Description - Imagine a public greenway meandering across Wisconsin's glacial landscape. Imagine a trail 1,200 miles long leading both to places of glacial beauty close to home and to some of the remotest parts of Wisconsin. That is what the late Raymond Zillmer of Milwaukee had in mind in the 1950s when he proposed that an Ice Age Glacier National Forest Park be established along the entire length of the moraines marking the furthest advance of the last glacier in Wisconsin. An avid hiker, he proposed a continuous footpath, similar to the Appalachian Trail, as the central feature of the park so that visitors could explore and enjoy the glacial landscape at their own pace.
Copyright: National Park Service
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
In 1958 the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation was established by a group of Wisconsin citizens to promote the creation of the national glacial park. As the effort to win Congressional authorization of the park gained momentum, volunteers were already at work building the first segments of the future Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
The result of these efforts was the creation, in 1971, of the nine-unit Ice Age National Scientific Reserve to be administered by the State of Wisconsin in cooperation with, and with assistance from, the National Park Service. While the nine Reserve units contain only portions of the glacial park proposed by Zillmer, the Federal legislation authorizing the Reserve specifically recognized the efforts of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation to create a continuous footpath linking these areas, but offered no Federal assistance.
In 1975, efforts to establish the trail accelerated across Wisconsin. In a few years, volunteers were successful in establishing major segments of the trail. Congress recognized the national significance of the trail and the efforts to establish it in October 1980 by designating it a National Scenic Trail. The National Park Service administers the trail in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation. There are also many other partners that participate in the trail including the U.S. Forest Service; county and municipal park and forestry departments; conservation, civic, and youth organizations; and private volunteers and landowners.
- Today, approximately 300 miles of the trail have been certified by the National Park Service as part of the Ice Age NST. Certification indicates the segment is developed and managed in accordance with approved trail plans and entitles the segment to be marked with the official trail emblem. An additional 250 of completed trail segments are also open for public use and enjoyment.
The trail explores 31 counties all within the State of Wisconsin following the terminal moraine created more than 10,000 years ago leaving geologic features that include kames, lakes, drumlins, ice-walled lake plains, outwash plains, eskers, and tunnel channels.
At this writing, there are 44 segment maps available from the Foundation. Below are segment highlights beginning with No. 1, Sturgeon Bay Segment and ending with No. 75, St. Croix Falls Segment:
Sturgeon Bay - observation tower at Potawatomi State Park, Maplewood Swamp.
Forestville - Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871, Ahnapee River Valley.
Greenbush - Elkhart and Crystal lakes, Old Wade House Historic Site, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Rustic Road 63
Parnell Segment - Long Lake, Parnell Observation Tower, Dundee Mountain, Parnell Esker, Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Kewaskum & Milwaukee River - heavy woodlands, scenic city scapes, Milwaukee River, Kettle Moraine State Forest.
West Bend & Slinger - Ridge Run County Park, Silver Creek, Lucas Lake.
Pike Lake, Holly Hill & Loew Lake - Pike Lake State Park, Powder Hill, marsh marigolds, Oconomowoc River.
Monches, Merton & Hartland - abundant wildlife, Oconomowoc River, train rides, Bark River.
Delafield, Lapham Peak & Waterville - Nagawaukee Co. Park, Lapham Peak State Forest.
Scuppernong, Eagle & Stoney Ridge - Kettle Moraine State Forest, Bradys Rock, hostel.
Whitewater Lake, Blackhawk & Blue Springs - Stone Elephant, Bald Bluff, Oleson Cabin Historic Site.
Janesville - Tallman House, Riverside Park.
Albany - Sugar River State Trail, covered bridge, depot museum, Half-Way Tree
Monticello - Swiss-style village (New Glarus)
Brooklyn Wildlife Area - Story Creek Marsh and Johnstown Moraine vistas
Verona - Johnstown Moraine, Prairie Moraine Co. Park, Military Ridge State Trail
Indian Lake - 450-acre Indian Lake Co. Park.
Lodi Marsh - dolomite hills, Lodi Marsh State Wildlife Area, Baraboo Hills views, bird life.
Devil's Lake & Sauk Point - purple Baraboo quartzite, Blue Mound State Park views.
Portage Canal & Marquette - Wisconsin River, French Creek State Wildlife Area, Governors Bend Park, Indian Agency House, Pauquette Park.
Belmont, Emmons / Hartman Creeks & Waupaca River - Emmons Creek State Fishery, Elderon Moraine, Hartman Creek State Park.
New Hope / Iola Ski Hill - winter sports club, Severson Lake.
Eau Claire Dells & Ringle - Eau Claire River, the 45th Parallel, Klaver Kame.
Kettle Bowl & Lumber Camp - Kent Lookout Tower, Kettlebowl Ski Area, Mueller Lake.
Old Railroad - Alta Lake campsite, Jack Lake.
Parrish Hills - Prairie River, ATV trails, Townline Lake.
Harrison Hills - Lookout Mountain Tower, Chain Lake.
Underdown - designated area for mountain bikers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers.
Grandfather Falls & New Wood - Wisconsin River rapids, New Wood Co. Park.
Wood Lake - county park, log cabin.
Rib Lake & East Lake - Black River, East Lake, Timm's Hill Trail (1,951 feet elevation).
Mondeaux Esker - Chequamegon National Forest, developed facilities
Jerry Lake - Yellow River, Chippewa Lope Interpretive Loop
Lake Eleven - Chequamegon National Forest, campsites.
Firth Lake - Brunet Island State Park, beaver ponds.
Chippewa Moraine - Baldy Hill, Ice Age Scientific Reserve (visitor center).
Southern Blue Hills - Devil's Creek, North Lake, Pickerel Lakes, Moose Ear Creek.
Blue Hills / Hemlock Creek - Red Cedar Lake, Pigeon Creek.
Tuscobia - communities of Angus and Brill, state trail.
Grassy Lake & Bear Lake - Bass Lake, Leaman Lake.
Sandy Creek / Timberland Hills - ski area, timber management practices.
Straight River / McKenzie Creek - natural springs, Dinger Lake.
Luck Area - Gandy Dancer State Trail, communities of Luck and Milltown.
St. Croix Falls Area - Dalles of the St. Croix, Gandy Dancer State Trail.
Wisconsin Rustic Roads 1, 6, 57, 62, 83, and 86 either cross, follow alongside or provide an access point to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Rustic Road Guides are available from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail is CLOSED DURING DEER SEASON. Blaze orange is recommended during other hunt seasons.
Recreation - The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is designed for foot travel but may be used by cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Marked designated segments are open for biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Climate - Wisconsin experiences four distinct seasons with the average annual temperature varying from 39 degrees F in the northwest to 50 degrees F in the southeast. Great Lakes Michigan and Superior tend to make summers cooler and winters milder close to shore. Average January temperatures range from 12 to 16 degrees F (-11 to -9 degrees C) in the northwest to 22 degrees F (-6 degrees C) in the southeast. Average July temperatures in the northwest range from 70 to 85 degrees F (21 to 26 degrees C). However during the past several decades, average temperatures have risen in Wisconsin changing the imagery of the state. The winter economy has slowed considerable due to the lack of consistent snow, and where maples and aspens set the fall foliage a blaze, now duller elms, oak, ash and pine dominate the woodlands.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail travels from eastern Wisconsin at Sturgeon Bay, dipping south to Albany, then courses northbound to the St. Croix Falls area.