These days, it’s pretty simple to snowshoe your way down into Devil’s Lake State Park’s almost unknown, “Griegol Gulch”. Chances are, that on any given day you’ll be the only one exploring the 2 mile (ish) hike in and back. Down in the gulch you’ll not only have an opportunity to find birds and other wildlife, but you will also get to see the kind of power that a little creek can put together during supposedly “once-in-a-lifetime floods!”
Up until recently, very few folks had ever heard of Devil’s Lake State Park’s “Griegol Gulch” area. For years, it was little more than an unremarkable notch in the Baraboo hills with a small hard-to-reach, willow-clogged, stream at its base. Access was fairly non-existent. There is a gated path along Hwy 113, but the roadway was overgrown and surrounded by fields of corn. Only the most intrepid nature lover or hunter would make the trek. In the last few years however, this has all changed.
As the Wisconsin climate has changed, our part of the world has become more flood prone. In 2008 the creek that runs through Griegol Gulch became a raging torrent, causing damage to homes and roadways while changing its course to the Baraboo river at the bottom of the bluffs. In Griegol Gulch itself, the powerful floodwaters stripped much of the valley floor, replacing the thick, green landscape with outwash deposits of sand and stone. Fallen trees and twisted briar littered the valley. On both sides of the valley the hills were left barren and scarred. They had been undercut by the rushing water, then collapsed under their own weight.
As part of a flood mitigation plan, two important things happened; First the croplands that surrounded parts of the gulch were restored as wetlands, prairie or oak plantings. Next, the valley floor itself was shaped and replanted. As a result of the mitigation we are left with a pretty clear roadway where snowshoers can easily trek down into the gulch!
To snowshoe into Griegol Gulch you’ll have to park your car along Hwy 113 near the gate.(Make sure you park completely off of the road!) For the time being, there are no signs or marked trail to tell you where you are. The map below shows you where to park and offers a suggested hiking/snowshoeing route in and out of the gulch. Scroll down for more pictures. (Of course, the hiking the gulch is great in summer, but we’ll save that for another post!)