Tag Archives: Parks

Storrs Lake

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This Historical Marker, and the lake it talks about is one that I wrote about last year in a post about County Parks. The marker is mounted on the side of the barn at the Milton House. Storrs Lake is a mile east beyond the Milton House, and is a lovely natural space with nice hiking trails and fishing. This lake is a part of the Historical Marker system because General Atkinson spent the night by the lake while in pursuit of Blackhawk during the Blackhawk War/Massacre.

The post about Storrs Lake and Blackhawk can be read by following the links the links.

 

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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.

 

 

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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Today’s County Park is not in Rock County (gasp!) but it relates to Lake Koshkonong, and it fits the overall story I am working on. A short distance into Jefferson County is Lake Koshkonong Effigy Mounds Park. It can be a little complicated to get to, but it’s worth the trip.

The parking area accommodates only two or three cars, but in all the times I have been there, I have rarely found anyone else visiting that didn’t walk from a nearby home. There are no amenities like wash rooms, picnic tables, or playground equipment but there are very nice benches scattered along the trail through the park.

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This map is from the brochure provided by the Hoard Historical Museum.
407 Merchant Ave. Fort Atkinson, WI. 53538

This park covers approximately five acres and contains 11 effigy mounds built by Native Americans that predate the Ho-Chunk Nation. There were 72 mounds within an area of about a mile, but with the coming of Europeans and farming, a vast majority were eliminated — making these remaining mounds very precious.

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Nobody really knows why the mounds were constructed in animal shapes, which can only be identified from the air, but it’s widely believed that the purpose was ceremonial. There is the remnant of a trail through the park that is thought to be one the Native Americans traveled during their seasonal migration through the area. These mounds are considered sacred by the Ho-Chunk People, so please be respectful and do not walk on them.

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I found a little bit of conflicting information between the plaque at the entrance of the park, and a brochure I picked up at the beginning of the trail. The plaque indicates that the mounds were thought to have been built between the years of 650-1200 AD. The brochure says that this happened between 300-1642 AD. I thought that the 1642 date seemed late; by this time white men were beginning to come into this area, and I thought the mound builders were a much older culture. After contacting the Hoard Historical Museum, the creator of the brochure, the earlier 650 to 1200 time frame is more correct.

Walking the trail through the park feels wonderful. I love spending time there because the energy of it is so peaceful. As you walk around the various mounds its hard not to imagine what the people who lived in the area, and built these amazing mounds, must have been like. I find it is a great place to meditate. I would recommend taking some time and visiting this park. Also, bring some kind of bug defense, as the park backs up to a thick patch of trees, and is heavily wooded itself.

For more information about this Jefferson County Park you can contact follow this link.

Have a great day!

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!