Description - All around is the imprint of the immense ice sheet that covered the upper Midwest some 20,000 years ago. Here in the area of the Kettle Moraine State Forest two finger-like lobes of the glacier met along a northeast to southwest line. At their junction, billions of tons of sand, gravel, and rock were deposited as the ice slowly melted away 10,000 years ago. The glaciers' massive size and impact is seen from the dimensions of the kames. Within the forest the largest kame rises over 350 feet above the surrounding land area.
Copyright: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Kettle Moraine State Forest
Other glacial features add to the unique landscape of the Kettle Moraine. Glacial streams deposited materials to form eskers by flowing through tunnels, within or beneath the ice sheet. Kettles, pit-like depressions in the earth, were formed when huge blocks of ice, buried under the glacial debris, melted away.
In 1937, the Legislature realized the unique character of the area and established the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Today, the forest provides an invaluable and unique outdoor recreational resource in the heart of Wisconsin's most heavily populated area. The Southern Unit is 21,000 acres of glacial hills known for its extensive trail system.
- Kettle Morain State Forest - Southern Unit has extensive outdoor recreation offerings. Both day and overnight users are welcome all year. The Southern Unit boasts over 300 campsites at Ottawa Lake, Whitewater Lake, Pinewoods and Horsenders campgrounds. Horsenders is available only to equestrians. Ottawa Lake Campground is a modern facility offering electric hookup, fire ring, picnic table and day use amenities. Ottawa's sites are large enough to accommodate medium to large RVs. Walk-in site are also available at the Southern Unit. For those in search of a little more comfort, the Forest offers two pioneer cabins for rent. Located in the main recreation area is the ADA cabin that provides lovely Ottawa Lake views. Camping reservations are available online or by calling a toll-free reservation number. Contact information is listed below.
Many find the visitor center to be an enjoyable first stop. It offers extensive recreation information, slide presentation, natural history exhibits, souvenir center, telephone, and restrooms. This is also the location to find out more about the regularly scheduled nature programs. Countless picnic areas with tables and grills are located throughout. The McMiller Sports Center is a firearms and archery range; the only one found within a Wisconsin State Forest. Fishing is enjoyed on several lakes and streams including Whitewater, Rice and Ottawa lakes and Scuppernong River and Blue Bluff Creek. The lakes support populations of pike, walleye and pan fish while the streams house stocked trout. Miles of trails are enjoyed by a variety of users including cross-country skiers. Several of the trails are nature hikes enlightening visitors about natural history, early settlements and wildlife residents. Trail passes ($) are required for horseback riders and mountain biker users 16 years of age and older. Maps and passes are obtainable from the visitor center and park headquarters. Thirty-one miles of the National Ice Age Trail pass through the Forest. Features of the national trail include shelters, latrines, and fire pits. All visitors, including those with physical limitations, will enjoy the cool, refreshing half-mile Paradise Springs Nature Trail that leads to a 5,000 gallon per minute springhouse. Another day use favorite is bird watching. The area has bountiful bird life boasting 225 identified species. A favorite hike is the Rice Lake Trail where a viewing blind provides great opportunities for spying red-winged black birds, great blue heron, and various waterfowl. Visitors may be fortunate enough to see a reptile or common mammal such as a muskrat, raccoon, or beaver. In winter recreation does not subside. Guests enjoy ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and tobogganing. The cross-country trails are groomed and the Ice Age Trail has three reservable Adirondack-style shelters.
Recreation - Recreation enjoyed on the Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest includes camping, cabin lodging (ADA), backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nature walks (ADA), nature study, sightseeing, wildlife watching, picnicking, fishing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, and snowmobiling.
Climate - Southeast Wisconsin has four distinct seasons with warm summers and long winters. January's average temperature is above 16 degrees F (-9 degrees C). Average July temperature is 85 degrees F (29 degrees C). During summer, temperatures can climb to above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). The area's average yearly precipitation ranges from 32-34". Annual snowfalls in the Southeast Region can range from 20 - 50". Dressing in layers is a good way to remain comfortable in Wisconsin.
The Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest lies within the counties of Jefferson, Walworth and Waukesha on Highway 59 between Eagle and Palmyra.