Weekend Backpacker: Milwaukee
The Wild Goose Trail is a bird-watcher's paradise. This 34.2-mile former railroad corridor traverses pastoral farm fields, meadows, forests, and prairie remnants as it skirts the north and western boundaries of the enormous Horicon Marsh on its route from Fond du Lac to Clyman Junction. The northern two-thirds (21,000 acres) of the fourteen-mile-by-five-mile marsh comprises the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, while the southern third (11,000 acres) makes up the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. Along the trail, you may spot some of the marsh's 250 species of birds, including the trail's namesake, the Canada goose. Every fall an estimated 250,000 migrating geese stop at the marsh, which is said to be the largest cattail marsh in the United States. The trail, managed jointly by Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties, is open to hikers, bikers, and skiers during the winter months. Surfaced portions of the Dodge County segment of the trail are also open to snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles between December 1 and March 31.
Recommended trip: Begin at the trailhead off Highway VVV at the Rolling Meadows Golf Course. The trail will pass through forest and farmland and the quaint town of Oakfield. Once out of Oakfield, you may hear the call of the Canada goose from the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in the distance. Going around the marsh, look for red-winged blackbirds perched on cattails. From the southern end of the marsh, the trail crosses through more wooded areas and farmland, ending at Clyman Junction.
Camping: No on-trail camping is available. The nearest sites are four miles east of the trail near Horicon at the Horicon Ledge County Park (414-387-5450); the Playful Goose Campground, 2.5 miles east of the trail south of Horicon (414-485-4744); and the Waupun County Park, located five miles west of the trail in Waupun (414-324-2769). Call ahead for reservations.
Getting there: From Milwaukee, take Highway 41 north. Exit on Military Road in Fond du Lac and turn right. Turn left at Highway VVV and turn into the parking lot of the Rolling Meadows Golf Course. You can park here and hit the trail. If you wish to begin the trail at Clyman Junction, take Highway 41 north to Highway 60. Turn left on Highway 60 and head straight into Clyman Junction. The trail begins on the north side of the road.
Getting back: Shuttle service is available back to Fond du Lac from Clyman Junction only. Shuttle drivers are individuals who operate the service on an as-needed basis for a cost of about $10 per person. Call in advance to arrange pick-up. Contact numbers for drivers are (920) 386-4465, (920) 386-4666, or (920) 485-2917.
Permits: No permits required.
Maps: Available through the Fond du Lac County or Dodge County Planning and Parks Department.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication