Dropping into the Kickapoo Valley

April 9th, 2011 by

            On this day, a coniferous forest accessible by hiking, biking, and horse trails greets me at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve boundary. ‘Old’ Highway 131 now serves as a trailhead leading into the Reserve’s interior.  Signs announce that trails will soon be opening on May 1.

            The Reserve’s Visitor Center serves as an interpretive center for the wealth of natural and human history of the valley.   The center is open Monday through Saturday year-round and Sundays also from Memorial Day through October.  The impressive stone and wood building includes fascinating displays that chronicle the ecosystems of the reserve and history of the now defunct La Farge Dam Project.

            Before entering the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, County P wraps around the Kickapoo Valley Ranch, featuring eight guest cabins nestled in 8500 acres of forest preserve.  Be sure to say hi to Tabrina, Delilah, HiJinx, Sudden Breeze, and Truman; Llamas that are part of the Ranch’s “cast of characters.”

Having finally arrived a the junction of County P and Highway 131, I couldn’t resist venturing upstream to Rockton, a turn-in-the-road town near La Farge featuring one of the gathering points for local food and fun.  The Rockton Bar, known for its “Almost Famous BBQ Chicken,” offers a rustic log cabin setting decked out with a hunter’s eye for interior decorating.  Deer antlers grace the walls, while a giant moose head keeps watch over the bartenders, who seem unfazed by the supervision.

            Upon entering the bar, I find patrons lining the tables with a fork in one hand sampling the prime rib and a pool cue in the other waiting their turn at the pool table.  I made quick work of my turn at the salad bar before taking my time with a huge portion of prime rib, a tasty meal that certainly accounts for the bar’s popularity on this Saturday night.

            Outside, a sign for the “Kickapoo Yacht Club Canoe Rental” stands ready for the upcoming season’s onslaught of canoe captains and navigators plying the Kickapoo River. The valley will come alive with bikers, hikers, and explorers as springtime’s promise will soon be realized.