Krueger Pines State Natural Area protects a mature northern dry-mesic forest with large red and white pines. The site is located within Council Grounds State Park, just northwest of Merrill across the Wisconsin River. The single parcel is bounded on the east by the park road, along which is a convenient parking area. The Blue Trail cuts through near the southwest corner of the SNA, while the Green Trail runs parallel to the northern edge of the SNA, approximately 130ft north. All in all, it can be an easy SNA to view with the family if you stay on the trail.
I have vague, yet fond, memories of camping at Council Grounds State Park as a child, and who knows, this may have one of the first SNAs I ever visited if I had ventured along the Blue and Green trails. Unlike some SNAs located within State Parks, Krueger Pines does contain signage denoting its existence. The trails surrounding the “Scientific Area” on the map below, roughly give you an idea of the scope of the SNA.
As memory serves, we parked along the eastern boundary of the SNA, in a lot along the park road. I believe we then walked to the trailhead just to the north, walked west, then south, then southeast along the Green and Blue trails to complete a semi-loop. As the trail make significant inroads into the SNA proper, it was not necessary to go ‘off-road’ in order to visit the bulk of the site. I was somewhat surprised to see Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), not that far off of the trail and not very close to a wetland, which is where I typically think of it residing. Yet, there it was for us to enjoy. All in all, this SNA can be a very peaceful, serene walk amongst some majestically tall pines, a throwback to what much of the Northwoods was like centuries ago.
Having a little one with me, I was not able to do this as much as I otherwise would have. Thus, I would like to revisit this site (revisit scale: 3/5), perhaps on a day that I wasn’t in the middle of driving 4 hours back home.
Additional photos can be found on Flickr.