Weekend Backpacker: Milwaukee
Designated a national recreation trail in 1975, the 28.6-mile Ahnapee State Trail is also part of the 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail, which begins in nearby Potawatomi State Park. Hiking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are the main uses of this 28.6-mile long trail. The trail is named for the Ahnapee River, which parallels the route for about five miles between Forestville and Algoma. Hikers will pass through the Ahnapee Wildlife Refuge and walk past the Forestville Millpond. Bedrock outcrops of the Niagara Escarpment can be found throughout the state park. The trail's lowest elevation is around Sturgeon Bay. Ahnapee means "when?" in Ojibwa.
A level, linear trail, the Ahnapee is surrounded by farmland, wetlands, and some forests. At the southern end of the trail, a wooden bridge spans the Ahnapee river. This is the spot to fish for trout and salmon and observe waterfowl.
Recommended trip: Camp at Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay and walk along city streets for about three miles to get to the trail. The Ice Age Trail ends (or begins) at the 75-foot observation tower on top of a 150-foot bluff in the Potawatomi State Park, where vistas of Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay are spectacular on a clear day.
Hiking to Maplewood, about six miles away, the main attraction is the deep Maplewood swamp. The elevated trail passes right through the swamp, making this a prime spot to see waterfowl, deer, and wild turkey. From Maplewood to Forestville, about five miles, the scenery is much the same. Between Forestville and Algoma, about eight miles, the trail skirts the Ahnapee River, where muskrats busily build their homes and ducks dive for fish. A portion of the Forestville segment passes through an area burned by the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. On October 8 of that year, the most devastating forest fire in American history destroyed more than 1.25 million acres and killed at least 1,152 people. It is hard to tell anything ever happened by walking the trail today. Mature hardwoods now line the scenic trail. From Algoma, the former site of a Potawatomi village, the trail turns west and heads through more farmland to Casco, eight miles away.
Camping: Camping is available at the northern end of the trail in Potawatomi State Park north of Sturgeon Bay. The park is located at 3740 Park Drive, Sturgeon Bay, WI. Call (920) 746-2890 for more information about camping at the park.
Getting there: Take Highway 43 north to Green Bay. Head north on Highway 57 to Sturgeon Bay. About a half-mile past the intersection of Highway 57 and County Highway S, turn right (south) at Shiloh Road. Follow the signs for another 1.5 miles to the parking lot.
Permits: None required.
Maps: Contact the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, 207 E. Buffalo St., Suite 515, Milwaukee, WI 53202-5712. Ask for segment maps 1 and 2, which include the Ahnapee State Trail. Maps are also available at the Door County Parks Department.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication