DESTINATION: Winter By The Chequamegon Bay
Where you’ll find yourself next to the water!
Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Winter is held in high regard in the Chequamegon Bay and the counties of Ashland and Bayfield. There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of freshly fallen snow on the magnificent evergreens that cascade through the miles of forest in the Northwoods. The normally pristine air is made even more so after a snowfall, and this winter is no exception. Record breaking snowfall has blanketed the region with nearly 30 inches of snow during a single snow incident.
Those that live here are resilient people who chose to live in this area for its beauty and for whatever the four seasons brings… whatever time of the year those seasons choose to show! Prior to a big snowfall, cold weather that will freeze the bay is certainly preferred, giving the bay a strong foundation beforehand, and this year, the area had some freezing weather in advance of the snow, so the chances of excellent ice conditions are very favorable – paving the way for chances at ice-fishing, which is open all year long on Chequamegon Bay.
Great ice also means folks can ride fat-tire bikes on the bay, which is a favorite pastime to ride from the mainland to Madeline Island. For most of the year, the Madeline Island Ferry serves as the main daily transportation to and from the beautiful island. However, once it gets unquestionably cold and the ice is thick enough, visitors and locals can traverse the two-mile distance over the Ice Road. Call the Madeline Island Chamber at 715-747-2801 for the status of the ice road before venturing out.
Another reason to tread across frozen Lake Superior is to explore the Apostle Islands’ mainland sea caves and the dazzling ice formations that adorn the red sandstone cliffs. See waterfalls frozen in place, entire cliff faces encased in inches of ice, and icicles glistening in the sun far and wide. Conditions permitting, visitors can access the caves from Meyers Beach Road, four miles northeast of Cornucopia, Wisconsin, off Hwy. 13. Make sure to call the ice line for the latest conditions, 715-779-3397 ext. 3, and visit the website at www.nps.gov/apis/mainland-caves-winter.htm.
Situated on the edge of the edge of the Greatest of the Great Lakes (Lake Superior), Ashland County, Wisconsin, is home to 640,693 acres of public land that provide endless trails for snowmobilers. There are 280 miles of groomed trails along with over 1,000 miles of ungroomed forest roads for your riding pleasure. Experience snowmobiling at its best in Ashland County by getting snowmobile maps and hospitality information at www.travelashlandcounty.com.
Groomed cross-country ski trails with breathtaking views are abundant throughout Ashland County including the Ashland Ski Trail, Copper Falls State Park Trail, and Penokee Mountain Trail. You can also snowshoe the wonderful trails around the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center where you can also borrow your snowshoes for free while using their trails.
Copper Falls State Park is another great place to snowshoe. The big event of the winter is the annual Book Across the Bay event. It is the upper Midwest’s most unique winter event, open to skiers and snowshoers of all ages and ability levels. The 10K course, which is groomed for both classic-style and skate skiing, starts in Ashland, ends in Washburn, and follows a route not on land, but over the frozen surface of Lake Superior. The event is held at night and the course is lit by both the stars above and up to 1000 candles in ice luminaries that line the entire route. The 2020 event is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 6 p.m.
Like fishing, mural hunting is another four-season activity in Ashland County. Artistic Murals, starting from the corner of Ellis Ave and Main Street and continuing on streets going east and west in Ashland’s downtown, have become eye catchers for tourists and visitors coming to the beautiful city, which is also known as the Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin. The Murals depict people from Ashland's past including the Asaph Whittlesey Mural – Asaph was one of the two founders of Ashland over 150 years ago – and the Lumberjack Mural, which depicts the men and one rare woman of Ashland’s lumber era when the workday was from 4 AM until dark. Back then, an average day’s work for a pair of sawyers was 100 pine logs at $1.00 a day. You will be fascinated by the history depicted in bright, colorful paintings on stunning historic buildings in downtown Ashland proper. In June 2019, the 20th Mural of the city was dedicated, the DePadua High School Mural on the East side of Main Street. There are more than two dozen murals throughout Ashland County and you can request a mural brochure at www.visitashland.com.
To take advantage of all the area has to offer, you should stay a while at any of a variety of lodging choices available in Ashland, from bed and breakfasts to mom and pop motels to well-known chains. Enjoy many restaurants during your visit, wherein fresh Lake Superior fish is a popular menu specialty waiting to be served while you relax in the luxury of fine dining. Shop downtown and walk the nearby city parks, where you can stop at the artesian wells within and quench your thirst or fill your water bottle with spring water bubbling up from natural sources.
Don’t delay! Make your plans to visit Ashland, Wisconsin, today at www.visitashland.com.
This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.