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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Elk River Elk River. Photo by Linda Parker.

blood root flower Blood root flower. Photo by Chantelle Delay.

flowers on the forest floor Spring ephemeral forest floor. Photo by Steve Janke.

Elk River Valley

Forest: Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

District: Medford/Park Falls District - Park Falls unit

Description: The Elk River valley, cutting through silt-capped drumlinized landtype, provides the most spectacular display of spring wildflowers on the Park Falls unit. The rich soil supports many ephemeral spring wildflowers growing so thick, you are not sure where to step. The action of flowing water cut many channels where large moss-covered rocks sing with the sound of trickling water in the spring. The area is known locally as "Skookum Valley" from a Chinook word meaning powerful, brave, or large. The name may have been coined by someone familiar with the Pacific Northwest, where the name is commonly used, because of the steep river valley.

Viewing Information: Early spring ephemeral wildflowers are the focal attraction. Come in the first 3 weeks of May before the trees leaf-out for the best show. The rich, silty soil supports carpets of spring beauty, Dutchman's breeches, squirrel corn, false rue-anemone, large-flowered and nodding trillium, toothwort, bloodroot, wild leek, blue cohosh, maiden-hair fern, sessile bellwort, and woods nettle.

Safety First: There are no established trails here; take a topographic map and compass. (USGS Pike Lake SW quad is available at the Park Falls Forest Service office or other map outlet.) Clambering over the moss-covered rocks can be treacherous - wear boots with ankle support. Spring weather is cool and sometimes rainy - dress appropriately. There may be no cellular telephone service here due to the hills. Sounds daunting, but the wildflower show is worth it!

Directions: From the city of Phillips take County Highway H east 9 miles and go straight when H bears right to follow Sheep Ranch Road (gravel, Forest Road 131). Proceed on FR 131 for 3-1/2 miles. Turn right on Forest Road 503 and travel south about a 1/2 mile. Look for an old logging road on the left. Walking this trail will allow you to see most of the wildflowers. To observe the water-cut channels, walk in about a 1/2 mile and proceed cross-slope north or south. (DeLorme Wisconsin Atlas and Gazetteer pg 87 B7).

Another good viewing area is off FR 131 just west of the Elk River Bridge. A narrow drivable trail leads south behind the CCC Historical marker where there's room to turn around and park 5-6 cars. To access the hillside with the best wildflowers, either walk the old woods road over the earthen berm south, or walk straight west about 500 feet upslope. You can scramble along the slope to the south and will cross several rocky channels.

Closest Town: Phillips, Wisconsin.