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Spend an Afternoon at Wisconsin's Only Urban State Forest

May. 23, 2017
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If land could talk, Havenwoods State Forest would probably never stop. Over its long, improbable history, the 237-acre expanse of woods, wetlands and grasslands on Milwaukee’s Northwest side has been used as a farm, a prison, and an army barracks that housed soldiers and interned German Americans and prisoners of war. For a stretch during the Cold War, it even served as a missile base. It was only in 1980—17 years after the army retired that missile site—that the land became the hidden gem that it is today: Wisconsin’s only urban state forest.

Even Havenwoods’ regulars will admit the land is underused (most Milwaukeeans are completely unaware of it), but visitors will discover plenty to take in. There are miles of trails for hiking, biking, running and cross-country skiing, four ponds you can easily lose an afternoon searching for and a scenic 120-foot bridge. Bird watchers will also find all kinds of species they’d never expect to see so close to the city. The forest’s education center is open six days a week and hosts a variety of family activities and nature hikes. It couldn’t be easier to get to, either. It’s a manageable bike ride from anywhere in the city, and it’s free to visit—no state park vehicle admission sticker necessary.


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