The first time I went to Harrington State Park was in the late 1990’s. I’d been on the way to Terry Andrae Park when I saw the sign for Harrington Beach and took a B-line to see what it was all about. Unfortunately I mistook the entrance for a different road and drove to the end of county highway D where there is a parking lot. I wandered on the nearest path for a while wondering what the hullabaloo regarding this park was all about. A lot of people since then have mentioned Harrington telling me how great it is. So, in all fairness, I thought I’d give it a second chance. I should mention that at the time of my first visit the park was not as developed as it is now. The campgrounds were not added until 2008 so it’s possible the hiking trails were not well developed when I first ventured down this path.
On my second visit I found the main entrance. I parked in what I thought was the furthest lot in, hiked around a bit, found a fishing pond and the observatory. I felt pretty excited about the observatory and think it would be a great place to go in an evening next fall to check out all the stars. But again, I thought, “What am I missing?”
Then I checked google maps. In the 90’s, google maps didn’t exist, nor did we have phones that could look up anything and everything as they can today. So this time, I was able to see that I hadn’t even seen a quarter of the park. I realized I was missing…A LOT.
I drove up the park road and was amazed to see how far it took me into the park. I came to a large welcome center located next to the beach parking lot. All around me was old forest and trails. I parked and hike around on the shoreline trail for a while enjoying the scent of cedar trees and the fresh lake air. It was cold but it felt refreshing to be out in the quiet clean air.
I discovered that like one of my favorite Door County parks (Cave Point), this park has a reef that spreads out from the shore about 50 feet. The water was calm so I was able to climb down and walk along for most of the reef. I kept thinking about how nice it will be to visit on a warm summer day and sit out on the reef in the sunshine with my feet hanging over the edge.
Then I walked up the beach toward the southern end. I found a stream running through the sand near the center. The snow melt has caused some flooding and so the water in making it’s way to the lake. I don’t know if there is always a small stream or spring along the lake or if this was all the result of the massive snow fall this past winter, but I was able to capture some amazing photos of the tree’s and the swamp like areas.
At the south end of the beach I walked out on the point that divides the human beach to the dog beach. Unfortunately for our canine friends, the dog beach has been swallowed up by the rising lake waters. However, the point offered a stunning view of the shoreline on either side and I learned from a plaque that where I was standing was once a railroad pier where stone from the nearby quarry was loaded on to ships. From google maps you can still see parts of the structure below the waters surface. I also noticed that this abutment is slowly finding its way back to the sea. It was a little scary standing on the edge.
There are a number of ships that sank just off the coast and there is an anchor for your photo ops with your friends and family. Hey, it might be fun to see how many people you can get to stand in line without falling off before you take the photo!
In the vicinity of the anchor is an open area of grills and fire pits. It looks to me like a great place to have a late picnic on warm days followed by a quiet sit around a fire to watch the sun go down in the west and lake Michigan slowly fall into the night. A guitar and singing might do us all some good too!
All in all, I fell in love with this park. The day I was there was so cold and I wasn’t dressed properly for a good long hike so I made it a short one and missed out on most of the park but I plan to revisit and I’ll tell you more about this place gifted from the stars. Until then, I hope you can find a day to trek up to the area and see it for yourself.
A delightful note. When I left the park I drove out from the middle road, called Sauk Trail Rd in search of some farm images for an upcoming painting challenge. It’s a dirt road until you drive north to county hwy D then becomes paved. I noticed a farm in the distance that looked interesting. It is a great farm full of painterly opportunities but I couldn’t find a good composition from the road. It was then I noticed a rogue cow run out of the barn, jump and skip around the field while the other cows rolled their eyes and moved on to the feeding trough. The joy of spring!
Finding Harrington Beach Park is easy. Take I43 north from Milwaukee, or south from Sheboygan and GreenBay. Exit the freeway at hwyD, or the town of Belgium, and drive east. From the west drive east on county hwyD from state highway 57, drive through Belgium past I43. From hwyD turn right when you see the sign for Harrington Beach. This is a fee area so you’ll need a state park sticker or pay a daily fee. If the office is closed, there is a fee box with envelopes. You can pay for a yearly sticker or for just 1 day. Don’t forget to keep your receipt before you drop your envelope through the building slot, and place it in your car window.
For those who haven’t gotten your sticker and want one, you can now order one on line then print a receipt to put in your window until your sticker finds its way to you. Also, the Lapham peak office near Delafield is generally open year round so if you’re like me and too impatient to wait for mail delivery, it’s a great option to purchase a sticker and take a day vacate from work a day life. Lapham peak has some of the most challenging trails in southeast Wisconsin. And it’s so close!!!
Happy trails folks!!! Thanks for staying with me these days,
Dedicated to my fellow beach/trail junkies. May you find yourself near calm waters and quiet trails always.