What’s not to love about a day trip to Ferry Bluff and Mazomanie?
By Katie Buhman | Photo Courtesy Thomas Meyer, State Department of Natural Resources
Only a 40-minute drive northwest of Madison, the gravel road to Ferry Bluff State Natural Area is easy to miss amidst the rolling hills and scenic farms. But a turn down this road is worth the dust on your tires. The natural area is named for the ferry boat landing that was located at the base of the bluff in the 1800s and run by Moses and Persis Laws. Although the ferry itself is long gone, Ferry Bluff is still a great way to explore the Wisconsin River by water or land.
A watercraft landing at the end of the Ferry Bluff Road allows for a boat ride down Honey Creek which spills into the Wisconsin River. A second section of the Ferry Bluff State Natural Area further down the river is also accessible only by watercraft.
For those who’d rather not get their feet wet, a trail snakes up through the forest to the top of the bluff. The trail is short, although it is steep and has no steps or handrails. It winds around a swath of forest carpeted with lush ferns and climbs upward until it crests the sandy top of the bluff. Looking out, sweeping panoramas of the Wisconsin River extend in either direction with carpets of trees covering the rest of the land. On a clear day, you can look across the blue ribbon of water and miles of forest to see Blue Mounds. A ring of informational signs illustrates the history of the bluff and the surrounding land. Although you can go beyond these signs, take care at the edge, as the rock can be unstable.
If you return to the base of the trail, there is also a small, short path that branches out and follows Honey Creek until it reaches the Wisconsin River. It ends right at the water’s edge, and you can step into the river (although be wary of the current). On the other side of this path are the soaring, naturally sculpted stone walls that create the bluff above. Trees cling to the sheer face of the rock, seemingly defying gravity. Just standing at the river’s edge is calming as the water flows by, curving off into the distance.
After hiking or boating (or both!) the small town of Mazomanie, located on the opposite side of the river, provides a fun place to eat and relax. The Base Camp Café serves breakfast and lunch in an inviting green and purple building. Breakfast is an option all day, and the French toast with lemon sauce is a phenomenal treat. In addition to other traditional and hearty breakfast fare, the café also serves a delicious selection of sandwiches, burgers and quesadillas. The huge front windows allow curtains of sunshine to fall into the dining room, making for a cheerful atmosphere. Photos of the café’s patrons and events cover the walls adding a fun, homey touch. There is even a cabinet of board games in case you want to spend a little longer savoring your meal.
Carr Valley Cheese is a great stop to pick up some snacks to take for the road as you head out of town. A Wisconsinite’s dream, the shop is filled with all different types of cheese, color-coded for cow, sheep and goat. There are also various crackers, meats and spreads to complement your cheese selections. If you’re looking for a deal, you can adopt “cheese orphans,” irregularly cut or oddly shaped pieces of cheese packaged together and sold for half the regular price. There are enough delicious options here that you will likely want to stock up and take home more goodies than you ever planned!