34 Wisconsin state parks, forests to reopen May 1, says Gov. Evers

Coronavirus

MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – Several Wisconsin state parks, forests, and recreational areas will be allowed to re-open after originally being closed due to unprecedented crowds and out of an abundance of caution to protect public health.

Governor Tony Evers says he has directed the Department of Natural Resources to reopen 34 state parks and forests on May 1 under special conditions to help minimize overcrowding, allow for social distancing requirements, and to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for staff and visitors.

“Outdoor recreation is important for both physical and mental health, and I know how important it is to Wisconsinites to get outside and enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources and spring weather,” said Gov. Evers. “With a few adjustments, like closing one day a week for maintenance and reduced hours of operation, folks should be able to get outside and enjoy our parks safely and respectfully.”  

“Amid the immense uncertainty of this crisis, we are very fortunate to have such beautiful spaces in which to ease our minds and take care of ourselves,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said. “I am glad that we are able to reopen these spaces with new safety guidelines, so that people can enjoy our state parks and forests while we continue to prioritize public health and safety.”

Special conditions in reopening parks include closing properties on Wednesdays for maintenance, imposing pre-determined capacity limits, and the suspension of free admission to state parks.

Here are the latest Wisconsin state park property updates:

ADMISSION REQUIRED STARTING MAY 1
  • An annual park sticker and/or trail pass will be required to visit state parks and trails.
  • Annual stickers will be available for purchase with credit card by phone 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. seven days a week by calling toll free: 1-888-305-0398.
  • Annual passes are NOT available for purchase at individual properties. Visitors must have an annual admission sticker adhered to their vehicle or proof of purchase for entry.
  • Once proof of purchase is shown, visitors must place proof of purchase on the dash of the windshield while parked within the boundary of the property.
  • The 2020 annual vehicle admission sticker is valid through Dec. 31, 2020.
HOURS OF OPERATION
  • State parks and forests will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, a change from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Properties will close to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep.
  • 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

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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.

Gov. Evers had announced the closure of 40 state parks, forests, and recreational areas on April 9.

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