Old Abe State Trail and Duncan Creek

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Old Abe State Trail in Cornell WI along the Chippewa River
Old Abe State Trail in Cornell WI along the Chippewa River

The Old Abe Trail is a paved bike trail on a retired rail bed that connects Brunet Island State Park to Lake Wissota State Park near Chippewa Falls. The 21-mile trek meanders along with the scenic Chippewa River past Old Abe Lake.

Old Abe Lake is named in honor of the famous Old Abe Eagle which was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment in the Civil War. A replica of Old Abe watches over the State Assembly at the Capitol in Madison (The original was lost in a fire). Old Abe was captured by the Lake Superior Chippewa near Jim Falls.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail intersects the Old Abe State Trail at Cornell.

The Duncan Creek Trail is the municipal bike trail system in Chippewa Falls. It includes paved trails and bike lanes.

Old Abe State Trail in Cornell WI

Rarely is the imagination rewarded with a more spectacular reality. My imagination was seeded at a young age with all manner of magical treasures, and among those was my grandfather's collection of scene-o-rama vintage beer signs displayed behind his basement bar.

As a child at Sunday bbq chicken dinners, I sat at that bar with a sparkling glass of ginger ale and watched transfixed as the brilliant scenes of outdoor bliss rolled by. My favorite was the Hamms Beer sign which painted an idyllic river scene of rapids, islands, and pine forested river banks. The scene rolled on to reveal a campsite along the river where a canoe was pulled up next to a blazing fire warming a boiling kettle. Next was a waterfall of some tributary. Surely, such a scene this beautiful could only exist in the imagination. At least, that's what I believed before I saw the Chippewa River.

The Chippewa River is among the finest and most scenic rivers in Wisconsin, and alongside it bikers can take in scenery on the paved Old Abe Trail. The trail begins at Brunet Island in Cornell and connects to the Duncan Creek trail system in Chippewa Falls. The trail features stops in the trail towns of Cornell, Jim Falls, and a connection to Lake Wisota State Park.

Brunet Island is a small state park on an island in the Chippewa River. It features a beach and two campgrounds. The campsites at the north campground are all sited with direct water access to either the Chippewa River or a protected lagoon. I got a site on the river and it might as well have been the campsite from Hamms Beer sign. I even built a spit over my fire to boil water for coffee in my tea kettle - just to make the scene match the perfection of that imaginary place.

My campsite at Brunet Island State Park
My campsite at Brunet Island State Park

From Brunet Island the trail corses beneath the shade of hardwood forests along the Chippewa. Cornell is a short distance from the park. You won't miss Cornell, its signature wood stacker stands several stories high and can be seen from dozens of miles away. This wood stacker is the last still erected in the United States. It was used between 1911 and 1971 to, as you might have guessed, stack piles of wood to be floated down to paper mills. You're also going to want to stop in Cornell at the Main Scoop where you can enjoy a waffle cone of Cedar Crest Ice Cream in the garden. Inside the Main Scoop is a hand-painted mural of the Old Abe Trail  - so you can plot your course to the next stop.

Both Cornell and Jim Falls feature hydroelectric dams on the Chippewa. The river is the source of everything here - its power, recreation, and history. The river below the dam at Jim Falls is a trout fisherman's dream scene of gentle rapids and rocky shorelines. If ever I was going to paint a river scene plein aire, it would be this scene of the Chippewa River.

The River and the trail continue on into Chippewa Falls which is known for its greatest success story: Leinenkugel's Brewery. They have a slogan at Leinenkugel's - ' Join us out here'. After exploring the Chippewa River I think I understand why this simple ambiguous slogan means so much to the people of Chippewa. And, as I finish typing this last paragraph I am reaching out for for the last slug of a Leinie's Canoe Paddler on a relaxed summer evening.

America's last pulpwood stacker is Cornell's signature structure. 

Overview: Old Abe State Trail

COUNTIES: Chippewa
COMMUNITIES: Cornell, Jim Falls, Chippewa Falls


POINTS OF INTEREST: Old Abe Lake, Chippewa River, Lake Wissota, Brunet Island State Park, Jim Falls, Ice Age National Scenic Trail

CAMPING: Brunet Island State Park, Lake Wissota State Park

Overview: Duncan Creek Trail

COUNTIES: Chippewa
COMMUNITIES: Chippewa Falls


Directions and Trail Map

If viewing on a mobile device, open the trail map above to load into Google Maps App by touching the expand rectangle in the upper right corner.

Addresses for your GPS:

Brunet Island State Park: 376 Park Rd, Cornell, WI 54732
| coordinates: 45.182665, -91.163707  |
Cornell Parking: 167 Park Rd, Cornell, WI 54732
| coordinates: 45.166544, -91.153662 | Jim Falls Parking: 13619 198th St, Jim Falls, WI 54748
| coordinates:  45.040142, -91.276711 |
Lake Wissota State Park Park Parking: 18103 CR-O, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729
| coordinates: 44.974380, -91.312638  |
Chippewa Falls Marshall Park Parking: 93 Bridgewater Ave, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729
| coordinates: 44.944124, -91.399558  |

From Milwaukee4 Hours
From Madison3 Hours
From Green Bay3 Hours
From Wausau1.5 Hours
From Minneapolis1.5 Hours
From Chicago5 Hours


County Highway T crossing the Chippewa River
County Highway T crossing the Chippewa River 
The Chippewa River along the Old Abe State Trail

Old Abe State Trail
Old Abe State Trail

Old Abe State Trail
Old Abe State Trail