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Outdoor Report for March 14, 2013
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).
More snow - and rain -- has fallen in the last week, and, overall state temperatures are below seasonal averages. Winter is lingering a bit longer and so are many birds, who are biding their time waiting for warmer, sunnier days before heading here.
Conditions are mixed for skiing and snowmobile enthusiasts, but the rain that fell recently closed many snowmobile trails and left ski trails in poor condition in the south. Snowmobile and ski trails in the Northwoods remain fair to good in many areas in the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).
The pheasant and turkey population seems to have made it through the winter in good condition. The birds have been very visible in picked cornfields and along the road sides. Turkeys have been displaying and have been seen in good numbers in Kewaunee, Oconto, Sauk, Shawano and Vernon counties. Leftover spring turkey permits go on sale next Monday, March 18, with each zone having a designated sale date.
Angling success from Ashland to Milwaukee, like the recent weather, has been challenging and inconsistent. The early trout season is moving a little slower than normal with snow and cold carrying on and on into March. Walleyes and saugers are just starting to bite on the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac dam
In Brown County, anglers were open water fishing for perch and walleye at Voyageur Park with jigs tipped with minnows or floating stick baits. Perch fishermen were still numerous south of Long Tail, with many small fish being caught. In Door County's Riley and Sand bays, fishing activity was higher over the weekend than during the week. Whitefish numbers were doing okay, but perch numbers were low. Ice anglers are reminded that fishing shelters must be removed from inland lakes north of Highway 64, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Lake Superior, and Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters by midnight Sunday March 17.
Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties received an inch or more of rain over the weekend. This, coupled with rapid snowmelt, has led to all Lake Michigan tributaries in the area being quite high and muddy. Look for fresh steelhead in the rivers after the water levels recede. Fly fishing and floating spawn sacs under a bobber are both effective methods for catching steelhead in the rivers.
While the deer hunting season might be months away, planning for the 2013 season is underway. DNR wildlife biologists invite anyone interested in discussing the status of the deer herd to attend one of 34 meetings to be held across state between March 18 and March 29. This is the first formal opportunity of the year for hunters and other interested individuals to discuss the current status of the deer herd in their area and ask other deer management questions of DNR wildlife managers.
Those unable to attend a local meeting may still provide their personal input on their preferred deer management unit using an on-line herd status summary and survey, which will be active from March 18 to April 12.
There has been a small sap run in the Green Bay area and nowhere else statewide as a result of the extended winter conditions. Producers are gearing up and many have tapped their trees, but average or below temperatures have delayed significant sap runs. Ideal conditions are highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s. There is extra anticipation and optimism this year after a dismal year in 2012 due to unprecedented warming in March that resulted in 50 percent or more drop in maple syrup production across the state.
Canada geese have reached Lake Superior. Red-winged blackbirds are starting to appear at High Cliff State Park on the northeast shore of Lake Winnebago, an abundance of bald eagles can been seen above the water of Sauk County and large flocks of scaup, mergansers and goldeneyes are present in the inner harbor of Lakeshore State Park.
Statewide Birding Report
Snow cover, cold, and persistent northerly winds continue to stall early spring migration. Birders statewide are getting stir-crazy as they eagerly await their favored migrants, many of which are somewhat behind schedule in returning to the Badger State. Sandhill cranes, song sparrows, robins, killdeer, and red-winged blackbirds have arrived in small numbers, along with the first turkey vultures, winter wrens, and even a tree swallow in Rock County. The expanding trumpeter swan population - another conservation success story - has led to sightings statewide this past week. Tundra swan numbers will build rapidly as water opens in the weeks ahead. Canada geese have reached Lake Superior and a flock of 28 greater white-fronted geese was recently spotted in Dane County. Expect an outstanding diversity of ducks and geese along Lake Michigan, inland lakes and wetlands, and flooded agriculture fields on the heels of any warm weather fronts. These fronts will also bring peak eagle migration over the next two weeks, marking a great time to see golden eagles in the state as they head north to Canadian breeding grounds. Holding on from winter, a few snowy owls remain, as does the infamous great gray owl in Juneau County. Crossbills, redpolls, pine grosbeaks, and other finches continue to visit feeders nearly statewide. Backyard birders should be aware of potential increases in salmonella in these species coinciding with warmer temperatures and melting snow. As always, help us track the migration by reporting your sightings of common and rare birds alike to Wisconsin eBird www.ebird.org/WI (exit DNR). - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Ashland County - Wet weather followed by cold. Ice fishing reports were mixed and a please reminder that ice shacks cannot be left unattended after this weekend. - Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Polk County - Anglers reported slow action in the last week, but some small bluegills were caught. Snowmobile trails in southern Polk County are mostly ice or bare ground.- Shaun Tyznik conservation warden, Amery
