Author Archive: Carol Moore

Oct. 31 deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses

2017 surveys show plenty of big fish for unique winter fishery

MADISON — The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2018 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime while enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

“Getting together with family and friends is what keeps people coming back year after to year, but spearers will be happy to know that our 2017 assessments once again show there are a lot of really large fish out there to challenge them,” says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist.

“We handled nine fish greater than 75 inches and 65 fish over 70 inches this spring,” he says. “The biggest fish we measured was 81 inches, so it should be a really exciting year for everyone enjoying this unique winter event.”

The Winnebago System is home to one of the largest populations of lake sturgeon in North America. DNR’s careful management of that population, in conjunction with citizens and conservation groups, allows the continent’s largest recreational harvest through a unique winter spear fishery dating to the 1930s.

The 2018 spearing seasons open on February 10, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by lottery.

The seasons run for 16 days or until harvest caps are reached; those harvest caps for 2018 will be set on Oct. 18 when DNR biologists meet with the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee, which helps set the harvest caps.

Gerald Peterson's 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon.Sandra Schumacher's 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish.
The 2017 season included some impressive fish, including Gerald Peterson’s 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon and Sandra Schumacher’s 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish.
Photo Credit: DNR

Deteriorating water clarity and ice conditions as the 2017 season wore on combined for a lower total harvest but included some impressive fish, including Gerald Peterson’s 83.4-inch, 154.9 pound sturgeon and Sandra Schumacher’s 78.5-inch, 154.7 pound fish. Thirteen fish weighed in at 130 pounds or larger.

A total of 847 fish were harvested during the 2017 seasons, 552 from Lake Winnebago and 295 from the Upriver Lakes. This total is down from averages over the last decade, but still the largest recreational spear harvest for sturgeon in the world and an increase over the 2016 season total of 703 fish, Koenigs says.

Again this year, 12-year-olds are eligible to purchase a license and can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their tags to youth ages 12-17, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.

How and where to get spearing licenses

Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased by visiting GoWild.Wi.gov or any license sales location. To find a license agent near you, go to dnr.wi.gov and search with key words “license agent.”

The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2017, and the last day of the 2018 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31.

There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.

Spearers are now able to transfer Upriver Lakes spear licenses to youth spearers (age 12-17) and can do so by filling a transfer of license form at least 15 days before the 2018 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not authorized received a preference point and can still buy a Lake Winnebago license before Oct. 31.

For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing.”

Southeastern Wisconsin group wins volunteer award for Chiwaukee Prairie work

MADISON – The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund has long played an integral role in preserving the largest remaining prairie and wetland complex in southeastern Wisconsin, helping buy the first 15 acres of Chiwaukee Prairie in the 1960s to controlling garlic mustard and 24 other invasive plants there today.

Now that length and depth of service has won the citizen group the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award from the Department of Natural Resources State Natural Areas Program. Group members received the award Sept. 30 during a volunteer appreciation picnic at the Mukwonago River State Natural Area in Waukesha County.

DNR's Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel, far right, presented the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award to members of the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund including, left to right: Chad Heinzelman, Amy Duhling, Alan Eppers, Pam Holy and Nathan Robertson.
DNR’s Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel, far right, presented the Volunteer Steward of the Year Award to members of the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund including, left to right: Chad Heinzelman, Amy Duhling, Alan Eppers, Pam Holy and Nathan Robertson.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund and its leadership have been one of our cornerstones in protecting and conserving Chiwaukee Prairie for future generations,” says Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau.

“Their commitment has only strengthened over the years, and especially so in the last 5-10 years with their increased efforts to recruit more volunteers, to engage more with partners to leverage funding, and becoming active in acquiring land,” adds Sharon Fandel, the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation district ecologist who works with the group.

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund has been working for more than 50 years on behalf of Chiwaukee Prairie, a one-time subdivision that in 2015 was named part of a wetland of international importance. That honor, and the preservation group’s role, is described in the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine May 2016 story, “Ecological Treasures.”

Fifty-two years ago concerned local citizens like Al Krampert and Phil Sander mobilized when the subdivision started to be developed, and in 1965 joined forces with The Nature Conservancy to purchase the first 15 acres of land within Chiwaukee Prairie. Two years later, Chiwaukee would be designated by DNR as a State Natural Area and as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

The Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund was officially incorporated in 1985. Now, the group holds monthly work days. Many of their volunteers are certified to apply herbicides, use chainsaws, and even assist on prescribed burns. Volunteers put in more than 1,000 hours of work in 2016, much of it removing or controlling invasive plants.

