168 Hiking trails of Hixon Forest, LaCrosse WI
On the east side of the City of La Crosse, Wisconsin nestles the Hixon Forest, which consists of over 800 acres of bluff-land overlooking the Mississippi River Valley in the heart of the Driftless Region. The large forest preserve is believed to have it roots in Grandad Bluff, the nucleus of the forest and the focal point of the La Crosse community. In 1909, Joseph and Irene Hixon acquired Grandad Bluff to protect the bluff from quarrying. Three years later a group of civic activists, led by Ellen Hixon, raised funds to purchase area bluff-lands to stop the destruction around Grandad Bluff that was being ruined by logging and quarrying. Soon after deeds were exchanged, Mrs. Hixon donated the lands to the City stipulating that it should be used for preservation and recreation (park purposes). The land was also to have the option of being used for forestry or pasturage subject to approval by the Board of Park Commissioners in the City.
Subsequently, Hixon Forest came under the ownership of the City as a natural resource based park, and contains a golf course, a nature center, a scout center, hiking trails, and cross country ski trails. Hixon Forest is maintained by the local non-profit organization called Hixon Forest Nature Center. The City of La Crosse Parks and Recreation Department works with local organizations to build and maintain world class trails and facilities for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and mountain biking.
Hixon Forest supports beautiful hardwood trees and native dry prairies, and heavy woods and high ridges shape the landscape. During the Depression Era, black locust was planted to stop soil erosion, and in 1986, prairie restoration efforts were initiated. Throughout the years, fire suppression and conservation efforts have resulted in Hixon Forest becoming a predominantly Oak-Hickory forest, with small remnant prairies located on some of the steeper sites. Maple-basswood, burr oak, black oak, white oak, and birch are some of the trees that grow in the forest. Animals you could encounter in Hixon Forest include foxes, coyotes, deer, turkey vultures and hawks. Additionally, endangered Peregrine falcon and bald eagles are regular Hixon Forest winter visitors.
There are roughly 13 miles of hiking trails accessible from Hixon Forest Park. These trails take you up over 500-foot bluffs hiking trails, with spectacular Mississippi River Valley lookouts throughout. Notable trails are Rotary Vista Trail (2.5 mi, hike/bike), Hickory Trail (2.2 mi, hike only), Bicentennial Trail (3mi, hike only), and Oak Trail (2.1 mi, hike only).The natural beauty of Hixon Forest and the bluff-land areas makes this backyard-preserve a place to appreciate and enjoy.
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