Panfishing continues to be slow throughout Polk County the past week or so. Fishing should pick up as the snow melts and the panfish start moving to shallow, weedy bays to prepare for spawning. Traveling on the lake has been very difficult. The snow is still deep and drifted on many local lakes. There is also some water under the frozen crust of the ice. Many vehicles have been getting stuck while attempting to get off plowed roads. County snowmobile trails had been in great condition until the rain this past weekend. Snowmobile trails are still open, but now in fair condition. County snowmobile clubs have been doing a great job keeping the trails groomed a couple of times a week. The local pheasant and turkey population seems to have made it through the winter in good condition. The birds have been very visible in picked cornfields and along the road sides.- Jesse Ashton conservation warden, Luck
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With all the recent snow, ice conditions remain sloppy and access continues to be very difficult. Ice depths have remained in the 18-20 inch range and there is 6-12 inches of snow on top of the ice cover on most waters. The deep snow has resulted in quite a bit of slush on the lakes and this has added to the difficult travel conditions. With the tough travel and the close of the gamefish harvest season on inland waters, fishing pressure has been very light on most waters. There have been a few panfish anglers venturing out and they have had fair success. Some decent catches of crappie, perch and bluegill have been reported, but anglers have had to move around a bit to find the active fish. The perch have been found just off the bottom near the mud flats in 8-12 feet of water, and small minnows on a bare hook have produced the best results. For crappie and bluegill, anglers have been finding them suspended in the deeper water areas, with wax worms, spikes and small minnows getting pretty good results. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Snowmobile, ski, and snowshoe trails are in excellent condition. Ski trails were groomed Tuesday and snowshoeing is great on the trails, but rough going if you get off trail. There are still about 13 inches of snow cover on the ground. Mature bull elks are dropping their antlers. The canine families (fox, wolves, coyotes) are heavy with pups that should be born in early April. The cold nights and hopefully warm days to come should have maple tree tappers busy within the next few weeks. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - All loops are leveled, tracked and in very good condition.- Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Peshtigo River State Forest - Winter is still hanging on in the Peshtigo River State Forest. As ice anglers begin removing ice shanties off the flowages, remember, storing them on state property is prohibited. Trails in the area are open, and are in good condition. Local snowmobile clubs groom and maintain the trails in the state forest. Please check Marinette County's website for up to date conditions and any closings. Ski trails remain in good condition. Trails were groomed Tuesday. The trails will no longer be groomed this season, regardless of weather conditions. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the forest, other than groomed ski trails. - Sara Pearson, Ranger/Assistant Manager
Marinette County - A few steelhead are starting to show up below the dam in Peshtigo with small stick baits and spoons being productive. Ice anglers north of the Peshtigo River mouth found pike fishing to be slow and most people opted to remove permanent shacks. Anglers are still running out of the landing at Little River to catch white fish on the Trout Bar, however after this rain conditions are less than ideal. No fishermen were observed on the Menominee River. - Calhoun Derbush, creel clerk
Oconto County - Some of the snowmobile trails in the southern half of Oconto County are closed due to standing water. Waterfowl continue to display in the open waters of the Oconto River. Some trout fishers are starting to venture out into the river as well. Panfish continue to bite on the Machickanee Flowage, but use caution crossing the river channel. Turkeys have been displaying on the nice sunny days getting ready for the spring mating season. Several Learn to Hunt turkey events are being planned. Check on the DNR website for details. - Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Whitefish were still being caught at the mouth of the Oconto River jigging with minnows. Northern pike fishing from Pensaukee landing to Oconto Park II has been slow with a few nice fish being caught. Large shiners or smelt in the round are what fishermen are using. - Calhoun Derbush, creel clerk
Shawano County - Ice conditions are still good enough to fish panfish, but the landings are quickly deteriorating especially after the recent rain. The north shores are also starting to melt. Anglers are still reporting good numbers of panfish being caught. The snowmobile trails are mostly closed but, colder temps and predictions of snow might mean some extended snowmobiling if the clubs decide to reopen. Turkey hunting is just around the corner and lots of birds can be seen in the local fields and along the roads.- Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Brown County - Rain, wind, and fog made for less than ideal conditions this past weekend. Travel on the ice has become more difficult as the landing start deteriorating. Open water fishing for perch and walleye is the only method of fishing at Voyageur Park with jigs tipped with minnows or floating stick baits being employed. Perch anglers were still numerous south of Long Tail, many small fish being caught. There were fewer fishermen out of Sunset Beach and Geano Beach due in part to conditions at the landings.- Calhoun Derbush - creel clerk
