While the ice caves of the Apostle Islands can’t be beat, Mirror Lake State Park’s Fern Dell Gorge puts on a pretty impressive show right here at home. Well, for folks willing to strap on the snowshoes and hike their way in!
Fern Dell Gorge is a Wisconsin State Natural Area located within Mirror Lake State Park, just a few minutes north of Devil’s Lake State Park near Wisconsin Dells. Fern Dell gets its name from the amazing varieties of ferns that grow in this small but pretty impressive, sandstone gorge during the summer months. In the summer, it’s also wet and loaded with mosquitoes!! In winter however, everything changes. Once the gorge fills with snow and everything freezes, water begins to seep from the sandstone walls. These seeps slowly form colorful ice floes creating walls of ice 10 feet tall or slightly more. Not the sort of ice you’d want to climb, but certainly amazing to look at!
Getting into the gorge in 2016 has become a lot easier. The park, with support of the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park has put in a parking area right beside the gorge. To get to the park you simply get off highway 12 at Fern Dell Road. Follow Fern Dell Rd west for about 2 miles and the park entrance will be on your right. To get to gorge, just continue on Fern Dell Rd., past the park entrance about another mile and look for the small parking area (Again on your right.) You can download driving directions to Mirror Lake here.
If you’re not one to snowshoe off into a gorge by yourself, you can join the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park for their annual Fern Dell Ice Hike at 10am on Jan 21, 2017. Here’s that info for you:
Join Marty Heidke for a 2 hour guided snowshoe hike into Fern Dell Gorge. There are already icicles in there putting on a show. Learn some history of the area and enjoy the beauty in the gorge. You will have to step over fallen trees and stoop to get into the squeeze. If you have ever been on Marty’s hikes you know they are great. Bring your camera and hiking poles are suggested, but not necessary. Meet at the park office and we will carpool to the area. (parking there is limited) Arrive early if you need to purchase a 2017 park vehicle sticker. Please RSVP to the park office @ 608-254-2333.