The Wetlands of Wisconsin
When people think about wetlands, I don’t think Wisconsin comes to mind. But all along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which runs along the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, lies several of the most wonderful places that I’ve visited in a long time.
I left my timeshare (an RCI property that I’ll review once I return home) for what turned out to be a really long day. There were so many turnouts, scenic overlooks and boat and canoe landings that I didn’t want to miss, my little car found itself on almost all small roads marked with a brown sign. A few ended up not being worth the dirt my car was covered in, but most had a little something of value, if nothing else – a totally quiet place to sit and ponder life’s most important questions – like, “This is awesome! How can I travel more?”
At first I was disappointed there weren’t more leaves on the trees, but there were times when it made it so much easier to see things that are usually hidden – like deer or the bald eagle below. And the colors of the leaves that WERE barely emerging were fantastic!
There are great advantages to visiting this part of Wisconsin during the early “off” season. My timeshare was $167 for a whole week and there were hardly any people at any of the stops I made along the way. In most cases, I could stop, make a U-turn and pull over to take pictures of things that interested me, like the bald eagle way up in a tree across the road.
There were times when I just stopped on the road, like with the swans. I sat there for a good 20 minutes, not wanting to disturb them as they preened themselves and suddenly the one spread his wings! Not one single car came past and was annoyed by my rudeness and I found myself thinking about wildlife photographers that probably sit for many hours, waiting for that absolutely stunning shot. I’m hoping some day that I’ll have that kind of patience.
Whispering Pines is a canoe landing on the Namekagon River and offered a bench and a great place to enjoy my PB&J while the river babbled by. According to the sign at the landing: “The Ojibwe people took note of the sturgeon here. Namekaa-goong translates to “the place of the sturgeon” and this river celebrates their spawning place. The river and fish have always been linked. ”
Although today was a little overcast, the rain that was supposed to fall went elsewhere. I don’t usually get that lucky, but it sure was nice!
Namekagon Trail Bridge Landing offers another peaceful setting and some tippy trees! I’m sure during the summer months this place is hopping with canoes and kayaks. The link for this landing also has great information on other stops on the Namekagon River, as well as places to camp and picnic. As cool as that all sounds, I really liked not having to share this beautiful scenery with anyone else (except you of course).
Nelson’s Landing offers a great place for a nest for this beautiful Osprey. From the ground I thought it was a bald eagle, but in looking at my photo later, I didn’t think it was. Thanks to my very smart friends on Facebook, I have discovered Ospreys. He was quite handsome and wasn’t too worried about me as I slowly emerged from my car with my zoom. The link offers information if you’d like to raft and says it “provides scenic seclusion with fantastic views from the water.” I will agree that must be fantastic and seeing this Osprey made my day.
Now we come up to the grand finale of today’s journey. I was gone for a total of 10 hours, but this day was just amazing. Crex Meadows Wildlife Area is located where highway F ends at Grantsburg. According to its brochure, “Crex is a 30,000 acre wildlife area with wetlands, brush prairies and forests scattered across a gently rolling landscape.”
It goes on to say “Crex Meadows is home to 270 different kinds of birds, nearly every mammal found in Wisconsin and a good variety of reptiles, amphibians and insects. One of the highlights is the number of endangered and threatened animals present, such as ospreys, eagles, trumpeter swans, Karner blue butterflies, Blandings turtles, and red-necked grebes. During the fall migration you can see as many as 50 bald eagles, 8,000 sandhill cranes, 12,000 Canada and snow geese, 20,000 coots and thousands of ducks.”
The turtles were a kick to see up so close. I pushed the envelope when I saw some more down the road and tried to get out of the car to get an even closer shot. They heard my car door, even so very quietly and after the sound of all three plopping into the water, that was the last I saw of them. They were feeling a little shy and didn’t want their pictures on the internet!
I have a soft spot for Canadian geese. My husband calls them honkers and makes a sound just like them. This guy was perfectly happy just hanging out in the sunshine. The swan was right up close – right until he got out of the water, walked across the road and got the heck away from me. And of course there’s the Loon – everyone’s favorite since “On Golden Pond”.
Well, that was a long day and a long post, but I hope you think it was worth it. I think I may return in the fall if there is even more wildlife to see. I love me some birds (and some turtles) and can’t wait for our next chat!