Fresh Snow and The Old Mill Pond…
We got a lovely snowfall yesterday afternoon into last evening of about 3 inches of powder in Richland County. While it was tempting to put the snowshoes on last evening and go snowshoeing under the light of the moon, I held off until today. I wanted to explore other options for snowshoeing in Richland County and decided to head to the heart of Richland Center-The Old Mill Pond Park.
I found the free parking at 600 W Seminary St, Richland Center, easy to access. You can enter the trail area easily in two different ways. If you are wanting to snowshoe on the Grove street side of the river, you head directly to the water’s edge just past the colorful playground equipment. You will hear the rapids of the water flowing over the rocks and the trail is to your left. There are benches in many locations around the trail area, perfect for putting on your shoes. If you stay on the Grove Street side, there is an active snowmobile trail to contend with. If there are only a few inches of snow you are most likely safe but if the snowfall is deeper and the snowmobile trails are open, I would caution you against using the Grove Street side. There is a trail along the Pine River on this side with a few loops into a lightly wooded area. You will also see the trail goes under the Mapleside Footbridge. You can stay on this trail until you reach Hwy 14. At this point, you can either turn around and go back or you can take off your snowshoes and walk across the bridge over the Pine River and access the Otto Bellman trail side.
I highly suggest the Otto Bellman trail side. You can walk from the parking area to the sidewalk on East Haseltine street and continue left, walking over the bridge and then onto the Otto Bellman Trail. As you walk down the trail just 100 yards or so, you will see a picnic table area with pipe fencing around it. This is the perfect place to put on snowshoes and then access the trails on this side. You will see the mowed trails easily after a snowfall. The mowed trails loop around in the savanna grasses and can take different variations each time you go. The prairie grasses are all dried at this time of year and are a beautiful habitat for birds and rodents. You will find the trails fairly flat and because they are mowed all summer, a shallow snowfall of 2-3 inches covers the grass trails easily. This is probably the best trail to access when snowfall is light.
The best path is the one along the Pine River for at least a half of a mile. Even though you are in the middle of Richland Center, I found it very peaceful and quiet. Watching the river flow along its icy banks and snowshoeing under a few trees makes this path magical and serene. You will see frisbee golf cages and many trail variations meandering thru trees. You can easily do 2+ miles of snowshoeing on the Old Mill Pond trails.
This trail system is perfect for beginners. Because the trails are mowed all summer they are fairly level and tripping hazards are minimal. The elevation is fairly flat but these trails are not boring! There is much to look at along the way with the Pine River and the Mapleside footbridge is a real treat for the eyes.
If you are wanting to increase your exertion and kick your heart rate up you can loop off the trails and climb the hillsides up to the Otto Bellman trail and then circle right back down. I found 4-5 spurs that allowed me to get 4 good heart rate intervals into my workout.
As far as safety goes, I had cell service the whole time. The snowmobile trails are marked and the paths are obvious after a snowfall. You can get close to the Pine River and watch it flow by as the trail along the edge is stable and maintained. There was a very minimal wind blowing and the area is naturally protected from wind.
This is truly a gem inside of Richland Center. After a good workout, you can have a thermos of hot chocolate while sitting on one of the many benches found along the trails. Because the trails are fairly flat, you could easily put the kids in a tub sled and pull them around behind you. And then they can play on the new playground equipment for a while as you listen to the rapids of the Pine River. A perfect place to snowshoe and enjoy nature.
If you are wanting to rent snowshoes, you can contact Shane Stibbe, Parks & Recreation Superintendent P: 608-647-8108 ex. 7 or F: 608-647-5327 or send him an email a few days in advance to set up your rental pickup and dropoff. Rental cost is $5 per day or $10 per weekend while supplies are available. E: firstname.lastname@example.org–