Frogs in the Spring House & other Tales from Blue Mound State Park

The view from the picnic area at Blue Mound State Park.

The spring house at Blue Mound State Park is a pre-park relic. All that remains is the 8 x 10 x 4 foot concrete foundation, built by John Minix, the former landowner at the park. The spring once provided water for native people, farmers, and for the swimming pool, located just downstream.

This was a highlight of our adventure to Blue Mound State Park on November 21, 2009. The temperatures were in the 50s, the sun was shining, and the kids were great. We had ten kids in grades Kindergarten to third grade, one parent, and Doug, our Inner City Outings Leader from the Sierra Club. I love those kind of ratios.

When we got near the Spring House, the kids rushed to it and climbed on top. (I’m not sure why, but most kids want to run on the trails. I haven’t figured out how to slow them down. It’s as if they are programmed to run.) Others peered into an opening in the concrete. Of course, they all wanted to look in at the same time which called for a little group management.

I’m happy that these kids now have a pretty good knowledge about springs and ground water. Last month, we pumped water at Parfrey’s Glen and now we’re seeing the water come right out of the ground on its own. A sign nearby, which I wrote when I worked for Wisconsin State Parks, says that the spring is a perched water table. The kids weren’t too interested in that, but they were interested in knowing that the spring once fed the pool that many of them have swam in.

The mood shifted when Dave shouted, “I see a frog!”  “I do too,”  said Joe. Sure enough, there were three or four small frogs swimming around in the spring water at the bottom of the house. I didn’t know the species, but emailed Karl Heil, the park manager, to see if he knew.

After this discovery, all the kids rushed in to see the frogs and again through the opening and we had to do some kid management to ensure that everyone got a change to see them. This was very cool. We always see wildlife on these trips, but we never know what that wildlife will be. Frogs was an expected delight.

This trip also included a climb up the east observation tower and a hike on part of Indian Marker Tree trail. We also got to play under some enormous oak trees in the picnic area. The trees left huge piles of leaves that the kids buried themselves in. This was as much fun for them as it was for me. I love leaf piles, especially huge leave piles.

In close, there is very little I would do differently on the hike. This time, we allowed them to have walking sticks if they just used them for walking. I think this worked pretty well and they listened. Sticks are an ongoing challenge on these hikes. Kids want them so instead of saying no, I said yes to walking sticks.

The hardest part for me is getting back on time. I am notorious for not leaving the park with enough time to get back. This will stop for the next trip to Olbrich Park, hopefully for sledding!

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