Pretty soon the sleigh bells will be ringing and the skis and sleds will be back on the slopes and trails in Ozaukee. There is so much to do outdoors and so many friendly restaurants and coffee shops nearby, that is is easy to make a day’s adventure, and then another and another, all winter long.
The Christmas Bird Count, an important Ozaukee tradition, takes place on December 17th. Want to be a part of a nationwide citizen science project? New and experienced birders are needed to conduct field bird surveys within a 12 mile circle around Riveredge! Or you can count birds at your backyard feeder from the comfort of your home.
Birding is wonderful in winter, even if some of our summer residents have headed south. South for other species is right here, so you can see the birds of the far north as well as our year-round residents without all those pesky leaves blocking your view. Here is our birding guide to help with finding the best places to watch.
Winter hiking is great in winter and best on paths that get some traffic to tramp the snow down. One of the perks of winter hiking is that the lay of the land is not hidden behind trees and bushes. Take advantage of this to explore the parks and preserves with the most interesting terrain: Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve has spectacular views of the ravines from the trails, features you just can’t see in summer. Check out Kurtz Woods State Natural Area and Donges Bay Gorge, two Ozaukee Washington Land Trust preserves that are known for their unique and beautiful terrain.
Walks along Lake Michigan in winter open a whole new world of ice crystals and formations. South Beach in Port Washington and Harrington Beach State Park are two of the best access points to the shore. Lion’s Den Gorge also offers access but includes a twenty minute walk through the park and down the staircase to get there. Harrington Beach State Park’s First Day Hike, January 7th, is a great family activity.
Our Interurban Trail is plowed all winter from Mequon to Port Washington for easy walking and biking. It is great for cross-country skiing, if you can beat the plows in the morning after a snowfall from Mequon to Port, and whenever there is snow in area north of Port Washington.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities are everywhere. Ozaukee County is now grooming trails at both MeeKwon and Tendick for both inline and skate skiing.
Riveredge has wonderful cross-country/snowshoe trails. Check out their information, low fees and trail map page here: http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/visit/
Harrington Beach State Park has lovely trails, especially the one around Quarry Lake.
For the back-country skiers and snowshoers, or those content with waiting to be the second skier on the trails, the OWLT, Mequon Nature Preserve and Blue Heron Wildlife Preserve offer so many opportunities to connect with nature and get some exercise at the same time. Blue Heron Wildlife Preserve is worthy of at least one winter trip to ski or snowshoe. It runs along the Milwaukee River just north of Tendick …Nature Park. There are no fees and there is parking.
Forest Beach Migratory Preserve (116 acres) and Mequon Nature Preserve (438 acres) offer extensive snow shoe and ski trails.
Sledding - Don’t forget the kids. Mule Hill in MeeKwon County Park is perhaps the favorite sledding spot in Ozaukee. Some other hills of note are found at Quade Park in Saukville, Meadowbrooke and Lime Kiln Parks in Grafton, and four parks in Cedarburg: Centennial, Cedar Creek, Fischer and Legion Memorial.
Treasures of Oz 2017
While most of nature is asleep under a blanket of snow, Treasures of Oz is busy planning our 2017 Eco-Tour. We are focusing on the watershed and including so many things from healthy soils to GIS systems that keep our waters and land healthy and offer ways to improve them.
We will open a few new sites, including the wonderful Spirit Lake Preserve in Mequon. We are so excited that The UW Field Station has worked their class schedule around so the Friends of Cedarburg Bog can offer tours of the boardwalk through the bog once again. This spot was the most popular site in 2013 and is one that is ordinarily closed to the public unless they are involved in taking a class or part of a specific tour. The Cedarburg Bog, neither in Cedarburg and not really a bog, is one of our really special treasures. This is a “must see” treasure.
We are pleased to announce that the coming 2017 Treasures of oz Eco-Tour has received a C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant from the Natural Resources Foundation. This will be a wonderful help to us in funding our advertising.