Overall fishing activity was higher toward the end of the week and into the weekend. Weather conditions were favorable with warmer temperatures throughout the week. The weekend rain created slush on the ice. Some anglers reported 6-8 inches of ice. Ice conditions continue to be good with about 20-inches of ice by the lower east shore of the Bay up to about 24-inches of ice toward the shipping canal. More fishermen are moving their shanties off of the ice or closer to shore. The lower east shore of the bay had moderate fishing activity for the week. Fishermen were targeting whitefish and perch. The main baits that were used were wax worms, rosy red minnows, with an occasional Swedish pimple. Fishing depths varied at different locations, but it was anywhere from about 5-feet at Volk's landing to 38-feet out at Rites Cove. Many shanties have been moved from the ice.- Elizabeth Turos, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Manitowoc County - Canada geese have started to pair up and claim nesting territory, seemingly overnight due to the rain and warm temperatures melting the snow and creating open water around wetland complexes with muskrat huts. Robins showed up this week. - Robert Stroess, conservation warden, Mishicot
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Door County - In the shipping canal and Sawyer Harbor area, fishing activity was very low with a few anglers favoring Pot Park. On Little Sturgeon Bay, fishing activity was consistent at some places during the week and even higher over the weekend. Anglers were targeting whitefish and perch. Perch numbers are low and whitefish numbers for the week. Some fishermen were catching their limits of whitefish. The main baits used were wax worms and minnows in about 20-feet of water at Lime Kiln Rd and up to 30-feet at Big Rock Place. Be careful at Lime Kiln Rd. The access point is in rough condition for vehicles. Several trucks were getting stuck, so most fishermen were either using ATVs or snowmobiles. In Riley's Bay and Sand Bay, fishing activity was higher over the weekend than during the week. Fishermen were targeting whitefish and perch. Whitefish numbers were doing okay, but perch numbers were low. The main source of bait was gulps and wax worms from about 20-42 feet in Riley's Bay up to 70-feet of water at Sand Bay. There are still a handful of vehicles out on the ice at Sand Bay, but fishermen are reporting lots of water on the ice and that it is hard to travel by vehicle. - Elizabeth Turos, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Kewaunee County - Kewaunee County residents have had a long snowmobiling season this year, but the county trails closed on Saturday after rain caused trail conditions to quickly deteriorate. Fishing activity has picked up on the southern lakes for panfish and large flocks of turkeys can been seen across the county as fields become exposed with the melting snow.- David Allen, conservation warden, Kewaunee
Potawatomi State Park - Ski trails are still in fairly good condition and more snow is falling today (3/15/2013). Snowmobile trails are closed. Fishermen have been catching perch, walleye and whitefish. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Some anglers participating in the early trout fishing season reported marginal success. The snowmobile trails in the southwest portion of the county are closed (zones 4 and 7). Snowmobilers are advised to check the status of the trails. The golden eagle that has been hanging around the Waupaca area left for Canada.- Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma
Winter hanging on tenaciously. Trails in good shape yet, still 14-16 inches of snow on the level in central Wisconsin. Open water fishing is not yet an option, ice fishing reportedly very slow at this time. Have yet to see anyone out trout fishing yet - weather has been too cold for it.- Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - The ski trails are in poor condition. The trails have deteriorated this past week due to freezing rain and warm temperatures. Portions of the ski trails may be icy and contain bare spots. Please use caution when using the trails. Call 715-258-2372 for updated information as trail conditions can change rapidly. The Deer Path trail, the area north of Hartman Lake, and Hillview Trail system are open for hiking, walking or snowshoeing. - Fred Viste, assistant property manager
Waushara County - The early trout season is moving a little slower than normal with snow and cold carrying on and on into March. There are a few anglers out there that are having a fair amount of success. Snowmobile trails are closed in the county and do not look like they will be opening back up due to large amounts of rain that have flooded a number of areas along the trail. With the recent rains and melt there is a lot of slush and water on top of the ice that makes it difficult to assess the true ice conditions so all fishermen should take extra care when going out late ice fishing. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Waushara
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
High Cliff State Park - The Redwinged blackbirds are starting to appear at High Cliff State Park on the northeast shore of Lake Winnebago. Snowmobile trails are closed for the season and ditches are filling up with slush and icy water. Diehard cross country skiers are finding small stretches of trail to ski "one last time!" Wildlife in the park has started to become very active and numerous tracks of the abundant opossum, raccoons, fox, and skunk are evident in the last of the melting snow. Ice fisherman on Lake Winnebago have their shacks removed and are awaiting for the ice to break up for early spring fishing. - Cynthia R. Mueller, natural resources educator
