Winter in Waupaca County
Local cures for cabin fever
By James Card
There is no excuse to mope around inside during the winter months in Waupaca County.
The region is alive with action throughout the year and our communities make the most of the short days, abundance of snow and the chilly weather.
Here is a guide to get outside and enjoy the limited sunshine and fresh air.
Sledding at Swan
From a distance, the huge man-made mound at the far end of Swan Park in Waupaca doesn’t look that big but once at the top, the view is quite impressive.
The slope is steep and sleds can get moving very fast, so fast that the Park & Rec Department came up with some safety rules: walk up on the north side of the hill. Anyone standing or walking in the sledding area can be smoked by an oncoming sled.
Ride in a sitting position only, which means no headfirst or backward positions and no surfing. Building jumps is not allowed. Sleds with any metal parts are not allowed.
It is possible for a sled to get moving so fast that the rider ends up in the parking lot, much like Clark Griswold in the film, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Sledding hours are from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. with lights on for nighttime sledding.
The vast network of snowmobile trails that appear every winter in Waupaca County is an example of people working together in the community to make great things happen. Every year, private landowners open a slice of their land for snowmobile passage and that stretch connects to another and another until a person can cruise for miles in the Waupaca backcountry.
This is made possible by the Waupaca County Snowmobile Association which is composed of smaller local clubs that look after the trails in their neck of the woods. Trail maps are published and can usually be found at local gas stations and purchased for a small donation. The Waupaca County Parks Department webpage has info on trail closures and openings.
The Manawa Snodeo Snowmobile races will be held Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 19-20, at Bear Lake Resort. Visit manawasnodeo.org for more info.
In Weyauwega at the Waupaca County Fairgrounds is the Fire on Ice snowmobile races Friday through Sunday, Feb. 4-6.
Every community in Waupaca County has a lake or millpond that is easily accessible for ice fishing. Plus, there are plenty of other lakes and ponds scattered throughout the region.
Get the lowdown on where the fish are biting at the Minnow Bucket in King, Johnny’s Little Shop of Bait in New London, Ma’s Bait & Tackle in Fremont, Butch’s Archery in Clintonville, Gill’s Landing in Weyauwega and JR’s Sport Shop in Iola.
Hockey, ice skating
Take in a hockey game and cheer our local teams on their home ice. The ice rink of the Waupaca Area Youth Hockey Association is located across from the Ramada Inn and behind Three Squares Restaurant in Waupaca.
On Friday through Sunday, Jan 7- 9, is the Pee Wee Faceoff tournament. On Friday through Sunday, Jan. 21-23 is the Bantam Ice Breaker tournament. The Super Squirt Showdown tournament is slated for the weekend of Feb. 18-20.
Also, there are open skate nights on Saturday and Sunday throughout the winter from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more info visit www.wayha.com. Also the Waupaca Parks and Recreation maintains an ice rink in the parking lot at Lower South Park.
For downhill skiing, the closest options for Waupaca-area residents are Nordic Mountain to the south in Wild Rose and Rib Mountain to the north in Wausau.
But Waupaca County has cross-country skiing at the Iola Winter Sports Club. The club’s chalet has woodstove, hot cocoa and coffee.
There is special trail for skijoring – the sport where a dog tows a skier with a harness.
There are over 20 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails running through the forest.
The club is family friendly and the trail passes, gear rental rates, lessons and annual memberships are dirt cheap when compared to what a person would spend at a downhill ski resort. The youth ski program is held every Saturday and offers youth a way to get out of the house and into a structured outdoor activity.
Also the Central Ski Jumping Championships will begin at noon on Sunday, Feb. 6, at the Iola Winter Sports Club.
The only game animals that can be hunted after New Year’s Day are deer (archery season ends Jan. 9) and wild turkey (season closes Jan 9). Small game that is still open includes rabbit (season ends Feb. 28), squirrel (season ends Jan. 31).
For gamebirds, the season for both ruffed grouse and pheasant ends Jan.9. For furbearers, coyote is open year-round, fox closes Feb. 15, bobcat closes Jan. 31, wolf closes Feb. 28 and raccoon ends Feb. 15.
Early trout fishing
While many anglers are focused on the ice, ambitious anglers have the opportunity to have some of the counties’ finest trout waters all to themselves for the entire winter. The early catch-and-release season starts the first Saturday in January and runs until the first Sat. in May. The daily bag limit is zero and only artificial flies or lures can be used.
In Waupaca County, the only waters that can be fished are the north branch of the Little Wolf River from County Trunk P to County J, the south branch Little Wolf River and the Waupaca River from Frost Valley Road to State Highway 54.
Hit the Hill
The Mosquito Hill Nature Center near New London has a calendar of events throughout the winter that include indoor yoga classes, winter science experiments, a full-moon night hike, a family fun day, a wood duck workshop and classes on making houses for native bees, willow baskets, wood candle holders, log planters and a Leopold bench (a simple wood bench named after Aldo Leopold, Wisconsin’s famous conservationist).
The Mosquito Hill Nature Center has trails open for snowshoeing and rental equipment. They also host torchlight snowshoe outings in the evening.
Call ahead for times and snow conditions. The Ice Age Trail runs through a section of Waupaca County and can be accessed at multiple points for hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. The Winter Recreation Trail at the Waupaca Country Club is open to the public but like Mosquito Hill, check ahead for snow conditions.
Adventure Outfitters on Main St. in Waupaca has snowshoe rentals and hosts “headlamp hikes” at night.
Check out adventureoutfittersllc.com for more info.
Carve some ice
As part of the Iola Winter Carnival, there will be an ice sculpting contest starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at Chet Krause Legacy Park next to Shivers Ice Cream Shop. Judging will be at noon. To sign up call Mike Mazemke at 715-445-4024.