Steinke Basin Goes Multi-Use

Steinke Basin Goes Multi-Use

Jan 3, 2018 – Devil’s Lake State Park’s Steinke Basin Trail has been reassigned as a Multi-Use trail during the winter months. This means that other uses (hiking, snowshoeing, etc.) are allowed on the trail in addition to cross-country skiing. The park still plans to pack the snow on the trail, but it won’t be tracked.

As I’m sure you know, the best cross-country trails in the area are at Mirror Lake State Park. And yes, I did ask if this means “Fat Tire Bikes” and they are still restricted to the Uplands Trail and connectors. Motor vehicles such as ATVs and snowmobiles are still not allowed either.

So yes, you can now hike and snowshoe on the Steinke Basin Trail!

A Few Thoughts…

The first reaction I got from a couple of folks when I shared the news on social media was that they thought this was another sign of the DNR or park staff not taking care of the park or suffering budget cuts or whatever.  Well, if you follow this blog at all, you know I’ll be the first to pounce when I feel the park isn’t being respected by those in charge, but I don’t believe this is the case here and here’s why;

Well, the first thing is that we don’t really need the “skiing only” trail at Devil’s lake. Mirror Lake State Park has great trails and is just a few minutes away. It used to be believed that all parks should be all-things-to-all-people. All parks having ski trails, bike trails, etc., but that was never a realistic goal. Each property is different and different regions have different needs. Once you drop that idea, you realize that Mirror Lake State Park is minutes from Devil’s Lake and they are ski trail “superstars” who take their trail conditions personally. I remember a couple years back seeing pics from one of the park officials who out there grooming trails at 4 am! They’re monsters! The point is Devil’s Lake doesn’t really need to provide that service. Devil’s Lake State Park does need more flat winter hiking, biking, and snowshoeing trails.

As a ski trail, Steinke Basin has its problems. Since this is not an official DNR website, I can tell you that Climate Change has decreased the number of deep snow days we have here in Wisconsin. Often we have little snow or it’s too wet on the basin. In fact, here we are again, cold but with little snow to play in. That, combined with the fact that the Steinke Basin trail encircles a wetland anyway, means that there are many wet, sloppy, muddy days out there. I’ve seen groomed trails run right into deep ruts and mud puddles. When everything comes together, Steinke is a great ski area, the problem is that everything is coming together less and less each season.

Another issue, and maybe this is the one that most fits the “budgets” trope is that users are not respecting the ski trail on Steinke Basin and that hasn’t been enforced well, even if it could be. Hikers, dog walkers, cyclists & snowshoers use the trail year around. Groomed ski trails soon become potholed anyway and no one likes skiing through dog doo… The park staff would have to patrol nearly daily to keep people from hiking on the ski trail.  While I still think they need to get foot patrols out there on a regular basis (Especially in summer.), they simply can’t keep up and the ski trails will rarely be in good condition.

Mirror Lake State Park Ski Trails

Mirror Lake State Park Ski Trail

The bottom line is that for the reasons above and others, many folks advocated for the Steinke Basin loop to be opened to multiuse. This will open many more opportunities for winter recreation in the park which is a good thing. And really, if you haven’t been taking your skis over to Mirror Lake, you will love their trails.

**Just a reminder, is owned by Skillet Creek Media and is not associated with the Wisconsin DNR in any way. My opinions do not represent those of the park or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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  1. Tom O'Brien

    While I haven’t been on the trail in the last few weeks, the eastern portion of the Steinke loop is/was so washed out and deeply rutted that one would struggle to ski through there anyhow. The condition of at least a portion of the trail has definitely been seriously neglected for some time. Hard to believe the State could not hire some local guy with a skid steer to get it back into better shape, there’s tons of material still out there in the woods to fill in some of those ruts.

    1. Benjamin Miller

      That’s partially true. Realistically, someone would need to go out after EVERY single major rain event to fix that trail. It just ruts that easily. That being said, some of it looks like it had been fixed this fall, but the bulk hasn’t been touched since fall of ’16.

      1. Author

        For what it’s worth, a trail doesn’t have to rut out as commonly as they do at Devil’s Lake. There are a variety of materials and methods in use that could stand up better. I’ve hikes some killer trails in various national parks and in the UK that deal with snow, ice and heavy rain. Usually, the materials are clay based and stone channels are installed where runoff commonly crosses the trails. The real problem at Devil’s lake is that they keep pouring light gravel called “pink lady” back in the ruts and it simply washes back out. There are rivers of gravel that have flowed into the forest for years because it washes out again each spring. The problem it seems to me, isn’t heavy rains as much as it’s simply not learning and adapting to the problem.

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