Finding Peace in Our Park

As 2020 draws to a close, our SCRA staff and Board Chair wanted to share a few favorite spots throughout the St. Croix River watershed that sustained us in the midst of a complex year. 

Deb Ryun, Executive Director

Favorite Spot of 2020: Fish Lake Wildlife Area, NW Wisconsin

When did you visit? "I return to it often."

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"Biking, hiking or driving on the back roads of the Fish Lake Wildlife area is a different experience in every season. In spring and summer, the prairie comes alive with an ever-changing splash of spring colors; Indian paintbrush, wood betony, puccoon, butterfly weed, wood lilies, and native grasses and sedges. Blandings turtles are easily seen during their nesting season. The Karner Blue Butterflies can be spotted in the vast wild lupine fields. Fall is spectacular with migrating waterfowl, it’s especially ruckus with sandhill cranes by the thousands; the birding is spectacular year-round. Winter is the season of silence, a pine-barrens landscape a sight to behold. The dark skies provide an amazing lightshow during meteor showers.

This 14,000 acre wildlife area is part of the NW Wisconsin Pine Barrens, known for its huge sedge marshes. Many plants and animals found in this area are so rare that they are on the federal endangered species list."

Photo Credit: Gary Peterson, River's Edge Photography
Photo Credit: Gary Peterson, River's Edge Photography
Photo Credit: Gary Peterson, River's Edge Photography
Photo Credit: Gary Peterson, River's Edge Photography
Photo Credit: Gary Peterson, River's Edge Photography
Photo Credit: Gary Peterson, River's Edge Photography

Brian Alton, SCRA Board Chair

Favorite Spot of 2020: Little Holmes Lake, Trade River

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"The Trade River flows into the St. Croix River at a quiet spot in the Governor Knowles State Forest. The Trade meanders through fields and forests and then a dozen miles or so upstream, it widens out to become Little Holmes Lake. That is my favorite 2020 spot in the watershed. Located about 9 miles south of Grantsburg, Little Holmes Lake is like its own little bird sanctuary. During these difficult and challenging COVID months, Little Holmes has given me innumerable hours of wonder. The thousands of sandhill cranes, hundreds of Canada geese, dozens of Trumpeter swans, and many mallards, wood ducks and other birds have been a constant reminder of the wonder of nature as they bugle, honk, congregate, and finally migrate."

Nicole Biagi, Outdoor Educator

Favorite Spot of 2020: Hayward Lake, Namekagon River

When did you visit? "Summer 2020."

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"Hayward Lake may not be everyone’s favorite spot on the Namekagon, but for the year 2020, it was mine. I arrived to Hayward around dinner time on June 15. Everyone at the hotel was exhausted from a long day of paddling, but after just one month with the St Croix River Association, I still had not had the privilege of floating on the Namekagon.

Just as the sun was about to set, I came across this humble paddle boat. I couldn’t have asked for a more tranquil or scenic night to experience the Namekagon for the first time.
About a month later, I returned to this same section of the Namekagon for my kayak training. Learning to flip a kayak upside down in deep water and self rescue was an incredibly empowering experience. Through all the years to come, I know that Hayward Lake will be the most memorable location from my first summer on the river."
Photo Credit: Jane Rice
Photo Credit: Jane Rice
Photo Credit: Adam Cox
Photo Credit: Adam Cox

Bethany Cox, Director of Development

Favorite Spot of 2020: Wisconsin Interstate State Park South Campground Site 67

When did you visit? "We visited over the Fourth of July weekend."

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"This was the first time we went camping as a family outside of our backyard and it was incredibly successful! We were able to canoe and swim which is my kids' favorite activity in the summer. And this was the start of many more camping trips into the fall."

Nikki Henger, Forestry Program Coordinator

Favorite Spot of 2020: WI Interstate State Park

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"I remember when I first moved here about a year ago from Ohio. The first thing I did was explore the area I was going to start working to protect and was amazed by how beautiful it was. I instantly felt like I made the right choice as I walked through the park and saw people taking engagement pictures, walking their dog, rock climbing and just enjoying the environment around them. The interstate parks were the first places I explored and while it’s not necessarily a hidden gem, it still takes my breath away that these parks are on my way to work. Sometime I stop by to “forest bathe” and decompress from the day. WI Interstate is a spot where I take all my friends who visit me in order to convince them to move here and I’ve definitely come close with a few of them! While I do work from home mostly, I still make the drive up just to visit this beautiful park. For 2021, I hope to continue to explore the watershed and its diverse ecosystems."

