By Amy Bayer
Shaped by glaciers, Waupaca County is abundant with kettles, moraines, ridges and rolling terrain, creating a diverse and beautiful landscape. From the lakes and waterways to the rich woodlands, there is no end to the natural wonders of Waupaca County. Here is a list of seven scenic areas to start with, whether on foot or by boat.
This natural area features a cluster of five undeveloped glacial pothole lakes surrounded by wetlands and a forest of birch, pine, maple, elm and oak. The 11-acre Skunk Lake is deep with clear spring-fed water. There is a navigable channel that connects to Foster Lake, a 7-acre shallow, muck-bottom lake.
About two and a half miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail weaves through this protected area including a shoreline path along the edge of Grenlie Lake.
Located east of Big Falls on County Highway G, Keller Lake County Park features a 16-acre lake surrounded by a heavily wooded hardwood forest and a dam with a roaring waterfall. The park has a one-way road that circles the lake and provides numerous spots for picnics and wildlife viewing.
At the southeast corner of the park is the spillway that empties into the Pigeon River. There are hiking trails throughout the park or a boat launch if you’d prefer to enjoy nature from the water.
The 1,300-acre Mukwa State Wildlife Area is just one mile west of New London in the southeastern part of the county. It’s mostly composed of hardwoods, brush and oxbows of the Wolf River, making it a popular hunting, trapping and fishing destination. Mukwa also is considered a great location for bird watching since it’s home to owls, kingfishers, swans, herons and geese.
While there are no designated hiking trails in this natural area, it’s a great place to explore and immerse yourself in nature. As a bonus, across the road from the parking area on County Highway X is the start of the Wolf River Sturgeon Trail, a half-mile long paved trail alongside the Wolf River perfect for fishing and wildlife viewing.
This 40-acre site is located south of Marion off Highway 45 on Knitt Road. Home to several different habitat types, this park is a wonderful place for viewing nature along a trail system with multiple boardwalks.
In addition, the convergence of the north and south branches of the Pigeon River are within the park boundaries, and there is a footbridge across the Pigeon River with a put-in location for kayakers. This quiet destination is a lovely, scenic location for a picnic.
Ten miles of hiking trails wind through this 1,400-acre park’s prairies and forests and encircle two lakes. The park is located on an interesting variety of glacial landforms which naturally created a variety of trails and scenic vistas.
Another beautiful feature of this park is that it is home to the largest population of federally endangered Karner Blue Butterflies in the state, which is largely due to the abundance of Wild Lupine essential to the Karner Blue caterpillar.
With so many lakes and streams packed into one county there were bound to be a few natural wonders that can only be seen from the waterways.
The Chain O’ Lakes consists of 22 connected spring-fed lakes, which collectively contribute to more than 20 miles of shoreline. The springs make all the lakes crystal clear, but the clearest and most serene lakes are called the “Upper Chain.” Made up of five, small, no-wake lakes (Manomin, Pope, Marl, Knight and Orlando lakes), they can only be accessed by kayak or canoe.
Pope Lake is surrounded by protected state land, so no development exists around the water’s edge. The recommended put-in location is either at Knight’s Landing on Knight’s Road or to gain access from the Lower Chain through Beasley Creek, and there are numerous outfitters in the area to assist with your paddling adventure through these pristine waters.
The Little Wolf River State Natural Area is only accessible via canoe or kayak down the Little Wolf River. The put-in location is just under a mile to the north at the bridge on Wolf River Road.
This unaltered stretch of the Little Wolf River, including its springs and tributaries, is a high-quality trout stream running fast and clear. The shore has a lush and dense fern-covered understory peppered with large boulders. Majestic birds including hawks, owls and herons call this stretch of river home.
Want to read more? Check out these seven statewide natural wonders, and keep an eye on TravelWisconsin.com as we roll out more articles on scenic wonders by county.