The Backyard Tourist: Summer Fun in Burnett County

Looking out over Reisinger Lake from the Rest Area in Crex Meadows Wildlife Area on a sunny summer day.

As I sit here at the picnic grounds on the north side of Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, I contemplate how lucky I am to live in Burnett County and have all these wide open spaces to visit right in my own backyard, especially during this time of social distancing. This morning I was out on Wood Lake in a fishing boat, and there were only a few other boats out on the entire 522 acre lake. Midday I took my daughter out birding on Phantom Lake Road and we saw only one other vehicle. And now this afternoon I took a short nap in the sunshine across from the sedge marshes of Reisinger Lake listening to the geese and sandhill cranes calling from the refuge and the warblers and other songbirds calling from the woods behind me.

Bridge over the Wood River along Raspberry Landing Trail

Of course there are many other places in the county to recreate. I live in Grantsburg so Crex Meadows is close to me. I also live near the St. Croix River and Governor Knowles State Forest, which covers much of the western boundary of the county.  There are a dozen or more access points to the numerous hiking trails and landings along the river where people can stretch their legs, toss a line in the water, or kayak and canoe along the wild and scenic riverway.  There is a campground on Hwy 70 that connects to the trail system.  There are also two kayak and canoe outfitters in the county, Wild River Outfitters near Grantsburg and Pardun’s Canoe Rental in Danbury.

The southwestern part of Burnett County boasts Timberland Hills, a series of multi-use trails that include groomed cross-country ski trails/hiking that stretch into Barron County. The Ice Age Trail traverses through this area as well, the only spot in the county. Burnett County owns a camping cabin that is available for rent throughout the year along the trail system. More information about the cabin can be found here.

The northeast part of the county has miles and miles of ATV and Snowmobile trails that cross through the county forest. The Gandy Dancer Trail going north from Danbury follows an old railroad grade and connects to the trail system. The Namekagon River flows into the county from the northeast, and winds its way to the St. Croix River in the northern part of the county.

Also close to Webb Lake is the Namekagon Barrens State Wildlife Area. One of 11 wildlife areas in the county, Namekagon Barrens is 6,446 acres of pine barrens habitat and boasts globally rare and endangered open landscape species of birds, such as the Sharp-tailed Grouse and Upland Sandpiper, butterflies like the highly sought after Pine Elfin, and plants like bearberry and hundreds of species of wildflowers that thrive in the sand prairie. The wildlife is easily accessible by gravel roadways that wind through the landscape.

A couple of boys angling at the boat launch on Big Wood Lake

From Webb Lake in the north to Clam Lake just outside of Siren, and down to Trade Lake in the south, Burnett County boasts over 500 lakes for tons of summer fun. Boating, swimming and fishing are great ways to get outdoors. Even the most populated lakes allow for opportunities to get away from the crowds. Fishing is excellent, with opportunities for crappies and sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike and walleye on many of the lakes.

There are several campgrounds and resorts that have cabin rentals in the area. Rustic camping can be found along the St. Croix River and dispersed camping in the Burnett County Forest (permits are required). Several hotels and motels can be found throughout the country and there are dozens of vacation rentals. Check out the lodging directory here.

Cousins kayaking on Big Wood Lake

Hiking along the St. Croix, biking on the Gandy Dancer south of Danbury, canoeing and kayaking on the Namekagon and St. Croix River, ATVing on the trails, boating, swimming and fishing the numerous lakes, and viewing wildlife in the wildlife areas. This summer we may not be going to fairs and festivals, but we have many opportunities to get out and enjoy all the wide open spaces that Burnett County has to offer. Our many restaurants, stores, places to stay and many of the attractions are open for business and are following safe practices for social distancing, so please come visit. You are welcome here!