Wisconsin’s Magnolia Bluff County Park, A Wisconsin State Natural Area, Country Views from the Bluff

Now a throwback to a summer hike on a Monday afternoon. (Oh how I already miss the green grass and lush foliage.) While I don’t normally get to hike on a Monday afternoon, this day happened to be my (our) 1 year wedding anniversary. Since our planned anniversary trip and celebration to the UP was cancelled because of the pandemic, we celebrated in a much smaller way.

Magnolia Bluff County Park is located 27 miles south of Madison and 18 miles west of Janesville. This 112 acre park is managed and operated by Rock County. It has trails, lookouts, and picnic areas.

A portion of the park is designated as a Wisconsin State Natural Area or SNA. I saw this information proudly displayed on a sign at the park. Not knowing much about them, I looked for more information.

According to the Wisconsin DNR website, “State natural areas (SNAs) protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin’s native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. Encompassing 406,000 acres on lands owned by the state and its many partners, including land trusts, local and county governments, and private citizens, Wisconsin’s natural areas are valuable for research and educational use, the preservation of genetic and biological diversity and for providing benchmarks for determining the impact of use on managed lands. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.”

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Blackhawk Lake Recreation Area, Highland, Wisconsin — A Popular Man-Made Lake and Fishing Location (Bonus: Puppy Photos!)

Lush green tree trees and bright blue water! Is it summer again already? If you’re living in a COVID time-soup bubble and aren’t 100% sure what month it is, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It’s not summer, I’m just super slow at posting within the same month, nay, the same season. Better late than never and all that jazz, but I feel like this way I get to relive the summer twice. (There’s that relentless optimism that I’ve been missing for months!)

This post brings us back to a late spring day in early June. The air was starting to warm but there was still a slight chill in the breeze. We traveled the 1 hour and 10 minutes from Madison to Blackhawk Lake Recreation Area, located between Cobb and Highland. The water was cold and the fish weren’t biting.

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Wisconsin’s Rib Mountain State Park — Midwest Mountain Hiking and an Old Quarry

Back in June we had an entire weeklong hiking, camping, and relaxing trip planned in the UP of Michigan to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. It was going to be great, time spent in both the Pictured Rocks and in Munising, complete with a boutique hotel. (Roam Inn, you look amazing and I can’t wait to visit you soon!) Well, then COVID happened and plans changed. Instead of that trip, we planned a COVID friendly trip to a cabin in central Wisconsin. First stop on that trip was hiking at Rib Mountain State Park.

If you’ve even driven through Wausau then you’ve seen Rib Mountain. You can’t miss it. Right off the main highway is a 1,923 foot hill (a mountain by Wisconsin standards.) It has a state park on one side and Granite Peak Ski Area on the other. While there is no camping at the park, there is a lot of hiking to be done.

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Wisconsin’s Council Grounds State Park — A River Park with a Dam, Merrill, WI

Now on to another Wisconsin State Park. Half an hour north of Wausau is Council Grounds State Park. The park is just outside the town of Merrill, (like literally right outside the town,) so if you forget something that you need to buy, don’t fret. (When we visited firewood wasn’t being sold inside the park. We went back into town for wood and coffee.) At 509 acres, this park isn’t huge but still seems to be very popular with water sport enthusiasts. With a boat landing, accessible fishing pier, beach area, and a canoe/kayak portage, there’s something for everyone who loves water recreating.

We planned to camp and hike at the park. This trip was in mid-July as part II of a two-part birthday celebration. Is there anyway better to turn 31 than camping with friends?

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Donald County Park, Dane County, Madison, Wisconsin, A Short Hike to a Big Rock in the State Capital Area

Now let’s take a short break from the Wisconsin state park system. I spend so much time driving to parks all over the state that sometimes I forget there are great options for hiking right in my backyard. One of these options is a park located 19 miles out side of Madison and managed by Dane County, Donald County Park.

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Wisconsin’s Governor Dodge State Park — A Waterfall, A Canyon, and Farming History

I love when parks surprise me. Let me rephrase, I love when parks surprise me in a positive way. I don’t love being surprised by an army of mosquitoes, finding the trail underwater 2 miles in, or finding your campsite has no shade on a 90 degree day. I do, however, love when you start a trail with only a vague knowledge of what’s to come and find so much more than you expected.

I had this experience at a park I’ve been going to for years, Governor Dodge State Park. Living in Madison, this park is an easy drive for a day-trip. Although I’ve been to the park numerous times I somehow never explored the area around one of the park’s main attractions, Stephens Falls. I’ve been to the falls but it was always full of multiple groups of people. Maybe that’s why I ignored all the trails around it. I tend to avoid crowds, especially in natural areas when I’m trying to get away from people. Boy, was I missing out.

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