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The Eisenbahn State Trail gives a nod to Wisconsin’s German heritage in its name—Eisenbahn is German for “railway.” The strict translation, “iron road,” refers to the iron rails originally used as tracks in the old country. A more apt name today might be Velobahn, as the trail is popular for cyclists pedaling the 25 miles between Eden and West Bend. In the winter, most of the trail north of West Bend is open to snowmobiles; winter ATV use is permitted between December 15 and March 15, when the ground is frozen and the temperature is 28°F or lower.
The trail follows the original route of the Milwaukee and Fond du Lac Air Line, a branch of the Milwaukee and Superior Railroad built in the 1850s. It later came under control of the Chicago and North Western Railway in the 1880s. The Fox River Valley Railroad took over in 1988 and operated the line until it stopped using the section from Eden to Rusco Drive in West Bend in 1999. The trail opened in 2006, but the Canadian National Railway runs trains in the corridor from Rusco Drive south to Milwaukee.
Beginning at the Eden Community Park, you’ll head south through Fond du Lac County on a crushed-stone trail that typifies this route until West Bend. The trail passes through farmland along a slightly elevated ridge for good views of the countryside. Only occasional trees shade your passage. In 7.5 miles, you’ll arrive in Campbellsport, where Main Street eateries are only a block away.
Another 4.5 miles brings you to the Washington County line and the village of Kewaskum, named for a chief of the Potawatomi tribe. You also can find refreshments in cafés and grocery stores within one or two blocks of the trail. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a hiking trail that stretches for 1,200 miles around Wisconsin, crosses the Eisenbahn State Trail near County Road H on its way to Kettle Moraine State Forest to the east.
Leaving Kewaskum, the trail runs alongside US 45 for 4.5 miles until you reach northern West Bend. Shortly after crossing the Milwaukee River, you’ll find the trail paved from Barton Park south. A side trail, less than a mile from Barton Park, heads to the 136-acre Lac Lawrann Conservancy. More than 200 bird species have been recorded in the nature preserve’s mix of open prairie and hardwood forests. Deer, mink, and muskrat also live here.
Continuing south, the lake on your right is Barton Pond, which powered gristmills and sawmills below the dam in West Bend’s early days. Today the pond is a fishing destination (including ice fishing). After passing the lake, watch for the old railroad depot, built in 1900 and renovated in 2009, about 0.2 mile south of Washington Street.
At the southern end of West Bend, after crossing Decorah Road, Ziegler Park is off a path to the right and has picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking fountains. The trail again becomes rural in its last mile from Paradise Road to Rusco Drive.
NOTE: Snowmobilers and ATV users must display either a Wisconsin registration or an ATV or snowmobile State Trail Pass. For information, go to dnr.wi¿.gov/topic/parks/trailpass.html
To reach the northern trailhead at Eden Community Park from I-41, take Exit 92 onto County Road B toward Eden, heading east. Go 3.7 miles, and turn right onto County Road V. Go 0.6 mile, and turn left onto Shady Ln. Take an immediate left onto Seybold Dr; then go 0.1 mile, and turn right onto Reagan Dr. Turn left into the parking lot. The trail starts just north of Reagan Dr., about 400 feet south of the parking lot.
To reach parking for the trail in West Bend from I-43, take Exit 96 onto SR 33 (E. Green Bay Ave.) toward Saukville, heading west across the Milwaukee River. Go 0.5 mile, and bear right to continue east on SR 33/E. Dekora St. Go 13.3 miles—SR 33 becomes E. Washington St. in Newburg—and turn left onto N. Forest Ave. in West Bend. Go 0.1 mile, and turn right onto Willow Lane; then go 0.1 mile, crossing Wisconsin St. Just after the road curves left, look for parking on your left at the depot and the trail. More parking is available a block south of Willow Lane on the left, at the corner of Wisconsin St. and Water St. The trail endpoint is 3 miles south.
A trailhead at the southern endpoint on Rusco Dr. is planned for the spring of 2017. To reach it from I-43, follow the directions above through the second sentence. Follow WI 33 for 7.5 miles, and turn left onto Decorah Road. Go 5.7 miles, and turn left onto S. River Road. Go 2 miles, and turn right onto Rusco Dr. The trailhead is 0.1 mile ahead on your right.
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