Tag Archives: Our County Parks

Happy Hollow Park

 

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Our County Parks

I have to say that this park was a let down. The name, Happy Hollow, put the vision of someplace almost magickal in my mind. Unfortunately this was not the case. Getting to the park was complicated. There were turns I couldn’t find because they no longer exist. This park is located at 1731 Happy Hollow Rd., about half way between Janesville and Beloit. Once I knew I was on the right track I was expecting a large sign like the other parks have to welcome visitors but there wasn’t one.

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The road into the Happy Hollow was rather epic. It reminded of a drive up to a large Antebellum home. What I found was not at all epic.

When you reach the park, what you find is space for maybe two cars to park, two picnic tables and a pit toilet rest room. Near the table is a covered seating area that once had a water pump. I noticed a small sign that pointed the way to a bridal path but there was not place to park a horse trailer. The county parks I have previously visited had a station with park maps available to visitors which show hiking and horse back trail routes but there were none to be found.

There were no trash can in sight but I did see some damage to the lawn. My normal habit is to check out the cleanliness of the restroom but the torn up lawn and lack of parking left me so disenchanted I didn’t want to know. I noticed the drive went around a corner so I kept going to see that was next.

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After a couple of curves that took me a good quarter-mile further I wound up at a fairly large parking area with two overflowing trash bins at the far end and a small boat launch to the Rock River. This lot could accomodate horse and boat trailers. Fishing is allowed on the river and from shore. There is a board with catch limits and boat launch fees posted. Envelopes with a secure drop site is near the board. This end of the park had one picnic table but no rest room facilities.

I must admit that the scenery and the river was lovely. The area is peaceful and listening to the birds singing was nice, but that is about all that I can say about this park that is positive. I intended to take a hike up a path from the parking area until I found several alcohol bottles and evidence of drug activity. The remoteness of this park must make it quite the party spot. I would like to say that this is a park I would visit again but I simply can’t. This is a park I would never go to alone.

Like all the county parks this site is open from dawn to dusk.

 

 

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Airport Park

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The first of Rock Countys Parks I visited this year is Airport Park on the corner of Knilans Rd. and Hwy. 51 south of Janesville. The park is not very big; it’s just about two acres in size. I must say there really isn’t much going on at this park. Dogs are allowed in posted areas but I didn’t see where that was. There are a few picnic tables provided and that is about it as far as amenities go.

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There is evidence that at one time there was a pump for water but that is gone. There are no grills, wash rooms, trash cans or playground equipment for children to enjoy. Being two acres though, there is plenty of room to organize games.

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Parking might be an issue if there were several people attending a family event. There isn’t a paved lot, just a circular drive. I suppose if necessary people could park in the grass at the back of the drive.

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The one fun feature of this park, for those that like airplanes, is its proximity to the Rock County Airport. If you know the schedule of planes taking off and landing you can have a wonderful view of that happening from just across the road.

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This park is open for use from 5am to 10pm. As there are no trash containers please take with you all that you brought to the park so that it stays clean for everyone to enjoy.  See you next time for our next Rock County Park!

 

 

Our County Parks

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Gibbs Lake

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Rotary Botanical Gardens

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Today’s post is not one of our County Parks and it’s so much more than just a park. It is, like so many others, one I had never been to and I must admit that the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. It’s filled with one stunning internationally themed garden after another. So much love and care goes into maintaining the grounds. It takes your breath away when you step out of the reception building and look around.

The gardens are located on Palmer Drive just south of the golf course. Parking is free. The lot is a very generous size and admission to the gardens is a reasonable $7.00 for adults over the age of 16 with seniors paying $6.00, children 6 to 15 as well as veterans $5.00, and under 6 is free. After paying, visitors are given a paper wristband to wear that indicates admission has been paid but also gives visitors access to the park throughout the day. If for some reason you must leave the park then wish come back that same day, it isn’t required to pay again as long as you have your wristband on! How cool is that?!  From May through August the Botanical Gardens are open from 8:30am to 8pm. Much of the park is wheelchair accessible making it a lovely outing for the whole family.

There are special events going on at the gardens throughout the year. Coming up on August 30 is a seminar on ornamental grasses. The gardens are available to rent for special events. I am told the Christmas Light Show is quite a spectacular sight. I will definitely check it out this December! You can find out more about upcoming events on their website they also have a Facebook page.

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The idea for what would become such a magnificent refuge from the outside world began with a retired Orthodontist named Dr. Robert Yahr in 1988. His dream was to create an internationally themed garden the community could enjoy. He contacted the two rotary clubs in Janesville at the time to see if they would be interested in joining together for the project. They did and in 1989 this absolutely stunning 20 acre complex of 25 themed gardens is the result.

My son and I were at the Botanical Gardens for about two hours and were not able to see all the gardens, so plan on making it a day. You won’t be sorry.

I will leave you with a slide show of the gardens we visited.

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Our County Parks

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There isn’t really a great deal to be said about next stop on my mission to visit each of Rock Counties Parks. I have been to this one several times. This weeks park, Indianford County Park, can be found just east of Fulton and South of Edgerton. Indianford is a small unincorporated community that straddles the Rock River. The park is also small, just a bit over 2 acres, and is split between the east and west banks of the Rock River.

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Each side of the river has some amenities like picnic tables, porta-potties and trash bins. The west side park also has a water pump and I believe I saw a grill. Parking is limited on each side of the river. Parking on the east bank is shared with businesses. There are three restaurant/bars, that when open create competition for parking space.

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Although small, the parks are fairly well-kept. The east bank is higher, it’s bank is steep with many large rocks along the edge that are overgrown with weeds. This makes access to the water a little complicated. Years ago I would bring my young son to this park because he enjoyed climbing on the rocks and playing in the shallow water on this side of the river. The east side also gets more sun as there are fewer trees. The west bank park is nicely shaded and has a low access to the water making canoe and kayak entry to the water possible.

