Devil’s Lake State Park – West side

stats - Devils Lake West

My visit to Devil’s Lake State Park with my brother included a hike to and along the East Bluff followed by this short hike on the west side of Devil’s Lake.  From the trailhead of the first hike it was just a short drive across the south end of the lake to a trailhead for the Tumbled Rocks Trail.  Although we could have gone to a different trailhead to hike on the West Bluff, we had decided it would be more interesting to explore along the lake shore, in a different type of habitat.

As it turned out, one of the highlights of the hike was right next to the trailhead parking area, where we found a cluster of Turk’s cap lilies (Lilium superbum).  This is one of my favorite Wisconsin wildflowers, pretty much never ceasing to delight both my brother and me.

photo of Turk’s cap lily

photo of Turk’s cap lily

From the trailhead it was a very short walk to Cottage Grove Rd, which passes several houses before arriving at the south end of Tumbled Rocks Trail, which then goes northward along the west shore of Devil’s Lake.  The orange dot on the GPS track shows the trailhead parking area.  Since this hike was basically just along the lake shore, the elevation gain was less than 100 feet.

GPS track

GPS track

At the left turn from Cottage Grove Rd to Tumbled Rocks Trail there was a nice view looking across Devil’s Lake toward East Bluff, where we had just completed our first hike of the day.  The easily visible rock field is where Balanced Rock Trail climbs the bluff and passes Balanced Rock.

photo of Devil’s Lake and the East Bluff

Devil’s Lake and the East Bluff

The Tumbled Rocks Trail passes through a short section of woodsy area, where we found some creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides), with the plant showing a range of flowers from buds to blooms to “done”.

photo of creeping bellflower

Creeping bellflower

In this shaded area we also found some pale touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida).

photo of pale touch-me-not

Pale touch-me-not

A relatively short 2/3 mile stretch of Tumbled Rocks Trail brought us roughly to the middle of the north-south expanse of the lake.  Within this short distance the trail passes through the base of two rock / talus fields, somewhat reminiscent of what we could see on the east side of the lake.  These rock fields were created when the most recent glacier retreated at the end of the last ice age.  It should be noted that the Ice Age Trail also passes near the west shore of Devil’s Lake, I believe on the top of West Bluff.  Here is one of the rock fields.

photo of rock or talus field on the west side of Devil’s Lake

Rock or talus field on the west side of Devil’s Lake

Some of the individual rocks were quite interesting.  In this view there are numerous rocks that are pinkish or purplish in color, as well as others, with a layer of lichen, that look almost green.

photo of rocks near Tumbled Rocks Trail

Rocks near Tumbled Rocks Trail

The trail is very easy to follow as it winds around and through the rock field.  These hikers show how impressive the rocks are!

photo of Tumbled Rocks Trail

Tumbled Rocks Trail

In some areas there is actually pavement to mark the trail.  I had been noticing numbers painted on the trail and was trying to figure out the meaning of the numbers and/or characters.  The notation in this picture suddenly made the numbering system clear, as the southern section of trail morphed into the northern section.  We decided to turn around shortly after we had solved the mystery of the numbering system.

photo of trail location numbers

Trail location numbers

Next to one of the medium-sized rocks we found some daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) and this pretty, small white flower.  Although the blossom itself is reminiscent of vetch, the leaves were not.  So for now it is a mystery flower.

photo of small white wildflower

Small white wildflower

We noticed a few flowers on the return trip that we’d missed on the outbound part of the walk – we were probably too engrossed with the rocks and the rock fields tumbling down into the lake.  In any case, we did see some white campion (Silene alba) and this distinctive small pink flower with bright yellow tips.  It turns out to be pink corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens), sometimes called rock harlequin.  It grows in rocky areas and is certainly bright enough to acquire a common name like harlequin!

photo of pink corydalis

Pink corydalis

Before long we were back at the trailhead and investigating the Turk’s cap lilies.  The insides of the petals and sepals (3 each) are sometimes quite densely covered with purplish spots.  Even though the plants can be 5 feet tall, sometimes you need to stoop down, or just sit down on the ground, to see the underside of the nodding blossoms.

photo of Turk’s cap lily

Turk’s cap lily

On the other side of the parking area there was a colorful grouping of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) and day lilies (Hemerocallis fulva).  The blossoms of day lilies are more trumpet-shaped, rather than the so-called recurved shape of Turk’s cap lily blossoms.  In this picture it is easy to distinguish the slightly ruffled edges of the 3 petals, whereas the 3 sepals have smooth edges.  The white stripes and yellow throat make a nice contrast with the orange color of the petals and sepals.  Each flower blooms for only one day, and it seems evident from the condition of the petals that we found these flowers in the late afternoon.

photo of day lily

Day lily

Although this was a very short hike, less than 2 miles round trip, it provided an interesting contrast to the bluff hike we’d done earlier in the day.  And even though the afternoon was progressing, there was another nearby park we hoped to visit long enough to find a naturally occurring rock arch.

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