Did your grandmother ever take you around to local cemeteries to see where relatives – some close, some distant – were buried?
On the face of it, that sounds a little creepy, but it wasn’t. Most cemeteries are rather nice places to visit. They’re normally well-groomed. The grass is lush. There may be flowers here and there. And the headstones are full of interesting information.
State parks that are burial mounds, like Lizard Mound State Park, are the same as graveyards in many ways. The main things missing are the headstones. So, if you don’t mind walking among the dead, Lizard Mound is a very nice place to visit.
Why Is It Called Lizard Mound?
There are five basic shapes to the mounds in Lizard Mound State Park.
According to the official property map (link below), there are 5 conical (circular) mounds, 11 linear (long, narrow) mounds, 2 bird (T-shaped) mounds, 8 panther (linear with a head) mounds, and just 1 lizard mound. The lizard mound seems to have four legs and a very long tail. So, yeah, you could imagine it as a lizard.
It’s surprisingly difficult to take good pictures of these mounds, as you’ll see below. When you’re there looking at them, they’re easy enough to recognize as mounds, and you can even determine their shape. It’s too bad that this doesn’t show up better in pictures – at least, not the pictures I took.
How to Find and Walk through Lizard Mound
The street approach to Lizard Mound State Park currently gives you very little clue that the park exists. Approaching from the west, there is a yellow road sign that says, “Park Entrance” some distance before the access road.
There used to be a nice sign right at the entrance back in the day when it was only a county park. I discovered this thanks to one of the online map services that hasn’t updated their street view pictures in a few years.
Part of the way down the entrance road, there is a gate that is closed in winter. Since the park isn’t maintained during the winter months (November through March), you can’t drive all the way in. You can still use the park, but it will take more effort to do so.
There are actually several trails through the mounds, but you’ll likely want to take the longest path around the perimeter. You won’t really miss anything by skipping the two “shortcut” paths.
Along the way, you’ll see bird mounds.
Larger conical mounds. (This one has a tree growing on/in it.)
Smaller conical mounds.
And plenty of linear mounds.
Sorry, but I don’t have any pictures on the panther mounds or the lizard mound. Maybe this will incentivize you to make the trip yourself.
Besides the typical benches…
…if you visit Lizard Mound in the next few years, I think you’ll see plenty of trees marked with red or orange (or both red and orange) paint spots. Note that this one has tracks left by some sort of beetle or other tree pest.
I’d love to be able to tell you what the markings mean, but the information isn’t readily available. My best guess is that red means cut (for whatever reason) and orange means diseased. But I could be wrong. I do know there is no universal marking system among foresters, which is partly why this info is so hard to come by.
If you don’t see trees marked like this, you’ll know the DNR has been hard at work.
Wildlife and Facilities at Lizard Mound
In and around the mounds, we could hear and sometimes see a variety of birds. I noted robins, chickadees, mourning doves, possibly a woodpecker, and this oriole.
A little surprisingly, we didn’t see any red-winged blackbirds. I guess the flora wasn’t too their liking in this area.
Most of the trees in the park grow straight and tall. This one had a bit of a problem maintaining that standard.
And here’s my obligatory fallen tree by the side of the trail.
We saw a few flowers, like these mostly white blooms.
I know it’s almost impossible to see, but in the picture below, that brown spot near the center is a deer. We spotted two of them as we were about to leave and couldn’t get any closer than this.
Since the park is basically a cemetery, there are no modern man made structures near the mounds. At the head of the main path there is a water pump. We failed to try it out.
There’s also a grill nearby but strangely no picnic tables. There are some of those near the pavilion shown below.
And there’s this sign noting that the park is registered as a historic place.
A little further away from the above items (and the parking lot) is this pavilion. The small, low signs along the path had questions on them. I expected the answers to be on the back side when you flipped each one up.
I was wrong. They are stationary.
This large informational gadget inside was temporarily out of order. I wonder how long this temporary condition has lasted and will last. I also wonder how it works exactly and what info you learn from it.
Near the entrance to the pavilion area was this thematic gate (one of two) depicting the lizard mound.
There were several informational plaques – four of them – rather randomly placed near the pavilion.
On one of them, they admit that no one truly knows what the shapes of (some of) these mounds are really supposed to represent.
Why Should You Visit Lizard Mound?
Some state parks have a fair amount of glitter and glamor, relatively speaking. Lizard Mound isn’t one of those. Yes, there’s the (non-working) pavilion, but that wouldn’t be a big attraction even if it did work.
You go to Lizard Mound State Park for a few minutes of quiet and a nice, level walk through the grasses and the trees on some well-maintained paths.
You note the mounds and try to make out their shapes, but you don’t disturb them any more than you would pester a church graveyard.
For a quick outing on a nice day, perhaps including a picnic meal, Lizard Mound is a nice place to visit.
West Bend, Wisconsin (5 miles)
Nearest Emergency Facility
West Bend, Wisconsin (5 miles)
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round
Not accessible by car from November through March
None, no sticker required