Brule St. Croix Chapter

Big Manitou Falls and Hoodoo Lake,

Big Manitou Falls and Hoodoo Lake, photos by Peter Nordgren

About the Chapter:

Building the MacQuarrie Lake Platform

Building the MacQuarrie Wetlands Platform, photo by Peter Nordgren

Since 1997, volunteers of the Brule-St. Croix Chapter have built and maintained the trail in Northwest Wisconsin. Regular Chapter events include a National Trails Day celebration in June, a spring and fall series of guided hikes, regular chapter meetings and volunteer trainings. Volunteer adopters maintain all trail segments. The Chapter sponsors a Roving Trail Crew which builds new trail segments, bridges, and boardwalks, working toward completing the North Country Trail in Wisconsin.

Whether you want to day hike with a group, backpack long distances, maintain trail signs and structures, or help build the trail, the Brule-St. Croix Chapter can open your door to a trail community and to miles of hiking enjoyment.

Connect:

Use the links below to contact the Chapter about upcoming events, how to get involved, or questions about the Trail in this area:

NCTA Wisconsin Facebook Page – www.facebook.com/NCTInWI

Meetup Group – www.meetup.com/SSCBHikers

E-mail Chapter President, Mark VanHornweder – mvanhorn74@yahoo.com

Join our Chapter! Become a member of the NCTA, join a Chapter and select Brule St. Croix Chapter here: northcountrytrail.org/membership

Maps:

Find this area of the Trail on our Retail Map WI-02

View this area of the Trail on our online interactive map here.

Brule St Croix Portage Brochure

Download the PDF Map of the area

Videos:

Get a nice look of the Trail in our section with these videos created by volunteer and hiker Kevin Smith:

Events:

Click on an event to see more details.

Trail Overview:

The North Country Trail in Northwest Wisconsin is a route to historic waterways, inspiring vistas, and whispering pine forests. On the trail, you’ll pass through open prairies and enter deep, intimate headwaters boglands. You’ll walk in the footsteps of Native and European explorers, and roam into Wisconsin lake country.

Erick LakeThe trail enters from Minnesota in the St. Louis River valley, then passes through the ponds of the MacQuarrie Wetlands. A 12 mile roadwalk through the Nemadji Valley, across the basin of Glacial Lake Duluth, leads to Pattison State Park, with Wisconsin’s highest waterfall. An additional 32 mile roadwalk through the remote Douglas County Forest leads to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the start of more than 100 miles of continuous trail.

Follow the St. Croix River to the Douglas County Wildlife Area, a prairie barrens managed for sharp-tailed grouse. Solon Springs, a North Country Trail Town, is the gateway to the Brule River State Forest. Cross the cedar bog at the headwaters of the Bois Brule and St. Croix rivers on a boardwalk, then follow the historic Brule-St. Croix Portage, perhaps the oldest preserved trail in the Upper Midwest. Continue north along the Brule valley, then turn east into the Bayfield County Forest. Deeper woods and glacial moraines lead into the Iron River area, where the Brule-St. Croix segment ends at Lake Ruth Trailhead, near the boundary of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Trail Town: Solon Springs

Urban Blaze in Solon Springs

Solon Springs, population 600, is a northern Wisconsin summer resort community on the west shore of Upper St. Croix Lake, 30 miles south of Superior. Originally known as White Birch when founded in 1855, the town changed its name in the early 1900s, when Thomas Solon started a spring water bottling works where Leo Creek enters the lake. Learn more about the Trail Town of Solon Springs here.

Area Links:

 

Suggested Hikes:

Show Suggested Hikes

UW-Superior MacQuarrie Wetlands

Length: 4.7 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Hiking the MacQuarrie Wetlands

Hiking the MacQuarrie Wetlands, photo by Mark VanHornweder

Why hike this section: The ponds of MacQuarrie Wetlands are home to native waterfowl – ducks, geese, loons, trumpeter swans. The trail winds through the ponds to the Oswald Viewing Platform, a vantage point for wildlife watching. Farther east, an overlook provides a view of the remote Nemadji River Valley.

Driving Directions: From downtown Superior, drive 8 miles south on Wisconsin Highway 35 to County Highway C. To the west end: Take Highway C west 9 miles to a former railroad grade which is the Saunders State Trail. Watch for the concrete railroad bridge on the left. To the east end: at 7 miles on County C, turn south (left) on County Highway W and drive 1.2 miles to the marked trail crossing.

Hiking Directions: Follow the railroad grade south 0.3 miles. The NCT leaves the grade to the right (west), climbs to higher ground, and parallels the grade 0.3 mile before descending and crossing the grade into dense woodlands, following the south bluff of Clear Creek. After 0.8 mile, the woods open into the ponds of the MacQuarrie Wetlands. Follow the dikes of the wetlands another 0.6 mile to the MacQuarrie Trailhead at the end of Hilpiper Road. An information kiosk and small parking area are there.

The trail heads south across a small bridge. A short spur to the east leads to the Oswald Viewing Platform with its wide vista of the marshland. After 0.7 mile, the trail descends the dikes to the right (southeast) and enters mixed forest of ash, aspen, and maple, following the north bluff above Mud Creek, a tributary of the Nemadji River. An overlook of the Nemadji Valley is reached after a mile, then 0.9 miles of further hiking brings a descent down a narrow hogback to County Highway W.

Douglas County Wildlife Area

Length: 3.3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Why hike this section: This westward hike from an easily-accessed trailhead passes through open forest into the prairie barrens of the Wildlife Area, offering long vistas to the south and west.

