What are you doing, sitting on the internet right now?! Winter has finally come to a close; get off your computer and go explore the breath-taking nature that central Wisconsin has to offer! (Actually, it would be beneficial to finish reading the information in this blog, and THEN go explore.)
A perfect place to soak up the newly warm weather and simultaneously explore the nature surrounding the Fox Cities area is at High Cliff State Park — only a 20-minute drive outside of Appleton — in Sherwood. High Cliff is much more than just a park; it encompasses a marina, beach area, an 1855 general store museum, two different campgrounds and many diverse hiking trails. Cindy Mueller, High Cliff naturalist, says, “High Cliff State Park is not only located on one of the Seven Wonders of Wisconsin, the Niagara Escarpment; but it is also located on the largest fresh water, inland lake in the U.S.”
One of the most popular features of High Cliff is the Butterfly Pond Trail, which is approximately 1½ miles long. The trail follows a fishing pond, wetland and stream mitigation site, and restored prairie. Additionally, along the trail and nestled throughout the rest of the park are some really great rocks. On the surface, rocks don’t seem like the greatest thing to stare at, but there are many different types found at High Cliff unique to the area, with their own stories to tell. “The primary rock of the ledge is the sedimentary limestone or dolostone,” states Mueller. “Along with sandstone, chalk, chert, shale and a few granite boulders that found their way here with the glaciers.” Each type of rock has its own unique look that will keep the family entertained for hours!
Although the entire park has beautiful views, Mueller knows where to find the top-notch ones. “The best views in the park are from atop the Observation Tower in the Upper Park, by the Chief Red Bird Statue, and from the Indian Mound Trail Lookout.” Mueller also says that High Cliff is well known for its extraordinary sunsets overlooking Lake Winnebago, a must-see during the summertime.
High Cliff has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as a Wisconsin State Park. During the course of these 50 years, it has received an extremely positive feedback from the surrounding communities. It is very accessible, being only 15 minutes from downtown Appleton. Mueller states, “It is close enough to go camping with a young family that you can ‘run home’ if you forget something, and far enough and big enough to feel like you are really up north in the woods.” High Cliff also has a very loyal, active volunteer group, called “Friends of High Cliff.” The volunteer group has won numerous awards; people come from all over the Fox Cities to help promote conservancy of natural resources. Additionally, it is very easy to get involved in volunteering — simply go to friendsofhighcliff.org to find more information and newsletters of upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Throughout the summer, there are many programs High Cliff offers, geared toward both children and adults. Some of these programs include different themed nature walks, like “Butterfly Pond Summer Nature Walk” and “Walk on the Wild Side,” to name a few. There also are many different classes and lectures, ranging from history lessons about High Cliff’s past, to learning about the different animal species settled around Wisconsin. Be on the lookout for a more detailed description of all of High Cliff’s summer events this year, available by checking in with the park office at (920) 989-1106, as well as their soon-to-be released newsletter.