For this weekend’s trip I decided to stay at Yellowstone Lake State Park in Blanchardville, Wisconsin. The park seems popular for fishing & boating but not so much for the hiking trails – time for me to figure out why.
The 455-acre lake is a man-made reservoir created by damming the Yellowstone River. I’m finding this is the only way lakes exist here in the Driftless Area. Beautiful lake but it’s full of weeds, algae caused by heavy agricultural runoff.
Wildlife Loop Trail
I started with the shortest & easiest Wildlife Loop accessible from the main park entrance station lot. Going counter-clockwise this starts along a grassy land bridge that encircles a small swamp/pond area used by waterfowl.
Only a few clouds in the sky but mostly overcast. Some blue would peek through at times.
Another view of the grassy trail. The lake is to the left, swamp is to the right. Quite a few bugs out here.
Overall there isn’t much to see here but it is a nice short walk. Rain has been constant the last few weeks and it shows – everything is bright green and overgrown.
Not far from the trails end there is a small spur leading to a duck blind / fishing pier that lies in disrepair. Looks like a great fishing spot, saw a few large ones jumping here.
Oak Ridge Trail
Next up were two loops trails connected by a short spur entrance. These can be accessed at the first parking area leading away from the entrance station.
The spur trail doesn’t appear to get many visitors. Grass is overgrown and wild reaching above 2 feet tall in some spots. Trails are lined by invasive species like Queen Anne’s Lace, poison ivy, and other weeds. Almost like they don’t even maintain for hiking…
I started with the Oak Ridge Trail to my left. Also very overgrown. It lives up to the name – thick oak forest line the path.
Found some small vertebrae bones on the trail. Looks like maybe juvenile deer.
About midway through the loop there is a park bench facing directly into the oak canopy. I would assume this was built many decades ago and the forest growth was never cut back.
The meadow central to this loop has some nice views once you reach the small highpoint towards the end.
Prairie Loop Trail
The second segment here is the Prairie Loop Trail. Signs indicate this is “more difficult” but I disagree – it’s about the same as other trails.
Much like the previous loop, this one is filled with dense and overgrown foliage. Still beautiful but not much to see here other than typical Wisconsin forest scenery. Lots of deer sign here, even spotted a 2 1/2 year old buck feeding in the nearby meadow but couldn’t get the camera out fast enough.
Some shelf fungi growing out of a low tree trunk.
Another viewing bench with no views. Invasive plants are found throughout this area too. I spoke with a ranger later and they confirm it’s due to budget issues and the park is understaffed. Not unexpected with our previous (Republican) governor stripping DNR funds so he could win political points. Take note people – this is why it’s important to vote in every election.
The Wildlife Loops trail is short and very easy to do. Bug spray is a must and I was rockin’ a mosquito net too.
Oak Ridge + Prairie Loop is a bit more strenuous but for me not very difficult. Absolutely needed the mosquito net here today.Lat = 42.7720413 , Long = -89.9741669 -- Show at Google Maps