Lake Wissota State Park

Lake Wissota State Park

If you live in Wisconsin or Minnesota (or possibly anywhere else), you likely realize where the name, Wissota, comes from. Wikipedia claims: “An engineer on the [Lake Wissota Hydroelectric Dam] project [that created the lake], Louis G. Arnold, named the lake by combining the beginning of “Wisconsin” and the ending of “Minnesota”.” And you would think then that Lake Wissota (State Park) would be on the border between the two states.

And you would be wrong.

Lake Wissota is roughly 80 miles east of the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. What that engineer had in mind, we may never know. In any case, he indirectly contributed to the creation of a very nice Wisconsin state park.

Monarch Waystation

Adjacent to the park office, is a Monarch Waystation, which is a manicured flower (and other plant) garden created specifically to attract monarch butterflies.

Monarch Waystation

We can testify to the fact that the creators achieved their goal. The day we were there, we saw two monarchs. The pictures below are both of the same butterfly though.

Monarch butterfly
Monarch closeup

They also decorated the area with this monarch mosaic along the path.

Monarch plaque

And they added this sundial. I appreciate the device, but I don’t really understand why it’s there.


Staghorn Trail

After wandering among the monarchs, we drove nearly to the end of the road (which was under reconstruction but still very driveable) to the head of the Staghorn Trail.

Staghorn Trail sign

I thought that the staghorn was a type of beetle, but apparently I was thinking of the stag beetle. Staghorn can refer to a type of coral, sumac, moss, fern, or fish. I’m guessing the designers had the fern in mind. We may or may not have seen the fern along the trail. We weren’t looking for it.

Per the trail map (see below), we were also walking along the Jack Pine trail for a bit. The two trails soon split, and we followed the Staghorn to the east.

Jack Pine and Staghorn trail sign

The trail itself is very broad, level, and smooth. It’s a very easy, 2-mile (okay, 2.3-mile) hike. There weren’t any fallen trees to bar the way, but there was one off to the side that caused another tree to bend nearly to the ground.

Bent tree

And there was another large tree adjacent to the trail that had fallen some time ago, exposing these roots.

Fallen tree roots

There weren’t many benches along the way, but I did notice this exceptionally long one at the intersection of the Staghorn trail and a horseback riding trail.

Long bench

The Staghorn also meets the Beaver Meadow Nature Trail. (We didn’t leave the Staghorn though.)

Beaver Meadow Nature Trail

We found some interesting flora, such as this mushroom “bowl”.

Mushroom bowl

We’ve seen a fair share of mushrooms on our journeys, but seldom do we see such a large clump of them as these.

Yellow mushrooms

We saw some tiny shelf fungus and some bright white fungus on trees.

Tiny shelf fungus
White shelf fungus

Less common than notable flora (other than the birds you can hear) are interesting fauna. On this hike, we saw this woolly caterpillar trundling along the trail.

Woolly caterpillar

We were surprised to see this ruffed grouse scurry across the path and into the trees. I got a few shots of her trying (quite successfully) to blend into the background.

Ruffed grouse
Ruffed grouse looking back

Yeah, she knew I was there.

I saw her mate farther away, but he hid behind some flora before I could get a picture and didn’t come out again. Both birds were silent the entire time.

Scenic Overlook

When we were done with the Staghorn loop, we went back to a scenic overlook closer to the park office.

Lake Wissota scenic overlook

There were some swings nearby. I have the feeling they don’t often get used because they’re not near the campground.


This tree near the overlook was planted in on Arbor Day, 2000.

Centennial Tree

This plaque at its base explains why.

Centennial Tree plaque

Built into the overlook area is this metal map showing the park and its environs.

Metal area map

Being made of metal, I assume the creators intended it to last virtually forever. Thus, you would expect that they took great care when designing and building it so that there would be no errors, right?


Origional misspelling

The trail map shows that there is a stairway near this overlook, perhaps leading to the Lake Trail. Maybe this dirt path, which is on the other side of a wooden fence by the overlook, leads to those stairs. Or maybe the stairs are elsewhere to the south. In any case, we didn’t look for the stairs or take this dirt path. I took this picture just for the scenery. It is a scenic overlook, after all.

Trail to Lake Wissota

Since we (currently) have relatives living near Lake Wissota, I could see us visiting the park again in the future. There are many other trails to explore.


Nearest City

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (5 miles)

Nearest Emergency Facility

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (5 miles)


6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round


Vehicle admission sticker required

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