Hard-packed crushed granite, bridge over Plover River
Hiking, jogging, biking, pets
Whiting Park or end of Cedar Street (east). Parking lot on south side of Sherman Avenue (west)
The Paper Mill Trail crosses the Plover River flowage over an arching pedestrian bridge, which is a hotspot for bird watching along the trail. Waterfowl can be seen year-round on the river. Ospreys nest annually on a platform above the bridge. Songbirds flitter through the shrubs on both sides of the trail.
The Legacy of Paper Mills
In 2019, the western section of trail was rerouted through former paper mill land along the shore of the Wisconsin River. This was the site of the original Wisconsin River Pulp and Paper Company, established by George A. Whiting in 1891. Whiting was one of the early pioneers who took a chance that the brownish water of the Wisconsin River could work for paper making. The gamble paid off! The mill was open for nearly 120 years before shutting down in 2011. The mill buildings were demolished, but the dam built on the Wisconsin River still stands and continues to produce electricity.
In 1892, another paper mill, the Plover Paper Company (now Neenah Paper), was built at the confluence of the Plover and Wisconsin rivers by George A. Whiting and Emmons Burr. The brown water of the Wisconsin River limited the type of paper that could be made. In 1912, a spring was found near the mill, which had crystal clear water that could be used for fine paper making. The Paper Company constructed a beautiful stone “spring house” to collect the pure water and pump it to the plant. To see the historic building, follow the trail spur south at the intersection with the Schrader Connection.
Birding Information (Site #5)
The Whiting Park and Paper Mill Trails are beautiful walks of about 3 miles. The Whiting Park Trail is entered on the east side of the Plover River. In winter, one can park on the west side and observe several hundred Mallards (congregating, in part, because of public feeding). Mixed in with these ducks can be rare, over-wintering birds such as the American Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, and American Wigeon. Canada Geese can also be seen here in warmer winters.
The first part of the trail is dominated by a mixed hardwood forest with scattered evergreens. One then passes two small seepage streams and climbs high above the river (now an impoundment from the Whiting Avenue dam near the Wisconsin River). Dotting the area are tree stumps that reveal the kind of vegetation along the river prior to impoundment. Just south of this overlook is a kiosk (built by the WI Conservation Corps) showing the “Whiting Park Mound Group.” This kiosk discusses the location and significance of “Indian mounds” in the area.
One then drops back down into the Plover River Valley and through a dense stand of mature deciduous trees, good habitat for nesting Ovenbirds in spring and a good area for spring migrants. One then proceeds up the hill, along Cedar Street to its cul-de-sac and north over the Plover flowage bridge. On the northeast side of the bridge is an Osprey platform that has hosted successful nests over the past several years. Be sure to use the overlooks to search for Green and Great Blue Herons and waterfowl.
Continue on the path around the Whiting Wastewater Treatment Plant to a marshy area on both sides of the trail. This marsh is now dominated by encroaching, narrow-leafed cattails from the southern U.S. In spring, this marsh has nesting Red-winged Blackbirds plus Song and Swamp Sparrows. A variety of woodpeckers frequent the trees in and around this marsh, including the rare Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers (look for the telltale signs of deep, wedge-shaped holes of the Pileated in trees along the trail).
The path continues across railroad tracks and through a forest that looks down on a large wetland. Depending on the year, the marsh can have nesting Wood Ducks, Great-horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-headed Woodpeckers (also Hairy and Downy), Common Yellowthroats, and more. Where the Plover River runs into the Wisconsin River, Trumpeter Swans have become winter residents. Moreover, flocks of Common Goldeneyes and a few Common Mergansers can be found here in winter.