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Lakeshore State Park - Portions of the western trail are ice covered, slippery and will not be plowed for the rest of the winter. There is insufficient snow for snowshoes, or cross-country skis. Fishing has been generally slow in southeast Lake Michigan. Ice anglers are still fishing on the south end of the lagoon and are having success with brown trout using spawn sacks. Temperatures are rising, and ice conditions are deteriorating. Extreme care should be taken when considering fishing on the ice. Water levels in Lake Michigan have risen slightly from the record low in January, but are still well below normal for this time of year. The grey and red foxes are still regular visitors at the park. Large flocks of scaup, mergansers and goldeneyes are present in the inner harbor. These same species can also be viewed close-up in the open water under the pedestrian bridge. Snowy owls have been spotted in the area. - Thomas Kroeger, parks and recreation specialist, Milwaukee
Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Southeast Wisconsin received an inch or more of rain over the weekend. This, coupled with rapid snowmelt, has led to all Lake Michigan tributaries in the area being quite high and muddy. Look for fresh steelhead in the rivers after the water levels recede. Fly fishing and floating spawn sacs under a bobber are both effective methods for catching steelhead in the rivers. The Root River Steelhead Facility is not yet running for the spring season. We expect to be in operation when the stream flow subsides.
Waukesha DNR Service Center area
Waukesha County - Ice conditions are rapidly worsening on Oconomowoc area lakes. Last weekend's rainfall deposited runoff into area lakes and streams creating extremely hazardous conditions throughout the area. Extreme caution is advised. - Doug Zeihen, conservation warden, Delafield
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - About 2-inches of rain falling on and melting several inches of heavy snow over frozen ground has resulting in flooding conditions on Theresa, Allenton and Jackson Marsh wildlife areas and area rivers (Rock, Cedar Creek, Milwaukee) and tributaries. High water conditions will likely continue for the next several weeks. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
South Central Region
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Much of the snow within the riverway has melted due to the rain we received last weekend. There are now several areas where the bare ground is visible. Skiing and snowshoeing conditions range from poor to moderate depending on where you are on the river way and the amount of snow left on the ground. There have been fishermen fishing below the Prairie Du Sac dam reporting some walleye action. Ice fishing conditions are beginning to deteriorate quickly with all the rain and warm weather. Use caution when venturing on the ice and remember that ice conditions can change quickly depending on where you are.- Matthew Sequin, property manager
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Grant County - The recent warm weather and rain definitely impacted outdoor activities. All the local rivers and streams flooded including the local trout streams for early catch and release trout fishing. The Grant and Platte overflowed their banks and the resulting influx of water to the Mississippi raised levels considerably and opened the main channel areas to flow. The ice on many of the backwater areas such as O'Leary Lake below lock and Dam #11 near Dubuque rose and opened near the shorelines and weakened the ice even further. Ice conditions are poor in many areas. Early season sauger and walleye fishing will be delayed for some time until the water and debris passes. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Jefferson County - County snowmobile trails are closed. Ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating on all county lakes and rivers. If venturing out onto the ice don't do so alone. Let someone where you are going, how long you will be gone and take a cell phone in case of emergencies.- Ryan Ellifson, conservation warden, Jefferson County
Sauk County - Walleyes and saugers are just starting to bite on the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac dam. If anglers go to this area remember that the water temperature is very cold and their fishing presentation needs to be slow. Anglers going out early to open water fishing need to remember to check over their boats for safety and other equipment. Please keep in mind that we all need to do our part on cleaning boats and trailers so invasive species are not spread throughout the state.- John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac
Many bald eagles have been sighted in the area. The eagles have been seen sitting on their nests. Area nests in the Reedsburg area include one near Club 33 along Highway 23 and the 400 State Trail west of Highway V on the Baraboo River. Wild turkeys are being seen in large flocks in the area fields as well as deer in the evenings. The snowmobile trails in Sauk County are closed due to the recent rains. Area creeks and stream are up in flow with the recent rains and snow melt this past weekend. Fishing has remained slow across Lake Redstone and Dutch Hollow Lake. - David Horzewski, conservation warden, Reedsburg
West Central Region
