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The story behind the Ice Age Trail

More than 12,000 years ago, an immense flow of glacial ice sculpted a landscape of remarkable beauty across Wisconsin. As the glacier retreated, it left behind a variety of unique landscape features. These glacial remnants are now considered among the world’s finest examples of how continental glaciation sculpts our planet. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail¬† highlights these glacial landscape features as it travels through some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas.

The Ice Age Trail began in the 1950s as the dream of Milwaukeean Ray Zillmer, who had a vision of a long, linear park winding through Wisconsin along the glacier’s terminal moraine. The Trail, which is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails, is entirely within Wisconsin and travels through 31 counties. The western terminus of the Trail is in Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls and the eastern terminus is in Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay.

The Trail is not yet complete. More than 600 miles are yellow-based Ice Age Trail segments, and more than 500 miles of unmarked connecting routes link the blazed segments. While we often refer to it as a 1,000-mile footpath, the entire route is actually about 1,200 miles long. Most of the blazed segments fit hikers’ ideas of a traditional, off-road hiking experience through woods or fields with plenty of solitude. Some segments, however, lead hikers right down the main streets of Wisconsin communities. This is by design, as the Ice Age Trail is meant to connect people and communities.¬† Lodi is one of those communities and has the designation of being an Ice Age Trail Community.

More than 1 million people use the Ice Age Trail each year for walking, hiking, backpacking, trail running and snowshoeing. The Trail is managed by a partnership among the National Park Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The Alliance, an accredited land trust, protects vital lands along the Ice Age Trail by working with many partners including national, state and local groups and lots of willing private landowners. The Ice Age Trail is built and maintained largely by volunteers, including people in local chapters that exist across the route of the Trail. More than 2,000 volunteers contribute more than 70,000 hours each year to build new Trail segments and maintain existing ones.

I ended on that last point so that I can personally invite you to be come a member of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. You don’t have to be a member to enjoy the Trail — it’s open to all people — but if you get involved you’ll find yourself among a great group of people who value our outdoor spaces and are committed to creating and maintaining a natural legacy that will continue far into the future.

And now you know a bit more about this amazing resource here in our state. I hope it will add to your enjoyment when you’re out enjoying our Wisconsin landscape….Along the Ice Age Trail.

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