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Wisconsin state parks and forests set to reopen on Friday

Fees required, limited capacity and modified hours

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will reopen 34 state parks and forests on Friday, May 1 at the direction of Gov. Evers with special conditions.

Under Gov. Evers’ Badger Bounce Back Plan, which outlines important criteria for Wisconsin to be able to reopen its economy in phases and includes steps to make sure workers and businesses are prepared to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so, the DNR will modify current operations to maintain the safest environment for visitors and staff.

Due to unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and the need to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff, Gov. Evers directed the DNR to close 38 Wisconsin state parks, forests and recreational areas on Friday, April 10.

To minimize overcrowding, allow for social distancing requirements and to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors, the following conditions will be put into place at all state park system properties until further notice beginning May 1:

Admission required

_ 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. to 3 p.m. seven days a week by calling toll free, 1-888-305-0398. Patience is appreciated as there may be heavy call volumes.

_ 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 be closed to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep.

_ There are properties that will remain open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. They are the Black River State Forest, the Brule River State Forest, the Chippewa Flowage, the Flambeau River State Forest, Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest, Governor Knowles State Forest, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, the Pike Wild River, the Pine-Popple Wild River, the Turtle Flambeau Flowage and the 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 walkin or water access only.

_ Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area and the Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area will remain closed for the health and safety of the public, staff, and property integrity:

_ 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.


_ 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, 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.

Capacity limits

_ 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 and 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 boatin 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 Area and the Willow Flowage.

_ Volunteer activities remain suspended at DNR properties.

_ All events and special event permits are canceled until May 26.

“We are excited to reopen several of our state parks and forests for the public to enjoy,” said DNR secretary Preston D. Cole. “We want to thank everyone for their cooperation with our new operating schedule and procedures. 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.”