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No more wet feet at Tamarack Trail | By Jackie Scharfenberg, retired DNR naturalist

Fond du Lac Co., WI – For many of us who walk the Tamarack Nature Trail around Mauthe Lake, we remember often getting wet, muddy feet as we tried to dodge water puddles found between the campground and the bridge over the Milwaukee River – East Branch. As of this spring, this is no longer the case. The trail in that section has been reconstructed to raise it above puddle level and drain water through culverts under the trail.
Tamarack Trail; photo credit, Tom Lentz

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It took some hard work on behalf of the Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit’s
staff to complete this project. The crew faced several setbacks caused by permit delays, wet weather, unfrozen ground, bird nesting seasons, and equipment failures, but they laid the last stone this past winter. The first step of the project involved installing many culverts to direct water under the trail. Next, the staff laid down large rock to form a foundation for the trail bed.

This was followed by a layer of medium-sized gravel. When funding becomes available, a third layer of finer gravel will be added to make the trail even more accessible to more people.

The financing for this remake of the trail came from many sources. They included two
large donations from dedicated Tamarack Trail enthusiasts and many smaller gifts from other trail users. The Friends of the Kettle Moraine doubled their contribution with a grant from a Knowles/Nelson Stewardship Fund. The Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit covered the labor costs. As you can see, it took a whole team to bring this project to fruition.

As the two-mile Tamarack Nature Trail circles Mauthe Lake, it traverses several plant
communities including a floodplain forest, a pine plantation, and cedar swamp. It also crosses the East Branch of the Milwaukee River twice – at the spillway dam where the river leaves Mauthe Lake and upriver from where it enters the lake. With all this diversity, the trail provides a hot spot for birders, especially in the spring when those long-distance migrants stop over to rest and refuel.

The Northern Unit is known for rugged trails, but the Tamarack Nature Trail proves the
exception with its flat terrain making it a perfect trail for all types of walkers and hikers
including families with children. The trail offers a great destination for your out-of-town guests to enjoy a bit of the Northern Unit while stretching their legs while visiting to catch up on local happenings. You can jump on the trail at the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area where there are bathrooms, a sandy swimming beach, shaded picnic tables, and playground. You can also access the trail from the Forest Headquarters by the maintenance shop in which there are also bathrooms.

Remember that a Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker is required to park at the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area.

Lace up your walking shoes, leave your rubber boots at home, and head out to the new
and improved Tamarack Nature Trail. No matter the season, you can always find something
special as you travel along the trail.


  1. Jackie truly is a gift to the Kettle Moraine North. Her knowledge, and activism in the area is truly amazing. When we heard she retired, I got a little sad about it, but I am very glad that she continues to show, and express her love of our beloved Kettle Moraine North, that she continues with the Friends of the Kettle Moraine. Thank you!

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