Ice Age Trail History in Wisconsin
The Ice Age Trail was the dream of Ray Zillmer, a Milwaukee attorney, outdoorsman and hiker. He first envisioned a great national park 800 miles long, which would preserve the evidence of the Great Wisconsin Glacier, and how our land was formed. He would never live to see his dream fulfilled. Zillmer died in 1961.
The legislation which authorized establishment of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve in Wisconsin, became law in October 1964, a monument to Ray Zillmer. Since a park 800 miles long would be difficult to administer, it was decided that the reserve would be divided into 9 widely separated units, of which the Chippewa Moraine Unit is one. Today the Ice Age Trail, designed to link together the nine units of the Reserve, is taking shape.
The Chippewa Moraine Unit
In the heart of Northwest Wisconsin is the eighth reserve unit, the Chippewa Moraine. This unit was formed by the advancing Chippewa lobe of the Wisconsin glacial epoch. It stands above the surrounding cultivated plains, with lakes and ponds set in a forest of jumbled hills. Unlike the higher hills of the interlobe "Kettle Moraine" in the southeast, the features of the Chippewa Moraine are characterized by the gentler hills of "dead-ice" moraine. As the ice ceased to move, fissures criss-crossed its surface. Debris, carried along in melt-water, filled many of the cracks, forming a wide variety of sharp ridges. Blocks of ice were covered with debris. When the ice melted, many small, shallow kettles were formed, producing the area's curious knob and swale landscape. Ice-walled lake plains, flat topped areas formed by interglacial lakebeds, are also peculiar to the area. Much of the Chippewa Moraine Unit is presently county forest, with opportunities for hiking and other recreational activities. Some portions of the trail may be used by cross-country skiers, although none of the trail portions are groomed or developed for this purpose specifically.
A new 6 mile segment of Ice Age Trail, probably the most scenic in the state, was opened in the spring of 1988. It begins at Plummer Lake and extends westward to Shattuck Lake and County Highway M. This new section is located entirely within the Chippewa Moraine Unit of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve and Chippewa County Forest lands. It is very winding and scenic, passing through forested, hilly glacial moraine. Twenty-one lakes and ponds are visible along this 6 mile stretch of trail, alone.
The Chippewa County segment of the Ice Age Trail provides a unique trip through Wisconsin's glacial past, as well as, a great deal of scenic beauty. Enjoy the trail and, better yet, share it with a friend.
If you are interested in helping to build or maintain portions of the trail in Chippewa County, please contact: Adam Cahow - Coordinator, Ice Age Trail, Chippewa Moraine, 13394 County Highway M, New Auburn, WI 54757
We hope you will enjoy your hike, tell your friends about the Trail, and please help keep it litter-free!
East: From the City of Cornell, head west across the Chippewa River Bridge on Highway 64, turn right on County Highway CC, just across the bridge, and proceed north for 2.3 miles to the Trail head parking area. Another access to the Trail is on county E, about 6 miles north of Highway 64. Watch for signs.
West: To reach the Plummer Lake Trailhead, proceed 6 miles east on county Highway M, from the junction of "M" and Highway 40, 6 miles east of New Auburn. Turn right on 167th Street, it leads to Plummer Lake Trailhead, found one mile south. A small parking area is available at the boat landing. Watch for signs.
This scenic 14-mile Trail segment begins at Brunet Island State Park, near Cornell, and winds its way west through the Chippewa County Forest, and private lands, to the eastern boundary of the Chippewa Moraine Unit of the Ice Age Reserve at Plummer Lake. Along its meandering route, the Trail crosses glacial ridges, rushing creeks, three beaver ponds and passes by several undeveloped lakes. Most of the Trail is suitable for ski-touring or snowshoeing during the winter months.
Whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, beaver and waterfowl are the most common wildlife encountered on the Trail. Some fine stands of red pine, white pine and mixed hardwoods shade the route.
An excellent campground is found at Brunet Island State Park at the eastern terminus of the segment, and primitive camping is allowed along the Trail in the Chippewa County Forest. Yellow point blazes mark this segment of the Trail.
Detailed Trail Description: East to West
County Highway CC to County Highway E (8 Miles)
The Trail begins on private land just northwest of Brunet Island State Park on the west side of the Chippewa River. Vehicles may be parked in the designated trailhead parking lot on Highway CC. The first mile of Trail alternately crosses field and woodland. Continue following the yellow blazes as you turn north, and again west, into the Chippewa County Forest. Heading toward Firth Lake, you will pass through an area of fairly recent logging activity that is rapidly regenerating with young aspen.
The Trail then follows a logging road north, past a beaver pond, and heads west through the woods to Firth Lake. Hike across an active beaver dam, four feet in height, blocking the outlet of Firth Lake. This interesting dam is about 100 yards in length.
Firth Lake covers 51.7 acres, and has a maximum depth of 18 feet. Largemouth bass, northern pike and pan fish inhabit the lake. The outlet stream empties into Bob Creek.
The shoreline of this lake is lined with cattails, providing a fine habitat for mallards, blue-winged teal, wood ducks, mergansers and muskrats. The land surrounding the lake is owned by the YMCA of Chicago. Sorry, no camping is allowed here.
Follow the yellow blazes along an old road that parallels the western lake shore for about .3 miles, then head west, away from the lake. The next few miles of trail follow along snowmobile and hunter walking trails in the Chippewa County Forest. Several magnificent stands of red pine will be seen in this section. The Trail then joins the Moon Ridge Trail, a gravel-surfaced county forest road.