Key volunteers also work closely with NHC rare plant experts and Plants of Concern, a regional rare plant monitoring program of the Chicago Botanic Garden, to identify which species of rare plants need to be monitored and submit their data to the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.

More recently, starting in late 2016, the group has been working directly to acquire additional vacant parcels.

“CPPF stepped up to the plate and chose to pursue several vacant lots where we had interested landowners anxious to sell their land,” said Fandel. “They are truly our ‘eyes and ears’ at Chiwaukee Prairie when it comes to keeping us informed on various fronts, including new invasive species populations, road or trail issues, and partnering opportunities. They are among Chiwaukee Prairie’s strongest advocates and, as such, are very deserving winners of the Steward of the Year Award.”

State Natural Areas protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin’s native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals.

Since its start in 2011, Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas Volunteer Program has grown to include 36 volunteer groups that devoted 5,820 hours in 2016 to 43 state natural areas. Learn more about the volunteer program and find a listing of upcoming volunteer workdays by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for “SNA volunteer.”

Stocking advances spotted musky reintroduction project in Green Bay

WILD ROSE, Wis. — Efforts to establish a self-sustaining population of spotted musky in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters got a boost this fall when 7,000 musky fingerling averaging 17 inches were stocked into the Fox River, several Green Bay tributaries, Lake Winnebago and three inland lakes.

The fingerlings were raised for a year in cool water ponds at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. They now weigh about a pound and average 17 inches in length, although some were pushing 19 and 20 inches.

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Department of Natural Resources fish crew members stocked roughly 1,350 fish into the future broodstock lakes of Anderson and Archibald Lakes in Oconto County and Elkhart lake in Sheboygan County, according to Jesse Landwehr, hatchery supervisor. The three inland lakes will serve as the source of brood stock in future years. Beginning in 2019, DNR tentatively will spawn spotted muskies in an effort to ramp up production in the hatcheries.

Historically, spotted musky were native to Lake Michigan and its tributaries in Wisconsin but habitat destruction, pollution and over-exploitation during the early to mid-1900s decimated their populations. DNR in cooperation with several local musky clubs and the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin started to reintroduce the Great Lakes strain musky into Green Bay waters of Lake Michigan in 1989.

They stocked fish that were hatched from eggs collected from Michigan waters where spotted musky still are found, and raised them at Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery. Those stockings have helped create a popular fishery in Green Bay with anglers reeling in many 50-plus-inch fish but the ultimate goal of the project–creating a self-sustaining population–has been elusive.

DNR staff have worked in recent years to diversify the genetic pool in hopes of seeing better natural reproduction. Michigan had been providing 5- to 6-inch fingerlings to Wisconsin hatched from disinfected eggs and Wisconsin has been sending northern Wisconsin musky fingerlings to Michigan in return. Creating broodstock lakes will enable Wisconsin to spawn its own fish.

All the fish going into the three brood lakes were fin-clipped and PIT tagged so DNR can identify individual fish and their parentage. “This enables us when we are spawning on the brood stock lakes in the future to maintain genetic diversity,” Landwehr says.

For the rest of the fish going into the Green Bay system, 20 percent were tagged and clipped to help local biologists identify individual fish and assess their growth rates.

October public meetings will gather feedback regarding outdoor recreation in Wisconsin

MADISON – The public will have an opportunity at a series of upcoming meetings to provide input on two draft chapters of a Department of Natural Resources Recreation Opportunities Analysis and begin the process of examining opportunities in three other regions of Wisconsin,

The Recreation Opportunities Analysis is examining existing outdoor-based recreation opportunities and future recreation opportunities in eight regions throughout Wisconsin.

The initial drafts identify recreation opportunities in the Great Northwest (Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Polk, Barron and Rusk counties) and Upper Lake Michigan Coastal Regions (Marinette, Oconto, Manitowoc, Brown, Kewaunee and Door counties) and the potential role of DNR-managed properties in helping to meet these opportunities.

In August, the department held open house meetings asking for public input about these regions. Feedback was also received through an online public input opportunity that was open in August and early September. Using this input, the department developed a draft chapter for each region describing future needs unique to each part of the state and the potential role DNR-managed properties play in helping to meet those needs.

