Council Grounds State Park

by Jonathon Ringdahl*
The name Council Grounds was based on stories that bands of Native Americans once used the site for their annual councils and festivals. It is said they traveled down the Wisconsin River by canoe to meet here for several days and nights of celebration each year. Though this claim has not been substantiated, these people certainly knew the land well, and used it during their fall and spring pilgrimages as they followed the river to their summer and winter camps.
Council Grounds has grown to 508 acres. In May of 1992, the Natural Resources Board approved a feasibility study recommending acquisition and preservation of adjacent lands which, over time, could expand the park to about 1,000 acres.
Council Grounds State Park is nestled on the banks of the Wisconsin River and Lake Alexander. My dad and I visited on a rather rainy and dreary day. Even with the less than ideal conditions we thought the park was beautiful. The park’s pine trees had a special look to them with a light dusting of rain. Fall colors were alive and well too. The Wisconsin River’s beauty shines through all conditions.p
The spring must bring an abundance of wildflowers. The summer brings the enjoyment of swimming and other forms of water recreation including fishing. I am impressed with the list of fish species including my personal favorite the musky. Floating on by on a nice fall day in a canoe or kayak would be a great way to see the colors on the banks of river or lake. Traversing the park on foot, with snowshoes, or skis would provide some beautiful snow-covered pines. The most fun activity might just be camping knowing you are surrounded by so many fun activities to spend time engaged in with family and friends.
Council Grounds is conveniently located just west of Merrill. From U.S. Highway 51, exit onto State Highway 64 (Main Street) and go west about 2 miles through downtown Merrill. Turn right on State Highway 107 (Grand Avenue) and go about 1.8 miles. Turn left on Council Grounds Drive and go about 0.5 mile to the park entrance station. Geographic coordinates are 45° 11' 4.0" N, 89° 44' 4.6" W.
The family campground is heavily wooded and has 55 campsites, showers and flush toilets. There are 19 sites with electricity. Each site has a table and fire ring. The campground also has a dumping station and recycling containers.
The outdoor group camp has three sites which accommodate 32 people each. All group campsites at the park have electricity.
***** Jonathon Ringdahl visited all of Wisconsin’s 64 State Parks, State Forests, and recreational areas in 2012. This is another in a series of articles he is writing for the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks. Opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s.
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