Schmeeckle Reserve Offers Respite in Nature
Right next to a bustling commercial area stretches the vast, 280-acre Schmeeckle Reserve (pronounced shmee-klee), the arboretum of UW-Stevens Point.
A variety of well-kept trails totaling five miles wind their way through the arboretum’s diverse natural habitats, which include prairie, forest, pond, wetland, and the rare oak savanna. All ages can enjoy walking, jogging, biking, skiing and snowshoeing their way along the trails, open year-round from dawn to dusk.
Start by parking for free in the visitor center parking lot. Pick up a map and browse through nature guidebooks and other items at the gift shop, then take a look through the free Conservation History Museum. The museum brings to life the history of conservation in Wisconsin, efforts which keep Schmeeckle a sanctuary for wildlife and plant species. Quotes by area conservationists which highlight this mission can be found along the trail.
The center also serves as the headquarters for the Green Circle Trail, a 26-mile loop around Stevens Point that partially overlaps the northern part of Schmeeckle.
For an easy, half-mile walk that’s accessible by wheelchair, the Trail of Reflections loops through forest and circles back to the visitor center. Along the way, climb up the treehouse for a closer look at the surrounding white pines, then swing on the wooden bench overlooking the still waters of the Reflection Pond.
The best place to spot a few butterflies and birds is on the Berard Oaks trail. Two-hundred year-old oaks tower above this savanna. The trail connects to the Moses Creek trail. Follow the boardwalk along 15-acre wetland and keep an eye out—there may be a duck or two hidden in the grass. Stop by the viewing deck to see if there’s any wildlife visible through the mounted scope.
Three narrow boardwalks meander over wetlands on the Sedge Meadow trail. These wetlands ebb and flow through the seasons. The route is scenic and varied.
The most popular trail is the scenic Lake Loop Trail, which encircles the 24-acre Lake Joanis. Whether fishing for perch, sunbathing, or canoeing to the island, the lake offers ample opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Lounge on a bench and watch a flock of geese openly disregard the “no swimming” sign and enter the sparkling water.
Connecting the Lake Loop Trail and Trail of Reflections is a small stretch of wetlands known aptly as the Frog Chorus Trail. Frogs and toads belt out their best voices in early Spring.
Worth a quick visit is the Pine Meadows trail. Although it dead-ends at Michigan Avenue, this narrow path routes scenically through grassy meadows and white pines. The trail begins with a bridge system made out of planks (something kids will especially enjoy) and continues as a rustic footpath into the woods.
The Schmeeckle Reserve is the perfect place to return to again and again and observe how habitats in Wisconsin transform through the seasons, whether it’s a field of cattails blooming in the Spring or the vibrant fall colors reflected in Lake Joanis.
For more information about the opportunities and events of Schmeeckle Reserve, check out their website.