Sunday, April 1, 2018

Searching for Spring: Parks can help ease late winter blues

Case Eagle Park, Burlington, Racine Co.
It’s that time again—the dregs of the year. The snows of winter have melted. The leaves and the wildflowers have yet to bud or bloom. The earth everywhere is brown and gray. Still cold. Groundhog lied again. The first of April arrives and the joke is on everyone who expects it to feel like spring.

Brown Deer Park, Brown Deer, Milwaukee Co.
In a song about the seasons John Denver included an instrumental bridge for a fifth season, late winter, early spring, to which he added parenthetically “when everyone goes to Mexico.” Spoken out of privilege, of course. Maybe everyone wishes they could go to Mexico. I know I do. But, since that isn’t an option, I’ve gone to a few local parks to see nature stripped bare. Here are a selection of images and the parks where I found them.

Brown Deer Park

This 363-acre park in the Village of Brown Deer is part of the Milwaukee County Park System. The northern half consists of several woodlots separated by grassy fields, along with a 5-acre lake. The southern half is a golf course, which is groomed in winter for skate style cross-country skiing. A second trail, maintained for classic-style skiing, winds around and through the woodlands. In warmer weather a disc golf course runs through some sections. The pond is stocked with panfish, trout and largemouth bass.

The Oak Leaf Trail runs along the north end of the park on the park road between Range Line Rd. on the east and Bradley Rd. on the west. The park has numerous amenities, including a boat house, athletic fields, playground, and restrooms.

Brown Deer Park location: 7835 N Green Bay Road, Brown Deer, WI 53209
For a Milwaukee County Parks map, click here.

Case Eagle Park

This 239-acre park features nature trails and a canoe launch on the Fox River, which runs through the park. The Seven Waters Trail, a Racine County bike trail also runs through the park. The 17-mile long, wheelchair accessible trail runs from Burlington to Muskego Lake and encourages the following activities: biking, cross-country skiing, inline skating and walking. It connects with the White River State Trail in Burlington.

Part of the Racine County Park System, the entrance is located off S. Rochester Street, which is also County Highway J. Access is also possible from N. Brown’s Lake Dr., which is also County Highway W. Amenities include baseball diamonds and a fenced dog park.

Sumac bobs
Case Eagle Park location: 310 S. Rochester St., Rochester, WI 53105

Honey Creek Wildlife Area

This 1,495-acre Wildlife Area is made up of four separate parcels in western Racine County and eastern Walworth County. Habitats include oak woodland, lowland woodland, shallow and deep marsh, and grassland. Waterways include Long Lake, Honey Creek, and Sugar Creek. Wildlife includes deer, turkey, waterfowl, pheasants and other small game.
The easternmost parcel includes the 83-acre Cherry Lake Sedge Meadow State Natural Area, which contains southern sedge meadow, fen, and northern wet forest communities. Of special interest are round-leaved sundew, shrubby cinquefoil, yellow twayblade, marsh St. Johns-wort, marsh fern, and sphagnum moss.

Honey Creek is featured in the Lake Michigan Region of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail as a property with a mix of habitats that provides opportunities to see flycatchers, terns, great blue herons, American bitterns and Sandhill cranes.

According to the DNR website, additional recreational opportunities include canoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, trapping, wild edibles/gathering and wildlife viewing. However, there are no designated trails.

For more information, go to Honey Creek Wildlife Area.
Three of the four parcels have parking areas. For locations and WDNR map, click



  1. Your photos and comments warm the soul on this blustery "spring" day. Thanks for the nudge to find joy in the weather's seasonal moment.

  2. Indeed, your photos and essays are always inspiring. Dress for the weather, is my motto. We paddled the Pine in Richland County this past weekend and enjoyed icicles dripping off billion year old sandstone outcroppings in the driftless area. Today, checking the progress of melting shoreline icebergs still dwindling from the big March ice break-up along the Milwaukee River in Kletzsch Park.