Mirror Lake State Park

Mirror Lake State Park

Mirror Lake State Park contains MIrror Lake. Nothing surprising there. But Mirror Lake, though technically a lake, is one of those bodies of water that’s really just a wider-than-usual section of a river – in this case, a few wider sections.

Mirror Lake is not a standalone body of water with no inlet or outlet. If you travel (by water) northeast far enough, you’ll get to the Wisconsin River.

Now, this is not a negative point against the lake or the park. It’s just one of those quirky things that you come across once in a while, and I couldn’t resist pointing it out.

Camping at Mirror Lake State Park

As I’ve stated elsewhere, we’re not campers, but since most of Mirror Lake seems to be devoted to camping, I felt compelled to mention the activity more than just in passing.

I haven’t been keeping track of campsites in state parks we’ve visited before Mirror Lake, but it seems to me that this park has an overabundance of campsites – 151 in total! (See map below.)

There are so many that they’re given individual campground names – Cliffwood Campground being farthest north, Bluewater Bay Campground being farthest south, and Sandstone Ridge Campground in between those two.

There are 140 regular campsites overall. There are 4 walk-in sites in the Sandstone area, and 7 (no vehicle) tent only group sites in the Bluewater Bay area. Facilities in all areas appear to be abundant and fairly modern.

As non-campers, we didn’t visit this northeastern section of the park. We concentrated on the central and southwestern areas.

Pulpit Rock Trail

Fern Dell Gorge State Natural Area sign

We stopped first in the “parking lot” designated for the Pulpit Rock Trail. Calling the area where you park your vehicle for this trail a “parking lot” is a bit of a stretch. Yes, technically it’s a parking lot, but it’s really just a small cleared area where they threw down a little gravel so the grass wouldn’t return.

As you can see in the picture above, this is technically the Fern Dell Gorge State Natural Area within (or adjacent to?) Mirror Lake State Park. We could see the gorge along the way, but it wasn’t a feature that lent itself to picture-taking.

Most of the trail is dedicated to the former Fern Dellers who used to live here. The upper right section of this introductory sign shows where the cottages of the Fern Dellers used to be.

Pulpit Rock Trail sign

Here’s a closeup of that section of the sign, showing the topology of the region. (Note that north is at the top of this map, as usual.)

Fern Dell topology

Along the trail are several informational signs that describe the former residents and their homes. For some unknown reason, the map on each of these signs was rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise so that north no longer was at the top. It was at the top on the introductory sign (see above), so why they decided to rotate it for these signs, I dunno.

Fern Dell / Pulpit Rock Markers 1 & 2

There are also some Markers like this one beside the path.

Marker 2

All of this information is interesting enough, but none of it really matters anymore. There isn’t a scrap of wood left from any of these dwellings, as some of the signs themselves admit. You look beyond the sign you’re reading and see trees and bushes and flowers and such, just as you would anywhere else.

I think a wiser use of resources in this area would be to have explanatory plaques about the vegetation.

The trail is sort of a loop, so we followed the sign that suggested that we take said loop.

Pulpit Rock sign

You know you’re at the end of the trail when….

Pulpit Rock

And you’re now standing atop Pulpit Rock.

A brief history of Pulpit Rock explains that no one knows anymore why it’s called Pulpit Rock.

Pulpit Rock history

The end of the trail is considered a scenic overlook, and it was – to a point. You can still see Mirror Lake down below, but the trees are starting to obscure the view.

Paddling on Mirror Lake

Paddling your canoe or kayak on the lake could be fun.

Paddling closeup

There are a few benches along the trail that are designed unlike any we’ve seen to date. I think each was dedicated to someone.

Pulpit Rock Trail bench

And I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a snowshoeing sign like this before. (I’m sure there are many, but I just haven’t come across them.)

Snowshoeing sign

Great Blue Heron Sighting at Mirror Lake

The other area of Mirror Lake State Park that we investigated was in the far southwestern section of the park. We hiked the western section of the Turtleville Trail and nearly all of the Wild Rice Trail. Together, these sections formed a nice loop.

The parking lot here was bigger and slightly more developed than the one at Pulpit Rock. Still, it was mostly sand, not a paved area.

There was some interesting flora and fauna along this path. If it weren’t for those items, this trail would have been quite featureless.

This tree, that nearly blocked our path, looks like it fell fairly recently. As you can see, it still has green leaves. I think the rangers just haven’t had time to clear it away yet. The rest of the trails we walked were nicely groomed.

Fallen tree on Turtleville Trail

Other living things of note were this mushroom and these tall, skinny plants.

We also saw this (swallowtail?) butterfly and this (apparently) occupied bluebird house.

Guideposts along the way are color coded (as they are on the map – see below). However, instead of naming the trail itself, the posts are simply colored. So all the trails along the southern edge of the park would have red posts like this one.

Red trail signpost

There are named trail signs too, but these seem to be located only at the heads of the trails.

Wil Rice Trail
Prospect Point

Prospect Point is a spur off the Wild Rice Trail that leads to another scenic overlook at Mirror Lake. The lake itself here – at this time of the year, at least – isn’t all that scenic.

Mirror Lake reeds

However, this majestic bird – a great blue heron – announced himself before taking this stand in the shallow water.

Great blue heron standing in Mirror Lake

After a stay of just a few minutes, he took off again.

Heron in flight 1
Heron in flight 2
Heron in flight 3

He was flying away from my lens, so this is the best I could do.

Heron in flight 4

That’s all the time we spent at Mirror Lake because we wanted to visit Rocky Arbor State Park (just a few minutes away) the same day.

If you’re a camper and you also want to take in the activities of nearby Wisconsin Dells, Mirror Lake State Park is a great place to spend some time.

Location

Nearest City

Lake Delton, Wisconsin (3 miles)

Nearest Emergency Facility

Lake Delton, Wisconsin (3 miles)

Hours

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

Cost

Vehicle admission sticker required

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