Frienship Trail over Little Lake Butte Des Morts

One of the smaller, but nonetheless quite picturesque rail trails we have visited over the course of our journey to trace the abandoned railroads of the world is the Friendship Trail, also sometimes known as the Trestle Trail, which spans across the Little Lake Buttes des Morts between Fox Crossing and Menasha, WI. The trail is further part of a 3.5 mile system one can use to bike or walk around the lake, known by the tongue twister of "Loop the Little Lake", which also allows one to connect to Neenah.

In its railroad days, it was part of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, and unofficially known as the "Mile" Bridge, despite the fact that it is quite a bit shorter than that. Our visit came on a foggy and wet December afternoon which made the relatively short journey over the lake somewhat otherworldly, as I was unable to see land from the middle of it!

Starting from Fritse Park in Fox Crossing, its somewhat hard to imagine this as anything but a walkway through a park.

The line was a short spur over the lake built to serve manufacturing interests in Menasha and Neehah, and the land immediately beyond the lake maintains this commercial development. 

Our visit made the middle of Little Lake Butte des Morts look like a Silent Hill 2 setpiece.

This pavilion and comfort station named "Miron Junction" in Fox Crossing is quite obviously inspired by the C&NW stations of old nearby, but it wasn't a station itself. The name Miron comes from a local construction contractor, who probably helped convert the railroad to a trail.


So what did the bridge look like when trains ran through it? Quite amazing, if I do say so myself.

"C&NW train on bridge at Neenah WI on 10/15/77" (Larry Irvin via Flickr). This appears to be shot from the boat launch at Fritse Park.

The CNW sold the line to the short line known as the Fox River Valley Railroad in 1988, who would run it until they became the Fox Valley and Western in 1993. Following that, the line continued service until 2005. It became a rail trail two years later.



The area is still served by rail traffic, however, as the current rail traffic is served by a wye at the bottom of the lake, meaning that there's been no dropoff in rail activity, and this wonderful bridge is able to be enjoyed by pedestrians and parkgoers alike, and connect either side of the lake much easier than before!

Granted, you'd probably want to pick a nicer day to do so!

The trail is open year round, although I imagine the bridge can get incredibly icy in the winter. The temperature on our visit was around 35 degrees, and the relatively warm weather preceding it meant ice wasn't a concern, at least for us.


Some of the best things about the bridge are being able to see other bridges along the lake from the center.


Just over a mile from the Trestle Trail is the US-10 Bridge over the lake, but it looked a lot farther away in the fog!

At either end of the trail, the signs welcome you to the municipality, Menasha in the East and Fox Crossing in the West.

The west end of the trail at Fox Crossing.

Friendship Trail's east end over the lake at Menasha.


In addition to Trestle Trail, Friendship Trail and Loop the Little Lake, I guess "Fox Cities Trestle" is another name for the path.


Art on the railroad piers is also a component of the design of the trail, and numerous piers are decorated, particularly in the center of the bridge.


Hello, Olivia!


Adding to the somewhat creepy nature of the weather were the presence of railroad tracks on the east side of the bridge. The westernmost segment is probably abandoned, but the line is in service quite close to the bridge.

Where the Friendship Trail ends, active rail begins, as only the bridge itself was abandoned. While I'm guessing this siding isn't used very often, it could be used for railcar storage, if nothing else.


In a few places between either side of the lake are rest points where people can get a nice relaxing view of the water.




Remnants of the former rail bridge are used for the current rail trail. 



"Saved by Grace"



"End of the Line" for the current operations. Beyond here lies abandoned railroad tracks and the bridge approach.

Thanks as always for reading, and do visit the Friendship Trail at some point, ideally in nicer weather!


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