Comments are welcome on the draft chapters through Oct. 27. Open house meetings are scheduled from 4-7 p.m. in each region where department staff will provide an overview at 5:30 p.m.:


  • Tuesday Oct. 17, De Pere – Brown County Library – Kress Family Branch, 333 North Broadway Street,
  • Wednesday Oct. 18, Rice Lake – City of Rice Lake Building, 30 East Eau Claire St.

Next regions to begin study for Recreation Opportunities Analysis

The next regions to be studied are the Mississippi River Corridor, Western Sands and Lake Winnebago regions. The counties included in these regions are as follows:

  • Mississippi River Corridor: Buffalo, Crawford, Dunn, Grant, La Crosse, Pepin, Pierce, St Croix, Trempealeau, and Vernon
  • Lake Winnebago Waters: Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Menominee, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, and Winnebago
  • Western Sands: Adams, Chippewa, Clark, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, Marathon, Monroe, Portage, and Wood

The public is invited to participate in this analysis by providing information through the online input opportunities found by searching the DNR website for keyword “ROA.” The public can provide feedback online or print out the questionnaire and send completed forms to the department. Public input opportunities for these three regions are open through Nov. 17.

Later this month, the department will host public open house meetings to gather additional input to the Mississippi River Corridor, Lake Winnebago Waters and Western Sands regions. The open houses will be held from 4-7 p.m. in the following dates and locations:

  • Oct. 23, Altoona – River Prairie Center, 1445 Front Porch Place
  • Oct. 24, Stevens Point – Holiday Inn, 1001 Amber Ave.
  • Oct. 25, Onalaska – Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 3060 South Kinney Coulee Road
  • Nov. 1, Appleton – Fox Valley Technical College (Bordini Center), 5 Systems Drive

While the ROA process is underway in these counties, additional public meetings in other regions will be held as the process moves forward. The analysis process will generally describe recreation opportunities for each region.

To receive email updates regarding the ROA process, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled “subscribe for updates for DNR topics,” then follow the prompts and select “Recreation opportunities analysis,” found within the list titled “outdoor recreation.”

For more information regarding the recreational opportunities analysis, search keyword “ROA.”

2017 Wisconsin ring-necked pheasant season opens Oct. 14

MADISON – The longtime and popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. The season will run through Dec. 31, with the possibility of being extended until Jan. 7, 2018.

The popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
The popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Photo Credit: DNR

Several other seasons also open that day including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in Zone B and Hungarian partridge. Like pheasant, the bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at 9 a.m. The ruffed grouse season opens with the start of legal shooting hours.

Hunters should check the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations booklet for rules and season structures for the game species they will pursue.

“Pheasant hunting offers a fantastic means to experience the outdoors, and it complements the other upland bird hunting opportunities in Wisconsin very well,” says Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources. “Pheasant hunting offers the chance to explore landscapes and habitat types you might not otherwise see.”

Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations do best in the agricultural landscape of southern and western Wisconsin provided there is habitat present in sufficient quantities to meet their food and cover needs throughout the year, according to Witecha.

Witecha says hunters should look for areas that contain adequate winter cover, such as cattail marshes and dense brush, intermixed with cropland, hay and idle grasslands which provide food and nesting cover. It will be important for hunters to identify areas with high-quality habitat, concentrating their hunting efforts in those areas.

During the 2016 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 43,520 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 307240 birds. The top counties for harvest included Fond du Lac, Waukesha and Kenosha.

Regulations

A 2017 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide, as well as a valid small game license. Please note that the free leg tags previously required on the hen/rooster areas are no longer required. The daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season, with a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit. More information is available in the 2017 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations, available online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “regulations.”

Pheasant Stocking Program

This fall, DNR wildlife staff plan to release approximately 75,000 game farm pheasants on 91 public hunting grounds. These numbers are a similar to 2016 stocking efforts. State game farm production goals will remain at 75,000 birds moving forward. In addition, pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program will also be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to be polite and notify the landowner before hunting on private property open to public hunting as part of this program.

Hunters can view a summary of stocked properties on the 2017 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet, available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “pheasant.” In addition, hunters can use the DNR’s gamebird mapping application, FFLIGHT, to locate and explore properties stocked with pheasants (along with ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat and managed dove fields). FFLIGHT also allows hunters to use aerial maps, topography and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest and make their trips more productive and enjoyable. To learn more about FFLIGHT, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword “FFLIGHT.”

