20. Lake Wissota State Park

20. Lake Wissota State Park

Lake Wissota, near Chippewa Falls, was formed by construction of a hydroelectric dam in the early 1900’s. It didn’t become a state park until 1961 and didn’t open for park use until 1972. According to the park brochure, it was the 45th state park. And, it’s the 13th largest at 1,062 acres. There are 18 miles of trails.

Of course, the lake is the big draw. But, when I was at the park on August 7, the prairie section of the park was pretty colorful. And, the monarchs were visiting the park. The photo at the top of the post is from the Prairie Wildflower trail. Pretty cool!

Jack Pine
Jack Pine Trail at Lake Wissota

I also hiked the Jack Pine Trail. In Large part, this was sort of a nostalgia hike. Parts of the Chequamegon National Forest outside of my hometown, Washburn, had been planted in jack pine by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) following the Depression. My dad worked on the CCC crew. That area is known to the locals as the Barrens. It was a favorite place for a Sunday drive. (Now, it’d be a Sunday hike or mountain bike ride . . . )

My understanding is that jack pine were planted in the Barrens because it’s a fast-growing type of pine. It would provide a new source of pine quickly, replacing the old growth forests that had been clear cut. It worked. But, it’s also my understanding that jack pine aren’t the strongest or best type of pine wood. They grow fast, are relatively weak and reach the end of their life expectancy sooner than other types of pine. Then, it’s a matter of harvest or deal with dead or dying forests.

The end result in the Barrens was more clearcutting because large areas had been planted in jack pine. This time around (1980’s), forest management practices had advanced, and concern for wildlife and issues like erosion were addressed.

So, jack pine always make me think of The Barrens, my dad and the CCC crew planting trees and the difficulty of managing and harvesting a fast-growing tree.

The Jack Pine Trail at Lake Wissota was also just a nice hike thru the pines on a warm summer day — when the pine smell is really noticeable.

I did, of course, also hike the Lake Trail along the shore of Lake Wissota. It’s a big lake so it offers some pretty nice views. The trail itself is easy — flat and well-maintained. It passes by and is accessible from the campground.

I didn’t bring a bike with on the trip, which included visiting six state parks in three days. Two a day, hiking nine or ten miles a day, with a lunch break while moving from one park to the next. Bringing a bike would be a nice idea since there’s a paved bike path (about 20 miles, I think) from Lake Wissota State Park to Brunet Island State Park, the next park on my tour.

Lake Wissota
Lake Wissota