MADISON - The first weekend in June offers ample opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors in Wisconsin as the state celebrates "free fun weekend." Admission stickers are waived for Wisconsin's state parks and forests, trail passes are waived for state bicycle and all-terrain vehicle trails and no fishing licenses are needed to fish state waters. People who camp at state parks still need to pay for their campsites.
June 6 is also National Trails Day and Wisconsin is celebrating 50 years of rail trails, with a celebration of 50th anniversary of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the first trail established on an abandoned railroad corridors in the nation. The celebration takes place at 2 p.m. at the historic Kendall depot, with a number of bicycle rides and tunnel tours preceding the event.
Many other trails are also celebrating with organized hikes, rides or events. People can enjoy free access to state-owned and operated trails that normally require a trail pass for those 16 or older who want to bike, in-line skate or horseback ride. Find trails by searching the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Find a Park" and find events by searching for "Get Outdoors," and then select the calendar search function for June 6-7.
Many properties and their friends groups are offering special programming during Free Fun Weekend. Some properties are taking advantage of free fishing weekend by offering fishing clinics, including Governor Dodge, Harrington Beach, Hartman Creek and Merrick state parks and Richard Bong State Recreation Area, and a learn to fly fish program is being offered at the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
A few state fish hatcheries also open their doors with special open house festivities on June 6. The Les Voigt State Fish Hatchery in Bayfield will host an open house and kids fishing event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the Brule State Fish Hatchery will host a family fun day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
But people can fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp on Free Fishing Weekend. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species.
If you don't own fishing gear but would like to give it a try, equipment is available through tackle loaner programs at many state parks and DNR offices. Contact a tackle loaner site to find out what's available at a location convenient to you. Additional free fishing activities taking place around the state can also be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "free fishing weekend."
Wisconsin law requires those who use Wisconsin ATV or UTV trails to display either Wisconsin registration or a nonresident trail pass, but on Free Fun Weekend, ATV/UTV owners do not need to have their machines registered in Wisconsin and nonresidents do not need to have a trail pass.
To learn more about what's in store this year, join DNR experts for an online chat about the 4-Pack of Fun Weekend. The chat is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2 at noon. To participate, visit the DNR home page, dnr.wi.gov, and click on the graphic or search the phrase "ask the experts." You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at facebook.com/WIDNR and clicking the "Ask the Experts Chat" tab at the top of the page.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: on park, forest and trail activities contact Paul Holtan at 608-267-7517; for free fishing activities contact Theresa Stabo at 608-266-2272