Pheasant Hunting Opportunities through the Mentored Hunting Program

2017 marks the ninth year of the Mentored Hunting Program, which allows hunters age 10 or older, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without first completing Hunter Education, provided they hunt with a mentor and comply with all of the requirements under the program. For additional information and the requirements of the program, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword “mentored hunting.”

“Pheasants are a popular gamebird, and they offer a great hunting experience to both novices and experienced hunters,” said Witecha. “I wish hunters safe and successful trips this fall.”

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas Releases Third-Season Findings

Volunteers document 220 bird species breeding in Wisconsin, including rare marsh birds

MADISON — After the third year of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey, volunteers have documented 220 bird species breeding in the state, most recently including a family of rare and secretive marsh birds called king rails. With this addition, 12 new species have been observed nesting in Wisconsin that weren’t found during the first Breeding Bird Atlas survey two decades ago.

Click on image for larger size. (exit DNR)
Click on image for larger size. (exit DNR)

“A few of these king rails were reported in the first atlas but none were confirmed as nesting here,” says Ryan Brady, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and science coordinator for the Atlas. “So it’s exciting to see wetland management efforts having positive benefits for a species that requires high-quality marshes to successfully raise its young.”

Good wetland management by state and federal wildlife management staff have also contributed to another Atlas finding — that trumpeter swans are undergoing an impressive expansion in range and numbers since the last survey from 1995-2000, Brady says.

Trumpeter swans were decimated by overhunting by the late 1800s, and the species was mostly absent from Wisconsin until DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program and partners began reintroducing the species in 1987.

“Even a decade ago, most breeding pairs kept to the more remote northern lakes,” Brady says. “Good wetland management and protection have allowed trumpeters to use unoccupied marshes and increase their numbers to over 5,000 birds.”

Volunteers have documented them breeding across the north, northwest, and central regions and birds have even colonized the Lower Wisconsin River.

Volunteers Still Needed to Accurately Reveal Trends in Birds

The purpose of the five-year atlas effort is to document all bird species that breed in Wisconsin, from common year-round residents like northern cardinal to species of high conservation interest like Connecticut warbler. Some of these species may be vanishing, while others are holding their own, or even increasing, but only a statewide effort will reveal these trends, says Nicholas Anich, Breeding Bird Atlas coordinator for DNR.

“The project has already amassed records of 4.9 million birds but we still have a ways to go,” Anich says. “We need more volunteers to survey priority areas so we get a complete picture of what’s going on with our bird populations and how we can help them moving forward.”

More than 1,400 volunteers have contributed to the survey so far, but more are needed to survey remaining priority areas, particularly in northern, central, and western regions of the state.

Getting Involved

Volunteers collect data by observing birds, and enter their sightings online, where the information is reviewed by Anich, Brady, and other ornithologists from organizations leading the project: The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and DNR.

All Wisconsin residents are encouraged to participate, especially those who live or travel to priority areas like northern, central, and western Wisconsin. “It’s easy to participate and you don’t have to be an expert birder to help,” says Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, “We’re constantly hearing from people how rewarding atlasing is, and we welcome participants of all ability levels.”

To volunteer, visit the project website at wsobirds.org/atlas. Training sessions and field trips will take place throughout Wisconsin in 2018. When the project is completed, the data will be published in a hard-copy book and online for use by researchers, land managers, conservationists, and citizens interested in birds and their habitats.

2017 Fall Festivals and Events at Wisconsin State Park System Properties

MADISON – From fall color hikes, runs and bicycle rides, to releasing small sturgeon, pumpkin carving and Halloween activities, visitors to Wisconsin State Park System properties have multiple opportunities to enjoy fall in Wisconsin. More than 20 fall festivals and events are planned at properties over the next month.

Fall color festivals begin this weekend at Wisconsin State Park System properties.  Copper Falls will be holding
Fall color festivals begin this weekend at Wisconsin State Park System properties. Copper Falls will be holding “Art in the Park” with hikes on the parks Doughbou’s Waterfall Trail.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Fall is one of the best seasons of the year to get out and enjoy our state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas,” said Wisconsin State Parks Director Ben Bergey. “The combination of the heavily forested areas and the great vistas make our parks and forests key destinations for fall color viewing. And thanks to our many friends groups and partnerships with other organizations, our properties are able to offer a wide variety of fall activities.”

