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Robert Zimmer outdoors column: Terrell's Island trail a gem

Sep. 8, 2013
 
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American white pelicans have nested at Terrell's Island for many years, but the islands were originally intended for waterfowl management. / Rob Zimmer/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

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The Butte des Morts Conservation Club this summer opened a nearly three-mile section of breakwall trail at Terrell’s Island, along the south shore of Lake Butte des Morts, to hikers and bicyclists.

Terrell’s Island is a sprawling wetland conservation project created by the club to preserve and restore valuable wetland and watershed habitat along the shores of the lake. The conservation area covers more than 1,200 acres here along the south shore, just west of Oshkosh.

Several hiking trails are available for public use within Terrell’s Island, for all experience levels. The most popular is the breakwall trail, completed this year.

More on hiking: Hiking news from around the state | Your hiking photos | Create a map for your next hiking trip

The breakwall, constructed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to maintain waterfowl habitat and nesting islands at the sprawling property, features a crushed gravel trail that completely encircles this section of the lake.

Before this year, visitors were able to hike by foot only to a certain point, where a carp barrier exists between gaps in the breakwall. As part of the trail completion, a beautiful walking bridge now crosses this gap, allowing cyclists and hikers full access to the entire loop.

Visitors to Terrell’s Island have always been able to walk the breakwall and explore this area of Lake Butte des Morts, but trails did not exist past the shoreline, and climbing among large rocks and boulders, as well as through massive brush growth, was necessary.

The completion of the crushed gravel trail along the entire three-mile stretch of the breakwall means that hikers and bicyclists can enjoy the full length of the trail at this amazing destination.

A visit to Terrell’s Island at any time of year is a wonderful outdoor experience, where one can see any number of nesting or migrating waterfowl, as well as wildlife such as deer, mink, river otter, turtles, frogs, foxes and more.

The trail leads out over the open water from shore at two locations, forming a loop that is unbeaten in the area for natural beauty and wildlife spectacle.

Hundreds of American white pelicans nest on islands within and near Terrell’s Island. These birds began nesting here about 10 years ago, reaching a peak about three years ago. While American white pelicans are majestic and awesome birds, providing pelicans nesting habitat was not the original intent of this project.

During the fall of 2011, reconstruction of the islands within the property was undertaken to make the islands less desirable to pelicans and more desirable to nesting waterfowl. This included leveling the islands to near water level, as well as planting aquatic vegetation, such as grasses and sedges, around the perimeters of the islands.

Thousands of double-crested cormorants nest here — again, not a desirable species, or one originally intended to breed here.

Nesting egrets and herons can be seen here during summer. Great egrets, snowy egret and great blue heron are all common nesters in the area, either within Terrell’s Island or on nearby islands.

Besides walking and bicycling, visitors are able to travel by canoe or kayak. Within the breakwall, waters are calm and clear on most days, even when conditions are choppy out on the open waters of the big lake.

Canoe bridges across the breakwall allow visitors to access the waters on several different sections of the property.

For more information on Terrell’s Island, visit www.bdmcc.org.

— Rob Zimmer: 920-993-1000, ext. 7154, yardmd@postcrescent.com

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