Follow the Moon Ridge Trail west for about 1/2 mile. The Ice Age Trail then branches off the Moon Ridge Trail and heads northwest, on an old logging road, for about 1/2 mile. About 200 yards northwest of where the logging road ends, a beaver dam is crossed and the trail follows the shoreline of an extensive beaver pond for the next 1/2 mile. Notice the height of the dams on this beaver-made flowage. Nesting wood ducks are often seen resting on this pond. Hike west to County Highway E. At the Trail junction with Highway E, follow E north a few hundred feet where the Trail again heads westward past Old Baldy Mountain, toward Plummer Lake.
County Highway E to Plummer Lake (6 Miles)
At County Highway E, the Trail heads west across private lands for the first 1.5 miles. Old Baldy Mountain, a kame, lies just north of the Trailhead on E. Local relief here is about 175 feet. Old Baldy is the largest kame in the Chippewa Moraine and is located within a rugged interlobate moraine, extending southwestward from Flambeau Mountain.
Two fence styles are crossed within sight of the Trailhead. As these are private lands, no camping or wandering off the Trail is permitted, for the next 1.5 miles. After paralleling a fence line for a short distance, the Trail follows a logging road for .3 miles, then passes near the south end of Picnic Lake. This lake is about 25 acres in size, and has a maximum depth of 46 feet. Picnic Lake is a soft water seepage lake with no inlet or outlet. Largemouth bass and panfish inhabit its clear waters. Wood ducks are reported to nest in the area. The entire lakeshore is owned by the Indian Waters Girl Scout Council. Please stay on the Trail in this area.
Another fence style is crossed a short distance southwest of Picnic Lake. The Trail now follows the north shore of Pauls Lake. This secluded pond is 7.3 acres in size and has a maximum depth of 17 feet. Pauls Lake is a soft water seepage pond with bullheads present. Mallards, wood ducks and blue-winged teal nest in the lake area and muskrats are common. Sorry - no camping here, this is private property.
Yet another fence style is encountered a short distance past Pauls Lake. The Trail now follows the shoreline of a beaver pond for about .2 miles. A rustic bridge crosses one of the several beaver dams constructed on this creek.
The hiker now enters Chippewa County Forest lands. The trail turns right and follows a logging trail for the next 2 miles. Watch for signs at trail intersections. The trail crosses the Deer Fly Trail, a county forest road, onto a trail marked by yellow blazes. The Trail now follows a very old logging road for a short distance, where the sled runner ruts from logging operations in the late 1800's can still be seen. Strong horse teams were used here to pull out immense loads of huge white pine logs on these well iced ruts. The Trail soon crosses a swampy area, where log corduroy has been laid. Hike northwest along a creek for a short distance then climb a high hardwood ridge. The Trail soon drops down the ridge to a new beaver pond and another rustic bridge that spans the impoundment, using the beaver dam for much of the causeway.
Two-tenths of a mile west of the beaver pond, the Trail follows along the south shores of Harwood Lakes. There are actually four lakes here, two of which are fairly large and two that are small ponds. The first lake seen by the hiker is Harwood Lake No. 2, 14.3 acres in size with a maximum depth of 9 feet. Largemouth bass and panfish are found in this scenic wilderness-type lake. Wood ducks are often seen resting here. The second lake seen by the hiker is Harwood Lake No. 1, 8.8 acres in size with a maximum depth of only 7 feet. This is a minnow lake, subject to winterkill when oxygen levels in the water fall too low to support fish life. Beaver and wood ducks inhabit this wild lake. A rustic campsite has been developed here on County Forest land. Please be careful with campfires.
For the next mile, the Trail winds south, then heads west, across a forested alluvial fan, through an abandoned farm field and finally follows an old road to Plummer Lake. The present western terminus of the Trail is at the Plummer Lake boat landing. This is the eastern boundary of the Ice Age Reserve Chippewa Moraine Unit. A small parking area is found near the boat landing. The Plummer Lake road leads 1 mile north to County Highway M. Plummer Lake covers 41 acres and has a maximum depth of 28 feet. Largemouth bass, northern pike and panfish inhabit the lake. Wood ducks nest here.
Plummer Lake (West) to Shattuck Lake (County M) (6 Miles)
A new 6-mile segment, opened in 1988, extends westward from the east end of Plummer Lake to Highway M, a short distance west of Shattuck Lake. The latter Trailhead sign is located about .6 miles east of the Crossroads Store or the intersection of Highways 40 and M. This new section of Trail is located entirely within the Chippewa Moraine Unit of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve . It is very winding and scenic, passing through forested, hilly glacial moraine. Twenty-one lakes and ponds are visible along this 6-mile stretch of Trail, alone. Rustic Trail signs are found at either end of the new Trail, while the path itself is marked with yellow paint blazes on trees or posts. Parking is available at either end of the trail, by Shattuck Lake or Plummer Lake.
On all trail segments, make sure you carry a good supply of water, and wear good footwear. Plan your hikes carefully, to ensure enough time. If you camp overnight, make sure you are not camping on private land. Respect the private landowner's rights.
Land Use Agreement Between Chippewa County and the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Chippewa County and the Ice Age Trail Alliance cooperate pursuant to a Land Use Agreement. The 2006-2020 Chippewa County Forest Comprehensive Land Use Plan establishes the County's policy to host the trail and cooperate with the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Please CLICK HERE [PDF] to view a copy of the current Land Use Agreement.