Festival events kick off Sept. 30 with fall color bike rides at the John Muir Trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, SturgeonFest at Milwaukee’s Lakeshore State Park–where people have an opportunity to release a live young sturgeon–and Fall Color Weekend at Governor Thompson State Park. Events then run each weekend through the end of October. For a complete list of events, search the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “Get Outdoors.” To find fall festival events, click on the checkbox for “festivals” under the “Type” button.

  • September 30, 2017 – Fall Color Festival Bike Rides on the John Muir Trails, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit – a full day of heart pounding, side aching, gear grinding mountain bike excitement for the entire family. The Fall Color Festival is an annual mountain bike fundraiser held at the John Muir trails in Southeastern Wisconsin. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • September 30, 2017 – Art in the Park, Copper Falls State Park- Hike the signature Doughboy’s waterfall trail, check out art exhibits from local artists and a wood carving demonstration. Nature activities for kids, T-shirt stamping and pumpkin carving (while supplies last). Refreshments available at the Concession Building. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Followed at 7:30 p.m. by a “Universe in the Park” program.
  • September 30 & October 1, 2017 – Fall Color Weekend, Governor Thompson State Park – hike on the best marked “Color Trail” and when you’re done, enjoy snacks and refreshments in the Visitor’s Center. 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • People can release their own sturgeon at Sturgeon Fest.
    People can release their own sturgeon at Sturgeon Fest.
    Photo Credit: SturgeonFest
  • September 30, 2017 – Sturgeon Fest w/RiverEdge Nature Center at Lakeshore State Park – Pre-sponsor a sturgeon at Sturgeonfest.org to release your own sturgeon. The festival is free for all ages; a donation of $10 is appreciated for sponsoring a sturgeon. Pre-register to sponsor a fish; registration closes at 2 p.m. Sept. 29, but if there are still sturgeon left, people can register at the event. The festival continues all day with games and crafts for kids, a scavenger hunt, an Adventure Rock climbing wall, prairie tours, a live performance of “The Great Global Extravaganza” from the Milwaukee County Zoo, educational booths, local food trucks and more. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • September 30, 2017 – Fall Festival, Roche-A-Cri State Park – Celebrate fall and the end of the camping season with the Friends of Roche-A-Cri State Park. Games, hayrides, crafts and fun for the whole family. Free admission day, food and drinks available for purchase from the friends group. 1 to 5 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – MacKenzie Center Fall Festival – Participate in many activities including archery, compass skills, geocaching, wildlife tours, fire building, hiking, pumpkin painting, a hay bale maze, gunny sack races, face painting, scarecrow making, hayrides, and much more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hayrides are a popular feature at the MacKenzie Fall Festival.
Hayrides are a popular feature at the MacKenzie Fall Festival.
Photo Credit: DNR
  • October 7, 2017 – Changing Colors Ride and Family Game Day, Stower Seven Lakes State Trail – Participants can take a leisurely ride as far as they want to go – up to a 28-mile round-trip – with stops at Wanderoos and seven points of interest along the trail. Family games will be set up at the Soo Line Park in Amery all day. 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – S’more Fun Trail Run, Mirror Lake State Park- Join the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park and trail running volunteers for the 2nd annual S’more Fun Trail Run. There will be 5K and 10K runs as well as a 1-mile hike that is great for all ages. All proceeds benefit Mirror Lake State Park. 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – Run Wild 2017, Potawatomi State Park – The Friends of Potawatomi State Park present Run Wild 2017. Events include a 5K run/walk, quarter marathon run, and Smokey Bear Fun Run for the kids. 7:30 a.m.-noon.
  • October 7, 2017 – Fall Candlelight Hike in the Park, Kohler Andrae State Park – Come enjoy a fall evening at Kohler-Andrae with family and friends. Visitors are asked to park in the picnic lots and walk to the outdoor shelter. The hike will be self-guided on a torch-lit trail starting at the outdoor shelter near parking lot #8. Master Naturalist Chris Lilek will entertain with songs and stories around the campfire. Weather permitting there will be telescope viewing by the UW-Sheboygan Astronomy Dept. Cider and snacks will be provided at the outdoor shelter. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No pets please. 6-8 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – Fall Candlelight Hike, Governor Dodge State Park – Stroll down the Lakeview Trail lit with glowing candlelight. Enjoy s’mores around the bonfire after your walk. The Iowa County Astronomers will also have telescopes set up on the Cox Hollow Lake Dam for visitors to view the night sky. Sponsored by the Friends of Governor Dodge. Start at Cox Hollow Beach. 7-9 p.m.
