Van Loon Wildlife Area

The 6+ square miles of the Van Loon Wildlife Area is a globally significant floodplain forest. It is located in the beautiful bottom-land forest/wetland area in the delta of the Black River just above its confluence with the Mississippi River.

Beaver, muskrats, otter, deer, sandhill cranes, wood ducks, red shouldered hawks, barred owls, great horned owls, and more are among the commonly seen species.  (see birding info below)

McGilvray Road basically bisects and serves as a major access to the Van Loon Wildlife Area. Formerly a vehicular road, it is now a hiking trail which also features several historic bridges including five rare bowstring arch truss bridges and one low truss bridge. Each bridge crosses a different channel of the braided Black River.

The trail and bridges have been maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Friends of McGilvray Road since 1989.

Trail access is located on Wisconsin Rustic Road #64.

Read more


Latitude: 44.062521 Longitude: -91.291643 Elevation: 667 ft

Recreational Opportunities

The Van Loon Wildlife Area offers many recreational opportunities.

  • Birding
  • Camping (primitive)
  • Canoeing
  • Cross country skiing (no designated trail)
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Trapping - closed to beaver and otter
  • Wild edibles/gathering
  • Wildlife viewing

Van Loon is a WBCI Important Bird Area noted for Yellow-crowned night-herons, Acadian flycatchers, cerulean warblers, and prothonotary warblers that breed there. Other birds are pileated woodpecker, wood duck, green heron, red-headed woodpecker, bald eagle, eastern wood-pewee, yellow-throated vireo, blue gray gnatcatcher, ovenbird, American redstart, and indigo bunting.The site also supports, blue-winged warblers, and field sparrows. Waterbirds congregate in late summer and thousands of landbirds migrate through, particularly in the spring. 

Seasons Accessible

Some activities are limited by season, such as hunting, trapping and fishing. See the Wi DNR Van Loon website for more information.


Licenses and permits are needed mostly for hunting, trapping and fishing.

Accessibility Notes

The trail is unpaved.  It is basically level, but there are a several steps down from the parking lot.   The steps can be bypassed on a dirt maintenance path that has a grade of about 8%. There also are a few shallow dips in the trail where gravel has been placed over larger rock, and the surface is a little uneven.   

Portions of the trail flood during infrequent periods of high water. The Friends of McGilvray Road website provides information on checking the river stage before visiting to determine what parts of the trail will be flooded. This can range from slightly wet to more than a couple of feet depending upon the river level.

Pet Friendly Notes

The trail is a popular local dog walking area.  Owners are encouraged to clean up after their pets.

Dogs must be leashed April 15 through July 31.

Leave a Comment