Had to work late Friday which bombed my plans to camp for the first time of the year. Instead, took a day trip to Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Located directly on the Lake Michigan shoreline, this is actually two parks managed as one unit with portions protected as State Natural Areas. With only 7 miles of trails this is an ideal single-day destination when time is a factor. Short hike & long post below!
Woodland Dunes Nature Trail
I came here without much knowledge on what to expect other than chances of rain/mist. After some quick map study and drive through the park, I started on the Woodland Dunes Nature Trail with intentions to make a loop on connecting trails. Parked at lot P8 to access the trailhead.
The first section of the trail is designated “accessible” and has a very smooth crushed limestone surface. Very easy to walk and peaceful. Later in the trail terrain varies through wooded sections with multiple varieties/eras of trees with the most distinctive section being tall pines.
Going counter-clockwise, at the 3/4 mark you circle back near Lake Michigan’s shores. Access can be found on several small unofficial footpaths.
Lately I’ve been taking more time to photograph wildlife and flowers. Being a novice botanist, once again I was duped thinking these plants belonged to the area. After returning home I researched and found both are invasive species: Woodland forget-me-nots and Morrow’s honeysuckle. Reported to the DNR for review – conservation in yo face mutha-trucka!
Woodland Dunes loops to the next location via the Marsh Trail connector. The section is very short and passes behind campsites. Not much to see here besides some tall pines and a few chipmunks.
Black River Marsh Boardwalk
At the end of the Marsh Trail begins the Black River Marsh Boardwalk. This short 1/4 mile loop doesn’t have much to see in terms of natural features but is extremely active for birding.
I found at least 10 species during my short visit but most were moving too fast to capture. Did get one photo of a Marsh Wren which are very tiny!
Dunes Cordwalk (North section)
Drove back up the scenic road to lot P3 and parked near the Sanderling Nature Center which connects to the Cordwalk and Creeping Juniper trails. First section was the north Cordwalk.
Wood planks connected with wire cable form the path through the dunes. Just over 1/2 mile in length with great views above the lake at the far north end.
Return trip has same views in reverse but it definitely feels different. Dunes are very unique as compared to most other things in our (relatively) flat state.
Creeping Juniper Nature Trail
Back at the nature center I started the south loop via the Creeping Juniper trail. By itself this is only a 1/2 mile section that is realtively easy and winds through the grass prairie. Great place for more birding but I didn’t catch the larger ones until later…
Dunes Cordwalk (South)
Creeping Juniper connects back to the main Cordwalk south of the nature center. This is a longer path than the north section with more elevation change but still relatively easy overall.
The entire dunes/cordwalk area is protected under the Natural Area status and is full of wildlife – birds are plentiful at the midway spur trail where I found some grazing deer.
Earlier in the day I saw something rather large moving behind bushes but couldn’t make out what it was. On my return hike back to the car I finally spotted it – a HUGE sandhill crane perched atop the dunes. Hard to tell from photos but they are very tall, 5 feet or more from my estimation.
I was able to take a short video by staying quiet and still without spooking him:
Ancient Shores Trail
Final trail for the day was Ancient Shores, a short & very easy path cut through grass prairie with a short stop in a pine thicket. Trail loops around Friends Fishing Pond which is ideal for small children.
Whats this?! An actual non-invasive flower? At the edge of the parking lot I found patches of Blue Flag Iris (mixed in with other weeds, but still very cool to find).
Goal for today was to attempt all trails at the park. I accomplished the goal minus Black River Trail horse paths (they looked like a boring walk in a fairly open grass field anyways). Overall this is a very easy park to hike for people of all abilities. My total distance came in around 6 miles and I definitely did it slowly to take photos.
Woodland Dunes / Black River Marsh trails made into a loop came in slightly over 2 miles. Excellent birding opportunities.
Dunes Cordwalk – North section is more challenging with uneven wood planks that wash over with sand in spots. Good balance and good ankles needed here but overall relatively tame.
Dunes Cordwalk – South section increases the difficulty but still relatively easy. Uneven planks can cause tripping and inclines are larger.
Ancient Shores Trail is very easy and flat. Anyone can do this one, it’s about as easy as they come.Lat = 43.6669464 , Long = -87.7215347 -- Show at Google Maps