  • October 13, 2017 – Harvest Moon Festival, Capital Springs State Recreation Area – Join our autumnal celebration of the natural world featuring educational exhibits along a torch-lit trail with many live critters, kids’ tree climb, and interactive games! Warm up by a roaring bonfire, roast s’mores, and listen to live music from the Poor Hearts. Visitors can also enjoy the silent auction with many locally-sources items and seasonal treats such as homemade pie, chili hot dogs, and cider for sale. Admission is $5 per person (ages 5 and under are free). Military children are free with parent’s military identification. Sponsored by the Friends of Capital Springs. 6-9 p.m.
  • October 14, 2017 – Kinnickinnic State Park Fall Festival- Kids up to age 12 can join us in their Halloween Costume as we celebrate all things fall. We will have fun, nature-based activities and crafts for kids of all ages to enjoy – including the parks largest leaf pile to jump in! 2-4 p.m.
  • October 20 & 21, 2017 – Halloween Nature Hikes Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit – Join us for a fun-filled stroll through the dark autumn woods to meet some fascinating characters including the mighty dragonfly, invading crayfish, wriggly worm, and stealthy preying mantis. This is not a scary hike and is best for those more than five years of age. 6:30-9:30 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Halloween Mystery Candlelight Hike, Mirror Lake State Park – We will have an easy 1-mile torch lit trail to hike. Kids of all ages can help us find clues and discover our mystery guest. There will also be an activity for the kids at the Amphitheater. The Friends will have food and beverages available for purchase, and everyone can enjoy the roaring bonfire. 6-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Spooktacular and Food Drive, Mead Wildlife Area – Join us for our 7th annual non‐scary, family fun night Halloween event: Play games, make crafts, decorate a pumpkin or cookie, warm‐up by the campfire. Admission is free with a non‐perishable food item, or $2 per person.6-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Halloween Campground Walk, High Cliff State Park – Traditionally campers decorate their campsites for the Halloween Holiday at High Cliff State Park. The Family Campground roads are closed to motor vehicles from 4-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017- “Not So Spooky” Hike, Merrick State Park – Join us for a “Not So Spooky” self-guided night hike on one of our trails lit by jack-o-lanterns and tiki-torches. Try your hand at making fall decorations or just hang out by the bonfire and roast a hot dog or marshmallow! 6-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Friends Halloween Hike, Devil’s Lake State Park – You can go on a 1-mile torch lit hike; show off your costume by the campfire while roasting a marshmallow or two, and listen to the songs of Campfire Kevin; enjoy some tasty treats sold by the Friends group; and find out about snakes! You can even make a snake to take home with you. 6-8:30 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Eco-Halloween Hike, Richard Bong State Recreation Area- non-scary, family event. Enjoy jack-o-lanterns, Halloween nature skits, campfires, games and crafts. Refreshments for sale. You may arrive anytime between 6:30 and 8 p.m. to sign up for a hike. Hikes take about a half-hour. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • At many events, friends groups--like the Friends of Lake Kegonsa--sell refreshments as a fundraiser for the property.
    At many events, friends groups–like the Friends of Lake Kegonsa–sell refreshments as a fundraiser for the property.
    Photo Credit: DNR
  • October 21, 2017 – Candlelight Hike, Lake Kegonsa State Park – Spend a beautiful fall evening hiking along the 1.2-mile White Oak Nature Trail, which will be lit with hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns and luminaries. When you are finished, warm up by the bonfire and enjoy refreshments sold by the Lake Kegonsa State Park Friends Group. There is no fee for this event, but a valid park admission sticker is required. Sorry, pets are not allowed on this trail.: 6-9 p.m.
  • October 28, 2017 – Campers Halloween, Kohler Andrae State Park – There are several campers that return each year and set up very elaborate Halloween decorations on their sites. It has become a popular attraction for the public. The best way to see it is by walking. Due to the large numbers of pedestrians, the North campground will be closed to vehicles from 5-8 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 28. Children are encouraged to “Trick or Treat” While walking through the displays.
  • October 28, 2017 – Willow River Halloween Bash, Willow River State Park – Join Friends of Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks at the Nature Center for this fun, even spooky evening. Don’t forget to wear your costume! Games, crafts, snacks, storytelling and more for the family to enjoy. 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Get Your Perfect Selfie in Wisconsin State Parks

