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... As the name suggests, the Tri-County Recreational Corridor is a rail trail across three counties in northern Wisconsin connecting the port cities of Superior and Ashland. In the late 1800s, settlers mined the thick pine and hardwood forests along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The railroad took that timber to market along with area farm products. The rail line was, indeed, the lifeblood of frontier commerce.
Today, that same rail bed is the lifeblood of area recreation. In 1987, local government purchased the right-of-way and converted it to a recreational trail for all to enjoy. Since then, the 62-mile trail, which follows Hwy. 2, has been a popular route for ATV enthusiasts, snowmobilers and mountain bikers.
On the trail’s western end, Superior offers a variety of historic and scenic attractions, (see Wild Rivers State Trail). Heading east, the trail is lined with the lush green trees that make up northern Wisconsin. With its hard packed surface, the Corridor is an easy ride that allows you to sit back and take in all the beauty the area has to offer. Along the trail, you might see a variety of wildlife including turkeys, deer, bear and even timber wolves.
Ten miles east of Superior, the trail travels just south of Amnicon Falls State Park. While not accessible from the trail on an ATV, the park is a sanctuary well worth a short hike. It holds many clues to the history of northern Wisconsin. In addition, the Amnicon River cascades over the spectacular rock formations at the park’s upper and lower falls. The park has 36 campsites. Fees apply for parking and camping.
Heading east, the tree-lined trail opens up just west of Poplar, where you can catch a glimpse of the area’s several farms. Food and fuel are available in Poplar, the hometown of Major Richard Bong, the most decorated pilot of World War II. Bong downed 40 enemy planes in the Pacific and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Richard I. Bong WWII Heritage Center in Superior includes a replica of his P-38 fighter, named for his wife “Marge.”
After rolling through farmland, the trail dives into the forest west of Maple, a pleasant crossroads hamlet. From here, the trail parallels the northern edge of Hwy. 2 all the way to Brule, where you’re surrounded by the Brule River State Forest. This 40,000-acre forest protects the Boise Brule River, famous for its whitewater canoeing and trout fishing. The Brule is known as the “River of Presidents,” having been fished by Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower.
Just to the east, you cross into Bayfield County and head into Iron River. The former logging town welcomes ATV riders with a full slate of services including lodging, dining, and ATV rental and repair. From here you can connect to the expansive Valhalla Trail system.
On the last leg of the Tri-County, from Iron River to Ashland, you’ll traverse 25 miles of varied terrain. The first half is heavily wooded, especially through a four-mile lobe of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. As the trail clears the forest, it doglegs north, then east again through more open farmland to Ashland.
In Ashland, you’ll find all the amenities and plenty to do. A series of seven giant murals painted on downtown buildings depicts the city’s history. Just west of town the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center offers interpretive and historic exhibits, visitor information and trip planning. Best of all, from the trailhead on Sanborn Avenue it’s a short walk to Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior. The views of the big lake are a great way to start or end a day’s ride.