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Cambridge...Wisconsin's Hidden Gem for Outdoor Recreation
by Kristin Soper

Sunburn…Mosquitoes…leg cramps…..ahhh, the battle scars of enjoying the outdoors.

Cambridge, Wisconsin, has become one of the best kept secrets in the state for outdoor recreational opportunities from birding, foraging walks, hiking, biking to water skiing and sailing.  In fact, one of the most technical single-track off-road mountain bike trails is located 2 miles south of Cambridge in CamRock Park.  This community and area have long been known for having  specialty shops, artisan and salt glaze pottery, B & B’s ,community festivals and home of NASCAR Champ Matt Kenseth; but now Cambridge has come alive with a variety of ways to explore and experience the outdoors. 

Enjoy the rush of mountain biking? Then, the 422-acre CamRock park located along Koshkonong Creek between the Village of Cambridge and Rockdale is where you want to be. This park has four separate use areas with shelter facilities, play areas and beautiful vistas. The trail system at CamRock  is a blend of wide and fast flowing trails that run through open fields of prairie grass, as well as wooded single-track mountain bike trails. The 8 miles of the single-track is one of the hidden gems of mountain biking in Wisconsin , for beginners to advance;  with some of the most technical single-track on Cam-Rock III’s expert loop and new Area IV expert trail.  Capital Off-Road Pathfinders has worked for years to build CamRock Park into a mountain biking destination and the all volunteer organization diligently puts on the Battle of CamRock race, part of the largest off-road series in the U.S., held annually in mid-June.

Biking on paved roads more your thing? Cambridge has become a part of the newly designated Glacial Heritage Area.  Covering parts of four counties, though centered around Jefferson County, the rolling hills to winding roads, connecting a series of wildlife areas, are a wonderful way to experience Southeast Wisconsin’s countryside.

Interesting in hiking, photography, foraging, birding, butterflies or just a great outdoor walk to enjoy the native wildlife, then be sure to experience the Lake Ripley District Preserve and CamRock Areas I and II.  The 167 acre natural prairie and wetland that make up the Lake Ripley District Preserve provides sanctuary for turtles, cranes, herons, other wetland birds and wildlife, and yes lots of frogs.  Nature trails wind through the prairie with interpretive signs and link to elevated boardwalk and observation deck overlooking the marsh.  CamRock I and II are full of wonderful, easy access, winding wooded paths and crushed rock trails for enjoying native fauna, foraging, beautiful vistas, plus shelters are available for picnics and get-togethers with friends and family.

Need to cool off? Water actives are abundant to the Cambridge area.  Bring or rent your kayak to paddle down Koshkonong creek or enjoy the shorelines of both Lake Ripley and Red Cedar Lakes.  For those that like a little more speed, Lake Ripley is a wonderful 5 mile lake suitable for motor boats, from fishing to coasting the pontoon boat and water skiing across the lake, as well as sailing.  A public park rests on the west side of Lake Ripley for those that would love to go swimming or catch some rays on the beach or try your hand at the new disc golf course.  Red Cedar Lake, a 370 acre wetlands and designated State Natural Area, has wonderful habitat for waterfowls, marsh birds and more native fauna.  No motors are allowed, but you may hike in and kayak or canoe the scenery.  Finally, opening in September of 2013, the Cambridge Wildlife and Fishing Area, located ½ mile north of the village is geared toward providing a fishing experience for youth and handicapped fisherman.

So if like to explore the outdoors, grab your gear, friends & family, and head to Cambridge. One of the best places to experience nature, in South Central Wisconsin. P.S. don’t forget the sunscreen.