Travel Wisconsin and Wisconsin State Parks Install Selfie Stands in 10 Parks

MADISON — Looking for a beautiful backdrop to capture that special memory of you and your group of friends and family? Getting the best shot at Wisconsin’s most scenic locations just got easier. In time for the fall color season, Travel Wisconsin and Wisconsin State Parks teamed up to install selfie stands in 10 state parks.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to create an experience that gives people an easy way to capture a lifetime of memories and the beauty of our state parks,” Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett.

Selfie Stand at Kohler-Andrae State Park
Selfie Stand at Kohler-Andrae State Park
Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Tourism

The stands are designed with smartphones in mind with platforms ready to hold any size or style of mobile device, allowing visitors to safely snap that coveted group photo in front of one of the park’s most popular views. The custom built signs instruct users how to set their smartphones on a shelf, which swivels from left to right 180 degrees and tilts upward 90 degrees, allowing users to create customizable angles to capture the best image.

The selfie stands are designed to hold smart phones.
The selfie stands are designed to hold smart phones.
Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Tourism

“These selfie stands are a great addition to some of Wisconsin’s most scenic state parks and we are very grateful to the Department of Tourism for providing another amenity for our park visitors,” said Wisconsin State Park System Director Ben Bergey. “Fall is one of the best times of year to visit state parks and we encourage our visitors to take advantage of these stands and share their experiences enjoying Wisconsin’s autumn scenery with friends, family and other fans of the Wisconsin State Park System.”

Selfie stands can be found in the following list, which includes the location and a brief description of the view that will be sure to earn lots of likes. Stands in Wyalusing and Pattison State Parks are wheelchair accessible. Visitors are encouraged to share their photo using #ScenicWisconsin or upload on TravelWisconsin.com. See how visitors are already using the selfie stands here.

  • Amnicon Falls State Park: South Range, Sign Location: Just downstream from the covered bridge and lower falls; Picture View: Covered bridge and lower falls.
  • Big Bay State Park, La Pointe: Sign Location: At the end of the boardwalk leading to the beach; Picture View: Beach and bay area.
  • Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo: Sign Location: North Shore, 100 yards West of the Chateau; Picture View: Devil’s Lake.
  • Governor Dodge State Park, Dodgeville: Sign Location: Enee Point Picnic Area; Picture View: Enee Point rock face; *This will be erected by Sept. 29.
  • High Cliff State Park, Sherwood: Sign Location: At intersection of Red Bird Trail and Lower Cliff Road; Picture View: Cliff rock formation.
  • Interstate State Park, St. Croix Falls: Sign Location: Pothole Trail; Picture View: Dalles of the St. Croix River.
  • Kohler Andrae State Park, Sheboygan: Sign Location: Park at Lot #3, Sanderling Nature Center, Walk North on the cordwalk, Turn left at first “T” intersection, Stand on the Left;Picture View: Beach and dunes.
  • Pattison State Park, Superior: Sign Location: South overlook at Big Manitou Falls; Picture View: Big Manitou Falls.
  • Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek: Sign Location: Eagle Panorama; Picture View: Panorama of Eagle Bluff lookout.
  • Selfie Stand at Peninsula State Park in Door County
    Selfie Stand at Peninsula State Park in Door County
    Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Tourism
  • Wyalusing State Park, Bagley: Sign Location: Henneger Point; Picture View: Mississippi River valley and overlook.

About Travel Wisconsin
Travelers looking for year-round Wisconsin getaway ideas, travel planning, events and free guides can discover their own fun at TravelWisconsin.com, Facebook.com/TravelWisconsin, Twitter.com/TravelWI and Instagram at TravelWisconsin.

About Wisconsin State Parks
Find out more about Wisconsin State Park System by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword “Parks” and “Find a Park” to get a list of parks, forests, trails and recreation areas and their locations.

Trees are getting ready for winter as autumn colors begin

MADISON — September is technically still summer on the astronomical calendar, but the days are getting shorter and cooler. Wisconsin has more than 17 million acres of forested lands and changes in color mean the trees are starting to get ready for winter. Peak fall color varies each year, and 2017 is one of the wettest on record, which could have an impact on color this year.

