Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, WI

Last August my friend and I headed to Baraboo, WI to tour the shack and farm of Aldo Leopold, a pioneer conservationist. While in Baraboo, we learned about Devil’s Lake, a recreation destination for many in this area of Wisconsin. Today we decided we would go to Devil’s Lake and spend a half a day having a picnic and taking a hike around the lake. The lake is really nice and I was impressed of how nice the area was. It’s about an hour drive west from Madison. We paid a small fee, which gives you a sticker to park anywhere around the park. We then had a picnic, including some Tuscan Bean Salad, while picking out some trails we wanted to hike. There are many throughout the park. Some go around the lake and others are spread throughout the wooded areas. This place reminded me of the Red River Gorge back in Kentucky, minus the lake! It was really enjoyable hiking around the lake, which made it a lot more fun because of the beautiful scenery. There were quite a few other people out because of the nice weather. I think it was one of the first warmer days. We saw people fishing, boating, swimming, sunbathing, and even dogs playing in the water.

We stumbled onto the idea of a picnic and hiking at Devil’s Lake last August while on our Wisconsin Tour during our visit to Aldo Leopold’s Shack.  The area is filled with lots of quartzite and is cut up from the glacial era in Wisconsin.   The lake may actually be a remnant of the Baraboo River that was cut off during a glacial advance.  In my opinion, the area has plenty of unique topography and very nice trails to experience all of it.

The park has a very unique trail system.  All of the trails that we hiked that day were paved over with an asphalt-quartzite mixture.  This blend let the path take on the characteristics of the surrounding rock and blend in very well.  I have never seen a trail constructed quite like this.  It was easy on the feet and made the liesurely stroll along the lakeshore much more enjoyable.  However, I pity the person who had to haul in all of that asphalt; I am sure it was quite the job!

After hiking the lakeshore path, which is relatively flat and easy, the western ridge trail seemed like a nightmare.  In a little under a quarter mile the trail climbed about 450 feet; all of it was the paved asphalt system along the lake.  This made the trail somewhat easier, but it was still quite the climb.  The entire trip was worth it though!  The views stretched off into the distance showing the ridges that form the area around Lake Wisconsin along the Wisconsin River.  The water in Devil’s Lake was crystal clear and acted like a mirror for the awesome landscape.  The cliffs were a neat pinkish color showing the quartzite deposits that are over 1.5 billion years old, the oldest rocks in the state.

At the final overlook of the trail we could look down to see where we had enjoyed our picnic a few hours earlier and the car.  With our late lunch being worked off, I remember we were both exhausted and craving some beer and ice cream… a crazy mixture, but more normal in Wisconsin.  The descent was very abrupt; about 4ooft in less than an eighth of a mile with large quartzite steps lined with asphalt, a rather odd combination.

 At the last part of the trail, I noticed a very interesting sign that talked about invasive species such as Reed Canary Grass and Garlic Mustard. I am very interested in signage because it involved a lot of art and graphic design skills as well as concise written explanations.  The sign explained the devastating effects of invasive species and had some very interesting graphics.  The sign also had a cool boot brush attachment to knock off any seeds that could be spread around to other areas.  The higher parts of the trail were not covered with the Garlic Mustard, but the lower parts were quite full of it.  I suppose the intent here was to get the seeds off before hiking the trails that were not lined with the stuff. Overall it was a very nice day trip and I would encourage anyone in the Madison area/region to take a visit. It is definitely one of the nicer areas I have visited in WI, right up there with Taliesin!

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