Some parks open, while others continue with restrictions
The DNR, on direction of Gov. Tony Evers, is reopening several state parks, forests and recreational areas originally closed, because of unprecedented crowds and to protect public health.
As of May 1, 34 state parks and forests will open 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 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.”
Admission will be required May 1, with an annual park sticker and/or trail pass required to visit state parks and trails. Annual stickers will be available for purchase with credit card by phone, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week, by calling 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.
State parks and forests will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and properties will be closed 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 open, are 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 and 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.
Properties that will remain closed for the health and safety of the public, staff and property integrity, are Gibraltar Rock state natural area, Pewit’s Nest state natural area, Parfrey’s Glen state natural area and Dells of The Wisconsin River state natural area.
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.
All linear/rail trails are open to the public, which includes ATV trails as well as the Ice Age Trail.
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 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.
At times, many properties will likely reach their predetermined 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 and Willow River.
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. Some of the properties offering this type of camping, are 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 and Willow Flowage.
Volunteer activities remain suspended at DNR properties, and all events and special event permits are canceled until May 26.
“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,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. “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.”