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The highlight of this park is the river and it’s dam. The first dam was built of wood in 1846. This turned what was a shallow stream with a gravel base and large rocks into a river and raised the water level in the lake upstream by three to four feet.

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Someone caught a bike!

When I was there several people were fishing from the banks on both sides of the river. You can catch Walleye, Muskellunge, Large and Small Mouth Bass as well as Northern Pike. The east side park has a sign posted listing size and catch limit regulations. Alcohol is not allowed in the park and dogs are allowed only in posted areas. The park is open from 5am to 10pm.

Have a great day!

Our County Parks

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Royce Dallman Park is the next on the list of County Parks that I visited. You can find this park at Charley Bluff, off Cnty. N straight out Charley Bluff Road. While it is not the smallest of Rock County Parks, at just 2.3 acres, it is more a launching site for small boats onto Lake Koshkonong than it is a park. It does have some nice amenities. There is a picnic pavilion with a couple of tables, rest rooms with pit toilets, a water pump, one grill that is quite a ways past the rest rooms a water pump and there are trash bins. When I was visiting the park the rest rooms were fairly clean but had no toilet tissue, so it might be a good idea to bring some along, just to be on the safe side.

This park is named for Royce Dallman who lived and worked in the county as a DNR Game Warden from 1940 to 1964.

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The park is a long loop with one road into the park and the opposite side of the loop heading out. There is ample parking for vehicles hauling boat trailers but no real designated area for cars. Your best bet is to park up by the wash rooms or off to the side of the lot on the exit portion of the loop. The restrooms are at the end of the parking lot. You can almost see them.

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The boat launch has a little bit of a curve to it but the boaters seemed to not have an issue with it. There is a boat launch fee and envelopes provided to pay with a secure drop point for the envelope. Fishing is allowed on the lake with Muskellunge, Walleye, Sauger, Large and Small Mouth Bass in the lake. A sign is posted with size and catch limits.

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There is a map of the lake near the boat launch that shows the locations of the most shallow areas of the lake and something that I though was pretty impressive. There is a life preserver station that gives people the opportunity to borrow life preservers for children that do not have one. Then, when you are done boating you simply return it to the bin.

What the park lacks in playground equipment and space for games it more than makes up for and shines in the area of water sports. The lake is a natural shallow reservoir approximately half way between Fort Atkinson and Indian Ford. It’s average depth ranges from six to seven feet. There was a time when it was the second largest inland lake in the state but has dropped to the eighth largest. That still makes it a good size lake at about 10500 acres! There is so much more that I could tell you about this jewel in our county, but I don’t want to give away too much information about the lake, as I am planning a future blog about it, so I will stop here with two views of the beautiful Lake Koshkonong!

 

Our County Parks

Walt Lindemann
Sportsman’s Park

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Continuing my goal of visiting and blogging about all of Rock County’s parks. We come to Walt Lindemann Sportsman’s Park. I’ve been aware of this park all my life, driven past it too many times to count but never checked it out. Well, a couple of days ago instead of driving by, My son and I went in and I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

This park area was created in 1967 and prior to 1979 was known as Sportsman’s Park. In February of 1980 the name was changed, adding Walt Lindemann. Mr. Lindemann served as county clerk from 1941 to 1972 and was concerned about the counties parks and recreational facilities.

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Sportsman’s Park is located on Hwy 51 in Janesville across from the County Health Department, south of Hwy. 14. It’s not a real large park, just nine acres, but it is quite a nice place. The parking lot is long, extending well into the park and is surrounded with a lovely rock border. There was a party being held in the pavilion when we were there and plenty of parking spaces were still available.

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The park amenities include a covered pavilion which can be rented for parties. There are a few grills and quite a number of picnic tables, some are handicap accessible. There is a drinking fountain, restrooms and trash bins at both ends of the parking area. The park also has a very nice playground area that is handicap accessible as well as some open areas for games. The park is nicely shaded by many large trees making it a nice place to sit on one of the wood benches and enjoy mature.

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There is also a pay telephone in the park! You don’t see them much anymore. Dogs are allowed in the park but must be on a 6 ft. leash and are only to be in the extreme eastern part of the grass at the edge of the park.

There are a couple of interesting things we discovered while visiting. Adjacent to the park are a deer enclosure and an old cemetery! The deer enclosure is a nice size and has from our count seven doe and three buck whitetail deer. The deer are owned by Scott, Jim and Nancy Schoonover which are Mystic Whitetails and are kept safe by two layers of fencing. In order to keep the deer safe it is requested that dogs not be in this area. The grass was quite tall and all we could see at first was heads sticking out. The enclosure has a couple of shelters allowing the deer to get in out of bad weather.

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It appears that at one point in time there was a pheasant brood and pen in the park. The pen is open for the deer now.

At the back of the park, tucked behind some trees is a fenced in area. I did a bit of research and discovered that back in the 1881, Rock County opened an asylum. In time it was apparent that there was not enough space and 350 acres was purchased and a larger facility was built that encompassed the insane asylum, county poor farm and county hospital. This cemetery must be what was a part of that complex. (future Rock County blog post topic!) You can’t see many marker stones and it was difficult to see if they were gone or replaced with flat markers. The area appears to be well maintained and I am glad of that.

Walt Lindemann Sportsman’s Park is a wonderful little gem tucked in the north west part of Janesville. Well worth a drive to enjoy. Like all county parks there is no fee to enter and is open from dawn to dusk. To rent the pavilion or seek more information about the park call the Rock County Parks Department at 608-757-5450. Have a great day!