My turkey hunt was going nowhere fast today. After striking out at Governor Dodge State Park I fueled up, took a short midday nap, and drove around in search of new public lands with favorable terrain. Along the way I ended up at a familiar destination at Big Springs Fishery Area in Highland, Wisconsin. Here’s a link to my first visit back in 2018 to see the cascade-type waterfall (almost exactly 4 years ago, wow). I was the only one here today. The sign appears to have been mildly vandalize by paintballs but otherwise looks the same.
Signs at the trailhead and small parking area are very clear. Be sure to brush off your boots to the right of the sign so you don’t carry in any invasive weeds/seeds. Noon is a bad time for turkeys but perfect to take a little nature stroll for some photography so away we go! Who knows, maybe I would find some turkey here as an added bonus? (Spoiler: nope.)
The trail itself is very short, total in/out distance is less than 1/2 mile. It’s completely flat and easy, anyone can do it. Absolutely no reason not to go check it out. The trail follows right alongside the creek.
And after the very short and serene walk we arrive at the cascade waterfall. Even with a wide angle lens it’s difficult to get it all in one frame without standing directly in the creek. This is the bottom-most section showing where it drains into the creek. From here it appears to flow in both directions but maybe that’s an optical illusion?
Another view slightly higher up in elevation. Water is flowing pretty good right now but lower than my last trip. It has been fairly dry again this winter and spring which explains the lower levels.
There is a small foot-worn path going up the side of the falls which isn’t very steep and makes it easy to reach the top.
Lots of dead-fallen trees and branches covering the top half of the cascade today. Not sure if volunteer crews come out and clear this but it has been much easier to see in the past.
Here is what the source of Big Spring looks like. Well…at least as much as you’ll ever be able to see. I can’t tell if it springs up right here from the rocks or comes from underneath the hill to the left. Regardless it’s pretty cool to reach the source like this – definitely not always something that is possible.
After taking my photos and enjoying the scenery it was time to head back. Views are about the same but in reverse. Amazing how it always gives such a different perspective just based on direction.
Big Spring Creek is a well-known class 1 and 2 brown trout stream. You can also find other species such as rainbow and brook trout but some (brook) are catch & release only. Know the regulations! Today also happens to be opening day for keeping your catch so there are lots of fishermen out across the area.
Today also happens to be a fantastic day for birding. I’m an absolute amateur but even a novice like myself counted 10 or more different species in the short walk. Here’s one example – a brightly colored American Yellow Warbler. From my amateur Googl’ing this is a mature male of breeding age and plumage. Apparently they migrate to North America annually in spring as far north as the arctic circle, and in winter migrate back to Central and South America. All I can say is they are fast and hard to capture on camera.
Back at the parking area there is a small road bridge across the creek. standing here you can see the entire creek basin and the taller densely wooded hills surrounding it like bleachers of a big sports stadium.
Most of the creek is blanketed in thick layers of algae bloom. I’m just an amateur but this doesn’t seem like a good thing.
Wildlife of all shapes and sizes are moving rapidly across the area every place you look. I saw several Northern water snakes swimming in search of a meal and sunning themselves on the banks.
Looking downstream you can see some small “rapids”. I didn’t notice these on my last visit so decided to take a closer look. Notice the bottom right of the photo has much more algae and looks like deeper water?
Just a few steps away from the bridge on a faint path through the grass, you can see signs of beaver activity. A small dam only maybe a foot tall can cause large changes to the landscape and ecosystem. Back at the trailhead there was specific mention this area is part of brook trout and beaver dam restoration studies.
Sadly I did come across a small deceased juvenile weasel on the same path. It doesn’t appear to have been here long and I don’t see signs of cause of death. Natural? Bacterial? All just guessing but it seems odd to me. I reported the sighting to the Wisconsin DNR (link here) in case the professionals want to investigate further. [Update 01-Aug-2022: DNR responded thanking me for the report and said they don’t usually collect animals unless there are 5+ dead in the area. Good to know for the future.]
That’s a wrap for today’s journey. Time to head up the road to a parcel of public land in search of gobblers. (Since I’m posting this from the future I can say I didn’t find any turkeys but I did have fun exploring new areas. The weather was against me today – morning lows below freezing, high temps around 75°F and winds started gusting around 20mph which I think made the birds go into stealth mode.)
Since my original post in 2018 was severely lacking I tried to take longer video on this trip. I think it gives a better representation than the above photos do. Filmed mostly on my iPhone 13 Pro using a DJI OM 5 gimbal and the stabilization worked out pretty well. Pro tip: If the video looks bad, manually set quality higher (up to 4K) because YouTube’s compression really stomps it down.
Here’s a look at the hiking route. It’s extremly simple to follow and there is zero chance you will get lost.
Distance and difficulty? Not here. It’s short, easy, and pleasant. You will spend more time playing Eye Spy for wildlife than walking. Enjoy the walk and take your time for maximum relaxation.Lat = 43.0781708 , Long = -90.412384 -- Show at Google Maps