My goal of visiting and blogging about Rock Counties Parks continues this week with another park I had never been to, Gibbs Lake Park. Our largest at approximately 299 acres, it is located in the northwestern area of the county and is an easy drive from Janesville. Take Hwy 14 west about seven miles, turn right onto Eagle Road and follow that for about three miles, then turn left onto Gibbs Lake Road. The entrance to the park is on the left about ½ mile down. This park is not what I expected but I was not disappointed either.
Within the boundary of the park there are forested areas, prairie, and swamp land. Then, there is of course, the beautiful Gibbs Lake and Little Gibbs Lake. Originally called Big Spring and Little Spring Lake, they are connected by the now aptly named Gibbs Creek which after leaving Gibbs lake crosses the road and continues on toward the Yahara River. Access to Little Gibbs Lake is difficult as it is separated from the rest of the park by an elderberry swamp so unfortunately I can’t tell you about it.
The parking lot is a good size making it easy for vehicles with boat trailers to maneuver their way to the launch at the end of the lot. At the time I visited this was in frequent use with five craft on the water. The lake covers about 73 acres and is a good spot for small watercraft. Gibbs Lake is about 23 ft. at its deepest.
There are boat launch fees in effect from April 15 to the end of October of $6.00 for residents and $8.00 for non-residents. Fees can be paid either on a per day basis or seasonally. Envelopes are available for payment on site. When paid, the fee includes access to The Happy Hollow, Royce Dallman and Gibbs lake.
Fishing is allowed on the lake. I asked a gentleman in the process of launching his boat what he catches and was told mostly bluegill, he did say that he thought there were bass and northern in the lake but he has never caught anything like that.
Gibbs Lake also offers land related enjoyment. There are multi use trails for horseback riding, hiking, and cross-country skiing in the winter. The park is relatively flat. With no steep hills hiking difficulty is low, making it very pleasant. The trails are open from dawn to dusk but for safety reasons not after dark. Equestrian trails are not open in the winter.
I found the trails to be a nice width making it easy to hike two abreast and have a conversation at the same time. My son and I set out along a trail that led from the picnic area and after a short walk we found that it opened up onto another picnic area. A map in the brochure indicates a swimming area, I think this was it but there was no beach. It was still a lovely spot with a picnic table available. We continued on with our hike, following a trail that we thought was going to loop around and take us back to the main picnic area. To our surprise, we found ourselves at the equestrian lot which is about one quarter of a mile to the east of the main entrance. This was a happy accident as I did want to check the lot out.
The lot has plenty of room for both animals and trailers. There was also a lovely covered picnic area. Riders are asked to clean up after their horses in the lot area and keep in mind that they are not allowed in the lake, the picnic, or boat launch area. Hikers are asked to yield to those on horseback for everyone’s enjoyment and safety.
Rather than take our chances on getting turned around on the trail again we walked the road back to the main lot. It is my opinion that the trails could be a bit more clearly identified but overall they were nice and it was a lovely hike. The trails are well kept and there is a variety of trees and wild flowers to enjoy as you ride or hike. The mosquitoes on the other hand were out in full force. We used repellent before we left the parking area and still had them following us in a swarms. So be prepared!
The parks amenities include a nice shaded picnic area with grills, restrooms with pit toilets, and trash bins. There is also a water pump but it was not working when we were there. It may have just needed to be primed. As with all our county parks, no entrance fees are charged and the park is open from dawn to dusk. As I said earlier Gibbs Lake is not what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, and look forward to visiting this park again!