Early fall color is already showing up in Wisconsin's Northwoods.
Early fall color is already showing up in Wisconsin’s Northwoods.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Fall color viewing helps usher in the change of seasons for Wisconsin residents and visitors every year,” said Colleen Matula, forest silviculturist/ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry. “It is time for our forests – both rural and urban – to show off their colors.”

The first hints of color typically appear in isolated, lower-lying areas by mid-September. Peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October. Central Wisconsin peak color generally occurs during mid-October and in southern Wisconsin during the latter half of October.

Wisconsin’s forests, parks and natural areas are great for fall color viewing. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search “Explore Outdoors” to find a place near you. For the most up-to-date information and an estimated date of peak colors, go to the Fall Color Report on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Travel Wisconsin website and signup for email updates.

Nature’s autumn leaf colors are influenced by three factors: leaf pigments, length of night and weather. The vibrancy of the season depends on the variable weather conditions, like temperature and moisture.

“Shorter days mean the sunlight is less intense, and leaves begin to adjust by producing less chlorophyll, revealing the yellow and orange pigments of the leaves,” Matula said. “Temperature and moisture also affect the color display.”

According to Todd Lanigan, DNR forest health specialist, hardwood trees already showing color in lowland areas are stressed from being in water too long due to the wettest year on record for Wisconsin.

The leaf pigments determine the full range of the color palette. Chlorophyll gives leaves the basic green color and is necessary for photosynthesis. Carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange and brown colors, are always present so trees like aspen and birch have more predictable colors each year. Anthocyanin, which produces red and purple tints, varies with the conditions and makes each autumn unique for other species. Visit this page for more information about fall colors: http://dnr.wi.gov/education/educatorresources/fallColors.html

Whatever the color, or wherever you are in the state, autumn is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Wisconsin’s trees as they usher in the next season.

Travel Wisconsin asks fans to vote for their favorite scenic route in Wisconsin

Half of the drives highlight Wisconsin State Park System properties

MADISON – In anticipation of the arrival of vibrant fall colors across the state, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism is asking fall foliage fans to join the fun and help pick this year’s best fall drive in the state. People can cast a vote for their favorite drive on TravelWisconsin.com through Oct. 2.

The Ultimate Fall Drive Showdown (exit DNR) includes 10 scenic routes throughout the state perfect for viewing fall colors. Half of those drives are either through or adjacent to Wisconsin State Park System properties, including: the Chippewa County Ice Age Drive, that goes around the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area; the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive that goes through the Northern and Southern units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest; the Door County Coastal Byway, which goes by Peninsula, Newport and Whitefish Dunes state parks; the Wisconsin Great River Road National Scenic Byway that passes by Nelson Dewey, Wyalusing, Perrot and Merrick state parks; and Highway 33 from Baraboo to La Crosse, which passes by Devil’s Lake and Wildcat Mountain state parks and the “400” State Trail.

The Travel Wisconsin Ultimate Fall Drive Showdown lets people vote for their favorite fall drive.
The Travel Wisconsin Ultimate Fall Drive Showdown lets people vote for their favorite fall drive.
Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Tourism

The other five drives include the Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway, the Nicolet-Wolf River Scenic Byway; Rustic Road 62 featuring Timm’s Hill in Price County; Cranberry Highway Wisconsin Rapids Area; and Rustic Road 29 featuring Snake Road in Lake Geneva.

“We invite people taking part in the Ultimate Fall Drive Showdown to take time to stop and visit one of our many properties along these scenic tours. Our parks and forests offer many amenities such as picnic areas and restrooms, hiking and biking trails and campgrounds to stop, rest awhile, and take in the fall colors,” said Ben Bergey, director of the Wisconsin State Park System. People can find information about properties by searching the Department of Natural Resources website dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “find a park.”

The best and brightest fall colors throughout the state can be found by visiting Travel Wisconsin’s Fall Color Report (exit DNR). Visitors can use the interactive map to locate peak foliage along with nearby activities, events, places to stay and eat. More than 100 fall color reporters throughout the state provide updates for all 72 counties, making the report the most timely and comprehensive report available.

Fall fanatics can stay on top of the state’s rapidly changing color by: checking the report from their mobile device, tablet or desktop computer; texting “WI Fall” to 468311 to receive Fall Color Report alerts, or sign up to have the Fall Color Report emailed to them every Thursday in time to make weekend plans.