34 Wisconsin state parks, forests to reopen on May 1, admission fees required again

Parking lot at High Cliff State Park. ( Wisconsin DNR )

After closing nearly 40 Wisconsin state parks, forests and recreation areas earlier this month due unprecedented crowds and other issues, Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday the state will reopen some of those state parks and forests on May 1. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will reopen 34 state parks and forests under special conditions to help minimize overcrowding and allow for safe social distancing, according to a news release. Reopening these areas is part of the governor’s “Badger Bounce Back” plan, which outlines the criteria for the state to be able to reopen in phases amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“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,” Gov. Evers said in a statement. “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 FEE NO LONGER WAIVED

The DNR had previously waived admission fees to state parks, forests and recreation areas, but starting May 1, an annual park sticker or trail pass will once again be required to visit state parks and trails. 

SOME STATE PARKS, FORESTS TO LIMIT NUMBER OF VISITORS

Some of the most popular state parks and forests, both those that are reopening and those that have remained open this whole time, may start limiting the number of visitors allowed into the park.

According to the news release, when the state park or forest reaches its pre-determined safety, visitors may be denied entry to the park until existing visitors leave. 

Several of the state parks along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border such as Interstate, Willow River and Kinnickinnic state parks, are among those that may limit the number of visitors.

Visitors are encouraged to visit state parks, forests and recreation areas during non-peak hours before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. 

HOURS OF OPERATION CHANGING

The hours and days of operation are also changing. 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. They will be closed to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep. 

Restrooms and other facilities, such as headquarters, nature centers, concession buildings, towers and playgrounds will remain closed. 

CAMPGROUNDS REMAIN CLOSED, BUT SOME CAMPING ALLOWED

Campgrounds, group campgrounds and shelters will remain closed until May 26, when the governor’s “Safer at Home” order ends. The DNR says refunds will be issued to all customers. 

However, a limited number 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

SOME AREAS TO REMAIN CLOSED

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

FULL LIST OF STATE PARKS LIKELY TO LIMIT NUMBER OF VISITORS 

  • 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