Driving Directions: West end: the U.S. 53 Trailhead is just outside Solon Springs on the four-lane highway, just north of Holly Lucius Road. Large highway signs mark the trailhead. East end: drive south on U.S. 53 3 miles to County Highway M. Turn west (right) on M 0.6 mi to Bird Rd. Turn right on Bird Rd. and drive 0.3 miles to the Bird Rd. trailhead and parking area.

Hiking Directions: From the U.S. 53 Trailhead, take the spur trail 0.1 mile to its intersection with the North Country Trail, then turn right (west). The trail passes through a recently logged area, then over a small hill. At 0.9 miles, the Leo Creek Campsite is on a small rise to the left. Leo Creek is crossed on the berm of the Wild Rivers State Trail, a motorized rail-trail. After crossing the Wild Rivers Trail, the woods open out to pine-oak savanna as you enter the Douglas County Wildlife Area. The trail crosses high ground, then circles the basin of a small pond. At 2.4 miles, Cut Away Road is crossed. The trail enters aspen woods, then a red pine plantation. At 3.0 miles, a spur trail to the left (south) leads out of the red pine and into open prairie to the Bird Rd. trailhead at 3.3 miles.

Brule Bog Boardwalk

Length: 5.2 miles out-and-back

Difficulty: Easy

Why hike this section: Explore the Brule Glacial Spillway State Natural Area. It’s the cedar bog that is the source of both the Bois Brule and St. Croix Rivers. It’s also the channel of an ancient glacial river that flowed to the Gulf of Mexico.

Driving Directions: from Solon Springs, follow County Highway A northeast 4 miles to Palmers Landing Rd. Park at the trailhead on the entry drive to the landing.

Hiking Directions: Follow the spur trail from the trailhead 0.25 miles across Highway A to a trail junction. Turn left and hike along the base of the bluff. The high ground to your right is a thick layer of sand deposited by glacial outwash from the basin now occupied by Lake Superior. Springs flow out at the base of the sand and feed the bog. You’ll soon be walking on boardwalk across sphagnum moss though ancient cedar and spruce trees. After 0.6 miles, cross St. Croix Creek, the headwaters of the river. In the next several hundred yards, cross a small rise that is a rock bar deposited at the bottom of the glacial river.

At 0.9 miles, turn right at a junction with a hunter walking trail. After 0.2 miles, the trail turns left and descends to another boardwalk section. County Highway P is crossed at 1.3 miles. Boardwalk continues for the next 0.4 miles, then the trail enters ash forest. It crosses Porcupine Creek and follows an abandoned beaver dam to the west side of the glacial spillway. The trail turns southwest, parallel to the west slope of the valley. At 1.8 miles the Catlin Creek Campsite is passed on the left. The trail crosses spring-fed Catlin Creek on a small bridge, then circles a spruce swamp before reaching Olson Road, an extension of Crowshaw Road, at 2.6 miles. Return the way you came. For more information on the Brule Glacial Spillway, see http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/naturalareas/index.asp?SNA=161

Historic Brule-St. Croix Portage

Length: 4 miles out-and-back

Difficulty: Moderate

DuLhutMarker along the Portage

Du LhutMarker along the Portage, photo by Peter Nordgren

Why hike this section: one of the most ancient pathways you may ever hike. The first recorded use was by Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Du Lhut, in 1680. Native Americans created the trail, hundreds or even thousands of years earlier, as a direct connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed.

Driving Directions: from Solon Springs, follow County Highway A northeast 4 miles to Palmers Landing Rd. Park at the trailhead on the entry drive to the landing.

Hiking Directions: At the trailhead, pick up the Portage Guide to learn the history of the trail, and the nine historic trail users recognized by commemorative plaques along the route. Follow the spur trail from the trailhead 0.25 miles across Highway A to a trail junction. Hike straight ahead up the hill, through a gully created by the moccasins of countless native people and voyageurs. The trail passes through open woodlands to a high point, bench, and register box near the Schoolcraft plaque, then descends rapidly. When you reach a bench on a slope at the side of the trail, you are near the point where both the St. Croix and Bois Brule rise in the bog. You can take a virtual tour of the headwaters springs, thanks to UW professor John Lindquist, at http://jlindquist.com/mapsupp3.html.

At 2.0 miles, a short trail to the left leads to a boardwalk and platform at the launch point for canoe travel downstream. As you return the way you came, think of the challenge of carrying two 90 lb. packs of furs or supplies over the portage while moving at a trot. Or picture the Schoolcraft party traveling north in 1832 to seek the source of the Mississippi.

Brule Valley Overlooks

Length: 5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Why hike this section: On your left is the ancient glacial riverway of the Brule Valley, with several overlooks. On your right, vast jackpine barrens.

Driving Directions: West end: from Brule, drive south on Wisconsin Highway 27 five miles to Rush Lake Road. Take the road left a half mile to a small parking area marked with an NCT sign. East end: from Brule, drive south on Wisconsin Highway 27 two miles to Troy Pit Rd., marked with North Country Trail signs. Turn right immediately onto Samples Rd. and drive 0.5 mile to the trailhead at the top of the hill.

Hiking Directions: Cross the road and hike north, following the trail through a mix of jackpine openings and red pine woodlands. At 0.8 mile you will reach the first of several overlooks of the Brule Valley to the west. Look for glimpses of Big Lake, a widening of the river.

The trail follows an up-and-down route, passing in and out of glacial channels that once drained meltwaters from the lands to the east. Several woods roads are crossed. At 4.0 miles, the Winneboujou Bluff campsite is passed on the right. Following the campsite are two overlooks of Hoodoo Lake, a bog lake set within the Brule Valley. At 5.0 miles, a short spur trail leads right to the Samples Road Trailhead.