To help with overcrowding at our most popular parks, the Department of Natural Resources is encouraging state park visitors from across the state and beyond to explore Wisconsin’s hidden gems off the beaten path.
With capacity limits in place for select properties since May 1, some of those properties have seen an overwhelming number of visitors. Many state parks are home to rare plant species and unique, but sensitive, landscapes or terrain which make them particularly vulnerable to high visitation numbers.
To maintain the safest environment for visitors, staff, and to protect the natural resources found on state properties the department is using capacity closures as a tool to limit overcrowding, keep facilities clean, adequately maintain trails, and promote social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We have countless natural gems across the state,” said DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole. “Opportunities to camp, hike, fish, swim, boat and bike are all across the state and just waiting to be explored.”
Devil’s Lake in particular has reached its capacity threshold every Saturday and Sunday since May 1. With the start of the camping season, visitors to Devil’s Lake should expect more frequent and earlier capacity closures. When capacity is reached, no additional vehicles or visitors will be allowed on the properties until existing visitors leave, and capacity is reduced. Additionally, people who park along adjacent roadways may now be subject to citations and/or towing by local municipalities.
“We are doing our best to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors to Devil’s Lake State Park,” said DNR Chief Conservation Warden Casey Kruger. “But we also need our visitors to do their part by not entering the property when a capacity closure is in place.”
Devil’s Lake State Park isn’t the only property with routine capacity closures. The Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit has also seen routine capacity closures with several other properties coming very close including Willow River, High Cliff, Lapham Peak, Pike Lake and Governor Dodge State Parks.
As a reminder, park stickers and trail passes are required to visit state parks and trails. Annual stickers are available for purchase online or with credit card by phone 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. seven days a week by calling toll free: 1-888-305-0398.
The DNR urges state park 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. Fight the Bite! Ticks are out, and visitors should take precautions to prevent Lyme Disease.
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 if any additional changes to park operations may become necessary. Before visiting other properties, please check with individual parks regarding changes to park operations. Information about Wisconsin DNR operations and offerings can be found here.
For specific information regarding COVID-19 we encourage the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.