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STAY & PLAY: Taking the plunge in local water holes

As the summer starts to heat up, there are plenty of ways to cool off.

Of course, there are indoor pools in the area such as at The Centre in New Richmond (free to members; non-members can purchase a family day pass for $12 or a single person pass for $7).

For those who are willing to be one with nature, however, the options range from shallow wading areas to wide swimming areas.

Local Parks

• The Star Prairie Town Park on County Road C, just across from The Outpost Bar and Grill, boasts a small place to go for a dip. It is open to the public from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. and offers a 15-foot dirt entry into the Apple River at one of its calm and shallow spots.

Parking is available on the shoulder of the highway, and there are three stone tables and benches on site, as well as a port-a-potty. The spot is good for wading, as the middle of the section isn't deeper than about 3 feet.

• Mary Park in New Richmond offers a larger beach and body of water; it is also unsupervised.

There are a couple of picnic tables available on the dirt beach and a paved ramp to easily access the water. Some big trees provide shade, mainly during the later afternoon. Bathroom facilities are located nearby as well as two playgrounds.

• Somerset has its Village Park with the Apple River running alongside. The park entrance is located between the Apple River Bridge and Holiday Gas Station on Main Street.

The park has several picnic tables and grills, as well as one volleyball net off to the side, but no bathrooms. Tubers float through that stretch of river, so the current is fairly strong. However, there is a small cutout to access the water, and there are plenty of rocks and crevices for children to explore. Parking is available right next to the river.

• Another area worth mentioning is the Cascade Waterfall in Osceola. Located right in the middle of town, the waterfall is accessed by a winding staircase down into the gorge to the base of the 25-foot high falls. There is a trail you can follow to walk right underneath the falls and out toward the shores of the St. Croix River.

The trail is not paved, and there are no ramps to go into the gorge.

State Parks

State parks typically offer a larger body of water with more amenities for a nominal fee. A day pass for a Wisconsin resident costs $5-7, but an annual pass is $25, allowing access to any Wisconsin state park throughout the year.

• Perch Lake is located at 550 Perch Lake Road in Hudson. It does have a swimming beach. There is a dirt trail to walk around the lake to access it from the parking lot.

Other amenities include a playground --which is located on the other side of the parking lot -- picnic areas and a walking trail that surrounds the lake. Canoeing and fishing access is also available.

Although the swimming area is cordoned off, the lake depth can reach 90 feet.

Hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in June and July, 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. in August and September and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. in October.

According to the St. Croix County website, a day pass is $5. Call 715-549-6515 for more information.

• Willow River State Park is located at 1034 County Highway A, five miles northeast of Hudson.

There is a 400-foot beach and picnic area centered on 172-acre Little Falls Lake. No motorized traffic is allowed on the lake.

The park also has a campground for overnight stays as well as several hiking trails. There is even a nature center near the picnic area that features exhibits on local plant and animal life. A gift shop is available as well.

For more information, call the Willow River State Park office at 715-386-5931.

• Troy Beach is located at 490 County Road F in Hudson. Once a town park, the seven acres was donated to the county in the late 1960s.

The sandy swimming beach provides access to the waters of the St. Croix River. There are also grills, picnic tables, horseshoe pits, changing house and pit toilets.

As with the other swimming beaches, there is no lifeguard.

The hours are June 16 to Labor Day: Monday - Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; June 16 to Aug. 20: Friday - Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Aug. 21 to Labor Day: Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

A day pass costs $5. For more information, call the Troy Beach office at 715-386-8043.