I have often canoed the Cannon River and have drifted right by the trailhead of this nifty county park. From the river I did not know that this park existed. The park is about five miles or so southwest of Miesville and you need to take some back roads to get there. The park has two hiking loops, one leading from the parking lot on the north side of 280th Street and the other from the south.
I decided to take the north loop first. The first thing that I noticed was devastation from a tornado that had passed through the area less than two months before. The damage to the forest was extreme. Mature trees were snapped off half way up, some were pushed over by other falling trees, and others were even totally uprooted. The county has done a nice job of clearing these trees in a very short period of time, but I'll bet it will be fifty to a hundred years before the damage will be undetectable. Opening the canopy like this always gives some non-dominant species opportunites. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the flora in the coming years.
The dense woods that line this ravine are dominated by black walnut, which seemed pervasive. I have never seen so much black walnut in my life. Many of them were dead and dying because of the tornado damage, but there is still an impressive aggregation of a species that I do not often see dominate a forest. Along the path to the north I spied Lobelia siphilitica, Great Blue Lobelia. Other than that, not much more than the usual suspects: White Snakeroot, Spotted Touch Me Not, Chickweed, and various species of Helianthus. I can tell that this would be fantastic spot to photograph woodland wildflowers in the spring.
The north loop is not particularly long, only about a mile and a half in length. It turns back on itself, though there are a couple of loops that assure the return is not wholly along the outgoing path. I saw and heard a wide variety of birds and a ran across a half dozen species of butterflies.
The southern loop is different in that whereas the northern loop proceeds up a ravine, the southern loop proceeds along the north bank of the Cannon River. After about a quarter mile the path turns to the north where one comes across an old abandoned stone building. It was quite large and I wondered about its use.
I liked this little county park. It will be interesting to see how the woods fill in after the devastating tornado damage.