This morning Governor Evers and the Wisconsin DNR  announced re-opening of most of the state parks on May 1 that had previously been closed. There are several restrictions on the use of the state parks.

State Park admission passes are required for admission to the parks. There will for the time being be no day passes, so people entering the parks will need an annual sticker. The annual passes can be ordered with a credit card over the phone by calling 1-888-305-0398 between 8 am and 3 pm every day. Annual passes will not be available for sale at the parks. The Parks Department asks that you be patient when ordering passes as there is likely to be a very high call volume.

State Parks will be open from 6 AM to 7 PM daily with some exceptions (therefore they are closing earlier than previously). Most properties will be closed every Wednesday for cleaning and maintenance. 

Northern Forests, Flowages, Lower Wisconsin Riverway, and Wild Rivers will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.  Specific properties listed below.

  • Black River State Forest
  • Brule River State Forest
  • Chippewa Flowage
  • Flambeau River State Forest
  • Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest
  • Governor Knowles State Forest
  • Lower Wisconsin State Riverway
  • Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest
  • Pike Wild River
  • Pine-Popple Wild River
  • Turtle Flambeau Flowage
  • Willow Flowage

Hunting and fishing will be allowed on all open properties in accordance with legal season structure and hours. Access to some areas may be limited to walk-in or water access only.

The following properties will remain closed for the health and safety of the public, staff, and property integrity:

  • Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area
  • Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area
  • Parfrey's Glen State Natural Area
  • Dells of The Wisconsin River state natural area
  • NOTE: Capital Springs State Recreation Area and Cross Plains State Park are managed cooperatively with multiple partners and municipalities and as such were removed from the closure list in April.  

BOAT LAUNCHES

  • DNR boat launches are open at open state properties.
  • All anglers and recreational boaters should practice social distancing and keep travel to a minimum.
  • If individuals can lawfully access Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes, they are free to navigate upon them while engaging in outdoor recreation. 

TRAILS

  • All linear/rail trails are open to the public, which includes ATV trails.
  • The Ice Age Trail remains open.
  • An annual state trail pass is required for anyone age 16 or older biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding or in-line skating on certain trails. A state trail pass is NOT required for walking or hiking. The annual trail passes are valid through Dec. 31 of the year they are issued.

RESTROOMS AND BUILDINGS

  • Restrooms at all state properties will be closed. This includes the closure of restrooms on properties currently open to the public.
  • All other facilities will remain closed, including towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, contact stations and concession buildings.
  • Attractions where social distancing cannot be achieved will be closed as needed at various properties.

PRE-DETERMINED SAFETY CAPACITY LIMITATIONS

  • At times, many properties will likely reach their pre-determined safety capacity. When this happens, visitors may be denied entry to the park until existing visitors leave. Visitors are encouraged to explore other DNR recreation areas or visit during non-peak hours before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
  • State Parks likely to temporarily prohibit additional visitors include:
    • Copper Falls
    • Devil’s Lake
    • Governor Dodge
    • Governor Nelson
    • Harrington Beach
    • Hartman Creek
    • High Cliff
    • Interstate
    • Kinnickinnic
    • Kettle Moraine Southern Unit
    • Lapham Peak
    • Perrot, Rib Mountain
    • Roche-a-Cri
    • Whitefish Dunes
    • Willow River

CAMPING AND EVENTS

  • Camping, group camps and shelters will remain closed until May 26. Refunds will be issued to all customers.
  • Limited numbers of remote, backpack and boat-in campsites are available on a first-come first-serve basis. A list of some of the properties offering this type of camping include:
    • Brule River State Forest
    • Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area
    • Dunnville Wildlife Area
    • Flambeau River State Forest
    • Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest
    • Governor Knowles State Forest
    • Meadow Valley State Wildlife Area
    • Tiffany Wildlife Area
    • Van Loon State Wildlife Are
    • Willow Flowage
  • Volunteer activities remain suspended at DNR properties.
  • All events and special event permits are canceled until May 26.

The DNR provided additional information on visiting the parks:

    “We are excited to reopen several of our state parks and forests for the public to enjoy. We want to thank everyone for their cooperation with our new operating schedule and procedures,” said DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole. “We must do all that we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When visiting our treasured state parks and forests, remember to stay close to home, practice social distancing and carry hand sanitizer. Please enjoy the outdoors responsibly and be more than safe.”  

    The DNR urges visitors to do their part when visiting DNR properties. Most Wisconsin state parks, forests and other day-use areas do not have garbage or recycling bins. When you visit, please take your garbage and recyclables home with you. We all play a vital role in taking care of our natural resources. Following the Leave No Trace principles helps protect the land for generations to come. 

    Visitors are reminded to practice social distancing of 6 feet, refrain from congregating in large groups, travel only within your home communities and follow all existing state park rules and guidelines. Visitors are also encouraged to wear masks in situations where social distancing is difficult.

    The DNR continues to receive the most up-to-date information and will adjust operations as conditions change. We will also continue to monitor on-the-ground circumstances each day to determine additional conditions that may become necessary. Before visiting other properties, please check with individual parks regarding changes to park operations.

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    Steve Hanson
    About

    Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

    Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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