Willow River State Park

This past weekend I went to visit my parents over in the Somerset, Wisconsin, area. It was a nice visit and I got to see and smell my favorite flower, lilacs. Apparently there’s a lilac bush not too far away from the house.

And since it was a gorgeous day weather-wise on Sunday, Ross and I took advantage of visiting a state park; this time in Wisconsin. In the almost 47 years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve never visited Willow River State Park, which is just a little more than 10 miles away from my parents’ place. Sad, I know. Guess I didn’t get out much when I was growing up.

It looked like everyone had the same idea we had as we pulled up toward the park office. There was a a line to check in and get a pass. We slowly made our way to the window, got a day pass and map and planned our next move.

We were told there would be space to park in the “big” parking lot, so we went in search of that. Eventually we came across it. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, Willow River State Park has 13 miles of hiking trails, with the most popular trail being the Willow Falls and other scenic overlooks of the river valley. There’s almost 3,000 acres to the park. Like almost everyone else, I wanted to see the falls. So we hit the trail that led to them. It was nice and sunny and in the 70s, so a lot of people were wearing shorts and T-shirts. After hiking for a while, I kinda wished I had worn my shorts and ditched the light fleece jacket I had on.

There were plenty of people in the park with dogs, backpacks and cameras or phones in hand. There were signs that pointed to our destination, the falls. I was hoping they would be worth the journey.

And they were.

The falls had already attracted quite a few visitors by the time we reached them. They are about 100 feet wide and the water was rushing. There were people on the rocks close to the falls, some sat on the benches on the other side of the railing to admire the falls while others took selfles in front of the falls. One older man seemed to be content sitting on a rock near the falls for the longest while. Ross went off somewhere on the rocks while I went on the other side to make the trek up the stairs to an overlook of the falls. That was challenging to say the least. All the way up I kept thinking, “how many more flights?” They may be short flights, but oh boy…

Ross joined me on the overlook and then we did a little loop, came back to the falls and took our own selfie in front of them. We then decided to hit the Nelson Farm Trail. According to the Wisconsin DNR website, “the trail passes through a wide variety of habitats including river bottom, wetlands, prairie areas, mature oak forest and old growth white pines. The trail leads to a breathtaking vista on the north side of the lake. The terrain varies and includes some very steep hills.” I can attest to the very steep hills. Those took everything I had. The trail itself is 3.7 miles long. I wonder if we were aware of that before we left. I was dragging a bit, but I carried on. Somewhere in the midst of the trail, we come upon a map. I asked Ross how far and he told me we still had a couple of miles until we reached the parking lot. Yikes. There was even a point when we both parked ourselves in the grass for a little rest before soldiering on. But we managed to reach the parking lot unscathed, but thirsty.

Even though the lake is drawn down “because of response to safety issues identified with the Little Falls Dam structure,” (Wisconsin DNR website), Willow River State Park has a lot to see and experience. And the falls are a nice touch.