 4.2-mile Blue Trail, which takes hikers through prairie, woods, wetlands and around Wolf Lake, as well as a dam crossing where beavers can sometimes be spotted building homes.
Want to read more? Check out these seven statewide natural wonders, and keep an eye on TravelWisconsin.com for more articles on scenic wonders by county.