Devil’s Lake: Danger, Turkey Vultures & 2 Billion Year Old Rocks

Devil’s Lake is beautiful, but it can also be dangerous. So, it was with a healthy dose of caution that I took 9 kids on a 2.5 mile hike.

We went up the East Bluff Trail, down the Balanced Rock Trail, and then back to the North Shore along the railroad tracks. It’s a classic hike that I’ve taken dozens of times, but never with 9 elementary aged kids.

It was entirely different with kids.

Like I said, Devil’s Lake is gorgeous, but it’s also dangerous. Safety always come first with kids.

The hardest part of the hike was telling the Kindergarten and some first grade students that they couldn’t go. I stuck with older kids I knew who would listen and who would be able to keep up with the hike. This left a few disappointed, but I know they will have their day on the bluffs.

After a short talk about “staying on the trail” and “listening to the teacher” we were ready for fun.

We got to see turkey vultures gracefully flying near the bluffs and I got to tell my favorite turkey vulture stories.

“Did you know that turkey vultures pee on their legs to cool down?  The uric acid also disinfects their legs. Why would you think that’s important?” I asked the kids.

“Because they eat dead things?”  said Mary quizzically.

“Would they eat us?” someone asked.

“If we were dead, probably.”

“Gross!”  they cried with looks of disgust.

“They also vomit if threatened by another animal. The other animal then eats the vomit and the turkey vulture can get away. Pretty smart bird, huh?”


The 4th grade kids appreciated this fact more than the second grade kids.

As we hiked, we looked at fossilized ripple marks in the Baraboo quartzite left from the sandy beach that formed the rock more than 2 billion years ago. I don’t know if this fact sunk in, but at least it planted a geology seed. Devil’s Lake is a geological goldmine and it’d be great to spend more time on the geology. Today, however, we had to keep going so that we’d make it back to the bus on time.

Other than being slightly rushed, it was an awesome hike. The weather was perfect and the kids were troopers. And, no one tripped or slipped on the rocks.

I have to say that I was a relieved to step foot on the ground after descending the Balanced Rock trail.

Like I said before, hiking with kids is different because you never stop be concerned about their safety. Of course, I would do it again, I just would allow more time to enjoy the view.

Tell me about your hiking adventures with kids. What did you do that worked? What didn’t work? You can find me planning my next hiking trip at the Goodman Community Center. Like what you see here? Register for this blog and get a free 11-page Bubble Activity Guide. Just click on the home page and type in your email.


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