Hiking The Ice Age Trail Whitewater Segment

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The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment
The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment


Whitewater and Rice Lakes are at the southernmost end of the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit. This is where the Ice Age National Trail (IAT) picks up again after the Janesville area trails and begins its longest continuous sections. The state forests provide for 5 miles of uninterrupted footpath in the Whitewater Segment. This section is moderately strenuous. There are campsites near the southern trail head. The trail connects to the Blackhawk Segment at a trailhead on Highway 12.




The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment
The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment



Ahh the pungent odor of garlic mustard and constant swoosh of traffic on nearby highways. Welcome back to the wilderness - Southern Wisconsin style. The first miles of the Whitewater segment are awash in the worst infection of garlic mustard I have ever witnessed. The forest here is so thick with underbrush, shrubs, and herbs that the trail cuts a tunnel through a wall of green.

But, as the trail progresses north into the Bluff Creek State Natural Area the understory opens up as the landscape dives into deep kettles from the edge of the trail. The forest here is an amazing and invigorating sight. Several species of native flowers were in bloom as I walked it. I also spotted about 2 lbs of giant blond morels (or $120 worth) just waiting for a lucky hiker on the side of the trail.

At the beginning of this article I joked about the lack of a wilderness feel to this section of the IAT. By the time I had hiked to Bluff Creek I did in fact find myself in a different world far away from the maddening crowd. The chatter of birds and wind rushing through the newly leafed hardwood canopy replaced sounds of the highway. The Ice Age National Trail cut a meandering path along the ridgeline of an esker. The trail gently rose and fell as it it encircled the rims of kettles.

A brewing storm rumbled in the southern horizon.

I was excited and enlivened after my hike on this section and anxious to get started on the next section from highway 12 - The Blackhawk Segment. The threat of severe storms and hail has kept me holed up on this early May Sunday afternoon, otherwise I would be out in the Southern Kettle Moraine right now.

For long distance hikers there is a primitive campground along the trail. Sites 609, 611, 612, 614, and 615 all have direct access to the IAT. Sites 771 - 774 are walk in sites. This is a good place to fill up with water, and you will need it as the next water station is more than 10 miles down the trail. But, there are no showers at this primitive campground.

The Ice Age National Trail Whitewater Segment
The Ice Age National Trail Whitewater Segment




Overview: Ice Age National Scenic Trail - Whitewater Segment


COUNTY: Walworth
COMMUNITIES: Whitewater

TOTAL MILES: 4.8 linear (9.5 mile out-n-back)
DIFFICULTY: Moderate

NEXT IAT SEGMENT EASTBOUND: Blackhawk Segment
NEXT IAT SEGMENT WESTBOUND: Clover Valley Segment

POINTS OF INTEREST: Southern Kettle Moraine Forest, Bluff Creek State Natural Area

CAMPING: Whitewater Lake Campground



Directions and Trail Map




Address for your GPS: W8191 Clover Valley Rd, Whitewater, WI 53190
| coordinates: 42.780288, -88.703558 |

From Milwaukee1 Hour
From Madison1 Hour
From Green Bay2.5 Hours
From Wausau3 Hours
From Minneapolis4.5 Hours
From Chicago2 Hours



Photos



The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment
The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment

The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment
The Ice Age Trail - Whitewater Segment

Morels along the Ice Age Trail
Morels along the Ice Age Trail

Pine plantation on the Ice Age Trail
Pine plantation on the Ice Age Trail


wildflowers along the trail in the Bluff Creek State Natural Area
wildflowers along the trail in the Bluff Creek State Natural Area

wildflowers along the trail in the Bluff Creek State Natural Area
wildflowers along the trail in the Bluff Creek State Natural Area

two parking spots at the southern trailhead
two parking spots at the southern trailhead

The parking situation at Esterly Road
The parking situation at Esterly Road

A wolf tree is a tree that grew in an area when it was a field, predating the surrounding trees
A wolf tree is a tree that grew in an area when it was a field, predating the surrounding trees.


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