July 2006: Kettle Moraine State Forest


Eagle, Wisconsin

The Ice Age was so instrumental in shaping the landscape of Wisconsin that the most recent advance of the ice flows has been named the "Wisconsin Glaciation." For almost 100,000 years - until a mere 10,000 years ago - the ice spread across the state, melted, reformed and retreated again. Six major fingers of ice thrust into the land that makes Wisconsin today, scraping the land and carting boulders great distances. Hills and ridges left behind are called moraines. Where blocks of ice became detached from the main glacier, depressions formed from the melting of buried ice. These are called kettles. The Kettle Moraine west of Milwaukee is really a series of moraines formed between two great flows of ice. Some are mere pimples in the landscape; others rise to more than 300 feet above the surrounding land. 

In 1937 the Wisconsin Legislature established the Kettle Moraine State Forest to protect what the glaciers created. In 1958 local citizens began agitating for an Ice Age national park and volunteers built the first trail segments of what has become the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Today some 300 miles of trail have been certified along the leading edge of the great glaciers.

The Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is renowned for its trail system that permeate its 21,000 acres of land. In addition to marked hiking trails, the forest hosts more than 50 miles of horse trails, 20 miles of mountain bike trails, 30 miles of cross-country ski trails and 46 miles of snowmobile trails. A 30+-mile leg of the Ice Age Hiking Trail rambles through the glaciated landscape. The most apparent relics of the glaciers are the conical hills of water-worn sand called kames, piled here by streams that churned through cracks in the main ice flows. Dogs will also enjoy the many lakes left behind by the glaciers; two of the most popular are Ottawa and Whitewater lakes.

Northwest of the town of Eagle is Paradise Springs, once a resort and retreat in the early 1930s. The springs poke out from the underground water table in a bowl-shaped depression that spew water at the rate of 500 gallons per minute. The water is a constant 47 degrees year round, ideal for the Brook Trout that are stocked here, the only trout native to the Kettle Moraine. The spring house near the trout pond built of native fieldstone is one of the grandest ever built in Wisconsin and was once used as a spa.

Take Exit 282 south from I-94. Continue 14 miles to Eagle in the heart of the state forest.