Photo Credit: Jarred White
Photo Credit: Jarred White
Photo Credit: Sophia Patane, SCRA
Photo Credit: Sophia Patane, SCRA

Sophia Patane, Communications Coordinator

Favorite Spot of 2020: St. Croix State Park

When did you visit? "June 2020."

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"My first visit to St. Croix State Park came on a hot summer day this year. Filming for our video “It Takes You” was in progress, and some rumbling clouds had finally parted when we arrived at the park to reveal golden evening light. As we approached the park’s fire tower for some of the day’s final shots, a few of my fellow staff members and I decided to climb up the stairs. The 100-foot tower took us through the forest canopy before bringing us above a gorgeous vista of green. The texture of the land became clear and I found myself wanting to watch the light shift until the moon and stars were the only illumination. In a year where sorrow and gratitude often mixed together, the view from the top of the fire tower gave me a different perspective on 2020. Maybe it was the experience of seeing the land from above. Maybe it was seeing the balance of the moon rising as the sun fell. Maybe it was the fact that going up and down the steep stairs slightly daunted me. But I found something intangible at the top of the tower, something sustaining, and like so many experiences of rivers and parks this year, it eased the journey."

Katie Sickmann, Invasive Species Coordinator

Favorite Spot of 2020: WI Interstate State Park, St. Croix Falls, WI

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"Throughout the chaos of 2020, I have found a constant within WI Interstate Park. As one of the most visited state parks in Wisconsin, it’s beauty is known by many. But having the entrance be my front yard (literally), it has been easy to find peace, quiet and solitude within the park especially on weekdays. WI Interstate holds many of my best moments from 2020 including the most epic new year’s snowshoe hike, training for a half marathon, a starting point for countless kayak paddles, endless walks with my spunky white lab Sugar, and the best escape from a long day in front of a screen with my little family of three. Some of my favorite trails include: Horizon trail, Pothole trail, Copper Mine Trail and the Skyline Trail. If you’re lucky, and listen closely, a couple Barred Owls take residence in the park along with some River otters and many deer, including a 6 and 8pt buck!"

Photo Credit: Kate Wright, SCRA
Photo Credit: Jeremiah Walters, SCRA
Photo Credit: Jeremiah Walters, SCRA

Jeremiah Walters, Naturalist

Favorite Spot of 2020: St. Croix Creek Spring, off of the the Brule/St Croix Portage section of the North Country Trail in Solon Springs, WI
When did you visit? "October 8, 2020."
Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?
"I'm unable to choose just one reason. This trail has an extremely deep history that you were reminded of by plaques and other features as you walked along. The day I was there was perfect, not too chilly and not a cloud in the sky. The amount of wildlife that would remind me that I wasn't alone. The fact that I stood next to the spring that inevitably turns into one of my favorite rivers, the St. Croix, honestly, this list can go on and on, but these are just a few of the reasons why this was my favorite spot in the watershed in 2020.
This section of the NCT is great for day trips and sightseeing."

 

Kate Wright, Donor Engagement and Events

Favorite Spot of 2020: Howell Landing, Namekagon River, Trego, WI
When did you visit? "I visited this spot throughout the year, but this particular memory is from a spring camping trip in April 2020."
Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?
"While I could never choose one favorite spot, a place that makes my top 10 for 2020 is spring camping at Howell Landing on the Namekagon River. This particular location comes to mind because it was the site of my first camping outing of the year and a place that brought me great peace in a time of uncertainty. For me, Howell is one of the most beautiful landings on the Namekagon and an ideal car camping location allowing one to feel remote even though it's a short drive from town. Even in chilly April, we bundled up, made nachos supreme over the campfire, sipped hot tea while watching the stars take over the night sky, and fell asleep to the sounds of the river and forest. The next morning was spent warming up on the Trego Lake Trail before the inevitable drive home."
Photo Credit: Kate Wright, SCRA
Photo Credit: Kate Wright, SCRA
Photo Credit: Kate Wright, SCRA
Photo Credit: Kate Wright, SCRA

Monica Zachay, Director of Programs

Favorite Spot of 2020: St. Croix River from Osceola Landing to William O’Brien State Park 

When did you visit? "I have visited several times, most recently fall 2020."

Why was this place your favorite spot of 2020?

"The route is full of beauty, including dozens of natural springs running out from the sides of the bluffs. Most often you can hear the springs before you even see them and when you approach you find a perfect, wet little ecosystem full of life surrounding crystal clear cold water trickling down. This stretch of river provides gorgeous colors during the fall and nice views of rocky ledges and excellent wildlife habitat. Any time on the St. Croix is a great time!"

Header Photo: Craig Blacklock

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