Danielle St. Louis
Merrick State Park, Take Two
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Our first visit to Merrick State Park lasted about 15 minutes. It was the weekend right after my traumatic experience at Governor Thompson State Park, and I was having flashbacks. The grass on the trail was long, the bugs were bad, and a storm was rolling in. We bailed about a quarter of a mile into the hike and went home. Somehow, I managed to book our return visit on the same weekend, two years later. I wish I could say the experience the second time was leaps and bounds better, but I can't.
I don't know why I always insist on visiting this park the first weekend in June, but after the second time, I definitely know better and will highly recommend visitors wait until after the Mississippi recedes from its spring swell to visit Merrick. At the time of both of our visits, the south and island campgrounds and the lower boat landing have been closed due to flooding. While the flooding doesn't affect your hiking options much (only one short trail to two outlook points is closed when flooded), I think it definitely affects the overall ambience of the park. What I imagine to be a quaint park in normal conditions feels more like a ghost town when flooded. And I have to believe the wet conditions contribute to the robust bug populations.
For this visit, we were joined by our friend René. René hadn't been hiking in a very long time, so Lucky and I were looking forward to getting him back out in nature. Merrick may not have been the best choice for persuading René to get back into hiking. We did see a lot of wildlife including a turtle, a snake, and a deer. But the trails and scenery weren't particularly impressive and the bugs were BAD. We first noticed the gnats when we attempted to picnic near the Nature Center. They swarmed us, despite the many applications of various bug sprays (I had on everything from all natural bug spray to "probably going to give me cancer but if it keeps the bugs off of me it will be worth it" bug spray). After lunch, we set out on the trail, and after hike/waacking for awhile, René says "we could always run for a bit." And so we did. We ended up running a decent portion of the trail just to avoid the gnats getting in our ears, eyes, and up our noses. The discomfort of our lunches bouncing around in our stomachs and running with clunky backpacks on was preferable to the onslaught of tiny orifice invaders. When we finally got back to the car, we'd hiked/ran all of the trails in Merrick that weren't underwater and even explored some of the spots that were underwater. And after seeing all there was to see, René and I both decided Merrick was a park we'd be ok not visiting again. Sorry Merrick...
Want to know all about hiking with your dog at Merrick State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
Through the University of Wisconsin Press site.
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