Newest warming shelter enhances Rusk County snowmobiling experience
With consistent snowfalls and 330 miles of groomed trails that wind along sparkling frozen rivers, through thick forests, across bridges, and over the rolling Blue Hills, snowmobiling has always been good in Rusk County. Just recently, it got even better with the completion of the county’s fourth warming shelter, this one located on the Dairyland Reservoir in Ladysmith.
Opened in December 2018, the Quarry Park Shelter is the result of a community effort led by Dairyland Power Cooperative, which owns and operates the nearby Flambeau Hydroelectric Station. Dairyland is also wholesale power provider for Jump River Electric Cooperative, one of the local businesses that contributed to the shelter.
“Dairyland wanted a cooperative effort with the community in developing the park shelter,” said Dennis Arendt, a technician at Dairyland’s Flambeau Hydroelectric Station. “The shelter can be used by residents and visitors and is adjacent to the Flambeau River, a small waterfall, and great trail and fishing opportunities.”
A key partner was the Ladysmith Driftbusters Snowmobile Club, one of nine snowmobile clubs in Rusk County that collectively maintain the trail system.
Arendt is vice president of the Driftbusters, and Dee John Dupee, also a technician at the Flambeau Hydrostation, is a club member as well. Dupee explained Dairyland owned the land on which the shelter is located and was planning to turn the area into a park for public use. As snowmobilers themselves, he and Arendt saw the area’s potential for a shelter.
“There was a spot on the land along the river where a cabin had been, so the concrete slab was still there, and we got to looking at that and thought this would be an absolutely beautiful spot for a shelter, since it’s right near the snowmobile trails,” Dupee said.
The Driftbusters Club, which maintains about 85 miles of the county’s trail system, embraced the project.
“When Dairyland approached us and said they were looking for the community to take an interest in it we jumped at the chance because our club didn’t have a warming shelter, and a shelter could only go on public land,” said Jim Wappenschmidt, treasurer of the Ladysmith Driftbusters and a member of Jump River Electric Cooperative.
The shelter is a multi-use facility, open and available to the public year-round. It’s located just off Quarry Road, providing easy access for ATV riders. In the winter, snowmobilers can access the shelter via a trail the Driftbusters extended right to the building.
While Quarry Park Shelter is a perfect stopping point for outdoor sports enthusiasts of all kinds who utilize the trails, it’s also a beautiful destination in itself for anyone seeking a quiet spot to spend a couple of hours fishing or just taking in the view of the Flambeau River from a picnic table out front.
“It’s a good place to sit and reflect by the river,” said Wappenschmidt. “We’re very proud of it.”
The shelter was built with sustainable construction practices, utilizing plenty of repurposed materials, including all the windows and doors, which were salvaged from another project.
All the cedar benches and picnic tables at the shelter were made from power poles that were salvaged from a retired Dairyland transmission project. These salvaged poles were also repurposed for the trim and the support poles out front.
Jump River Electric provided a pole truck and a co-op employee donated the time and labor to install the rafters. Many other local volunteers helped as well.
“It was a nice effort by everyone in the area,” Dupee noted.
Traveling the Trails
Once the shelter was built, the Ladysmith Driftbusters assumed stewardship, keeping the building stocked with firewood and maps of the Rusk County trail system for visitors to use.
The county’s other three shelters are similarly maintained by other snowmobile clubs. They’re located at all reaches of the county, enabling snowmobilers to make a day of exploring the entire trail system with opportunities to stop and warm up at regular intervals.
The trails in between the shelters are well marked and carefully groomed by the county’s snowmobile clubs, providing for quality riding.
“I’ve ridden all around the state—I’ve been to so many different counties I can’t even count—and I have to say Rusk County is one of the most well marked systems in the state, and it’s all volunteer,” Wappenschmidt said. “To have a system kept up this well, it takes a lot of volunteer hours. Our club really strives to do the best with the personnel we have.”
He said the Driftbusters are out packing the snow on the trails as much as three times a week to prepare for the peak snowmobile season, which typically lasts about a month but varies depending on the season’s snowfall.
The quality of the trails is complemented by the surroundings they pass through. Each section of the county’s trail system is unique, with its own distinctive scenery to explore.
“I don’t really have a favorite, but I guess my favorite stretches of the trails are the remote areas where you don’t have a lot of houses and road crossings,” Wappenschmidt said. “I like being in remote areas because you get to see things that you don’t get to see anywhere else, like albino turkeys. I also saw my first snowshoe hare here. There’s just a lot of wildlife to see.”
And now, thanks to a cooperative community, effort, there’s another shelter to see as well.
To learn more about snowmobiling in Rusk County and check for snow conditions, visit ruskcountywi.com or call 800-535-RUSK. To reach the Quarry Park Shelter, traveling east on Highway 8, turn left on County Road X and continue until you reach Quarry Park Road. The shelter is to the left.