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Willow River State Park - Ski trails and the skate deck were groomed Wednesday. It will not be the greatest skiing ever, but it was a big improvement. The worn classic track is still there and has fresh snow in it. The volunteer doing the grooming reported no bare spots. With a thaw coming, it will not be long until the ruts and lumps condition occurs again. Expectations are that there will be skiing through the weekend and that there will not be any more grooming. Ski season is on borrowed time at this point. Off trail snow shoeing is probably the best bet. It is okay to cross a ski trail but not to walk along the trail. Early season trout anglers are reminded that the Trout Brook Trail is still used only a ski trail and not open to any other use. Hike off trail to reach the river below the dam. Everything above Willow Falls is still in ice. The river level is excellent right now but it is running cold. Trail hiking options are available at the 200 campground, the east River Road lot, the Willow Falls lot, and the Mound lot. There is a small trail behind the Nature Center open to hiking with no pets. Campground roads are not plowed. There will not be vehicle access to camping until mid- April in the 300 loop and mid-May in the 100 and 200 loops. The 300 campground road is a ski trail so that is the only way to see those campsites now. The trail to the Group Camp is also a ski trail. The others will require a hike through knee deep snow to see them now. - Jeffrey L. Bolte, visitor services associate
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - With measurable snow remaining on the landscape and in the forecast, keep your eyes open for signs of otters along creeks and streams. Bounding otters often slide on their bellies leaving a distinctive long, narrow depression in the snow referred to as a slide. Otter sign may be more evident this time of year as male otters increase movements during the March-April breeding season. A few male wild turkeys have been seen strutting and displaying. While these behaviors are signs of the impending breeding season, there is still a ways to go before breeding actually begins. Fox and gray squirrels have taken advantage of warming weather and lengthening days by feeding furiously on acorns that have remained buried all winter under the snow. Deer and wild turkeys are also feeding on acorns as the snow gradually recedes.- Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Wildcat Mountain State Park - Cross country skiing: Trails have been in fair condition, but with the expectation of rain and sleet they will deteriorate to poor condition on Friday. Hikers, snowshoers, and dogs are not allowed on groomed ski trails. All hiking trails are open, with some extremely icy patches beneath the fresh snow.
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Winter continues to hang on. The forecast is for colder than normal temperatures through the middle of next week. We initially thought ski trail grooming was over for the year but after inspecting the trails we were able to groom a portion of them. All trails on the Smrekar side and the Red Oak on the Wildcat side were groomed yesterday. Conditions are fair to good. There is some debris on some areas of the trail thanks to the heavy snowfall of Sunday night. The Black River area received quite a bit of rain this past weekend, followed by 3-4 inches of very wet, heavy snow. The heavy rain caused flooding on the trails. They are closed for the season and will reopen on May 15 for ATV and UTV use. Jackson County Forestry and Parks Department grooms and maintains all winter snowmobile and ATV trails in the state forest. Please check their websites for up to date trail conditions. As a reminder, UTVs are not allowed on the trails in winter. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the forest, other than groomed trails. A new 1.5-mile snowshoe trail is available at the Smrekar trailhead. Additional trails for snowshoeing include the two mile Castle Mound trail and the five mile trail from Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road. - Peter Bakken, superintendent
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Dunn County - Northern Dunn County is still getting snow, and the snowmobile trails are still open, although the trails are poor near stop signs and roadways. On Lake Tainter, fishing is slow with few fishermen observed, ice conditions are starting to deteriorate near the boat landings. On the Red Cedar and Hay rivers the ice chunks have disappeared, and several diver ducks have been observed. With the new snow coyote hunters using hounds have had extra days to hunt coyotes.- James Cleven, conservation warden, Menomonie
Eau Claire County -The Eau Claire area got almost a foot of snow this week. The snowmobile trails are still open and in pretty good shape. The local cross country ski trails have been groomed and are in fair to good condition. The snow has turkeys flocked up in farm country. They are concentrated in areas with manure spreading. Usually by now it seems the flocks are breaking up. Ice fishing has slowed down because it is hard to get around on the ice. Rain and warm weather softened things up before the big snow making vehicle travel difficult on the ice.- Ken Tomson, conservation warden, Fall Creek
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - People have still been ice fishing on the lake. The power company has started the Castle Rock Lake drawdown and should be completed by the weekend. Park staff does not monitor ice conditions. Ski trails are in poor condition from the rain and are starting to melt. The transition from winter to spring is a great time to take photos for the 20th annual photo contest. We are looking for a camp host for the month of July and for the first two weeks of October. Hunting maps for the spring season are available online and will be in the map box in the office lot.- Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and campground are closed. The stairway is open from 6 a.m. until sunset and is not maintained for winter use. The transition from winter to spring is a great time to take photos for the 20th annual photo contest. Visitors have been snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the park. We are not grooming trails at this time. Hunting maps for the spring season are available online and will be in the map box in the winter lot. - Heather Wolf, park manager