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Get Outdoors!
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Read and Explore in Wisconsin State Parks
Contact information
For more information about the
Get Outdoors! program, contact:
Beth Mittermaier
414-527-0232

Wisconsin State Park System Read and explore in Wisconsin State Parks

After playing outdoors, a good nature book is a great way to end the day! This list of books is filled with poetry, fiction and science. Read about animals, trees, stars, snowflakes and more. Visit the state parks listed to find the books or check them out anytime from a library. After a good night’s rest, you will be ready to explore again tomorrow!

Read and explore book list

See all the books and parks:

Winter Read and Explore Books State Parks
Read and Explore Book

The Bald Eagle
By Debbie Yanuck

In this American Symbols book, you will find out how the bald eagle was chosen to be our national bird in 1782. The book will encourage you to look for our nation's symbol on flags, money, seals and stamps. But don't forget to also look for our national bird when you are fishing, camping and playing outdoors!

Council Grounds State Park

From the tall pine trees to the sunny beach, you will find plenty to do at Council Grounds State Park. The fishing is good on Lake Alexander from a rented canoe or from one of the accessible fishing stations along the shore. Just be aware that people might not be the only ones fishing—herons, mergansers, osprey and bald eagles fish here, too!

Read and Explore Book

Big Tracks, Little Tracks
By Millicent Selsam

Have you ever seen tracks in the snow or mud and wondered which animal made them?  This book will help you learn to “read” the stories left by their footprints and other clues. Does a cat use his claws when he walks? How does a rabbit run? What does a skunk smell like? Find out the answers in this nature discovery book.

Hartman Creek State Park

This 1,500-acre quiet and friendly natural gem is located near the beautiful spring-fed Chain O'Lakes. In winter, 6 miles of trail are available for cross-country skiing and 3.5 miles of trails are available for snowshoeing or hike off the trails to explore other areas of the park.

The park is home to a variety of animals including white-tailed deer, raccoons, cottontail rabbits, red foxes, coyotes and mink. Hartman Creek is also an excellent place to see many kinds of birds like black-capped chickadees, cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers. What tracks will you see at Hartman Creek?

Read and Explore Book

Birds
By Kevin Henkes

If you are just learning to read, this book might become your favorite book about birds. It will help you think about the different colors, shapes and sizes of birds and to imagine some of the things that they can do.

Richard Bong State Recreation Area

The rolling grasslands, savannahs, wetlands and scattered woodlands at this recreation area are great places to look for birds and other wildlife. During the winter, you might see short-eared owls, snowy owls, great-horned owls, snow buntings and northern harriers. Be sure to return in the spring when bobolinks, meadowlarks, yellow-headed blackbirds and many other birds return to the area. While you are there, you can also hike, mountain bike, ski, ride horses, snowshoe, camp, canoe and fish—just keep watching for those birds! 

Read and Explore Book

Cloud Dance
By Thomas Locker

Have you ever wondered about the clouds that roam the skies? Cloud Dance takes you on a journey up to the sky, through thick cumulous clouds that bring snow, wispy cirrus clouds that flutter in the wind and wide stratus clouds that blanket the sky. Basic scientific information sheds light on the altitude, shape and color of clouds and Thomas Locker's luminous paintings create an inspiring look at clouds through every season of the year.

Blue Mound State Park

Perched atop the highest point in southern Wisconsin, Blue Mound State Park offers spectacular views and a great place to watch the clouds blow by in all seasons. Or, explore the park's many habitats on over 20 miles of scenic hiking, off-road biking and cross-country ski trails.  During the summer, you can even take a dip in Blue Mound's swimming pool!

Read and Explore Book

In the Snow: Who's Been Here?
By Lindsay Barrett George

As two children head off to go sledding, they find tracks and signs of wildlife in the snow. Will you be able to guess the identities of the mammals and birds who left the signs before you turn the pages? After reading this book, strap on a pair of snowshoes and head out on the Mammoth Nature Trail at Chippewa Moraine. How many wildlife signs can you find along the trail?

Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area

Chippewa Moraine is the place to be in the winter. Bring your binoculars and field guides! With 23 miles of trails for hiking and snowshoeing, you will want to be ready to see cardinals, red-headed woodpeckers, deer, porcupines and many other animals. Return in the summer to go fishing or boating on one of the lakes. The nature center is open all year in case you need help figuring out the wildlife signs that you find.

Read and Explore Book

Night Tree
By Eve Bunting

Every December 24th, the family in this story travels to a certain evergreen tree in a nearby forest. They unpack apples, tangerines, popcorn chains and sunflower seed balls to decorate their tree with food for the animals. Cardinals, deer, mice and many others come to visit the tree and eat the treats. You still have plenty of time to find a special tree and put out a few treats for your wild neighbors before the end of December!

Copper Falls State Park

Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls are as spectacular in the winter as they are in the summer. As you hike, ski or snowshoe through the park, look for the hemlock, red pine, white pine, and cedar trees that provide winter shelter for many animals. If you look closely, you might see the tracks of deer, fishers, porcupines, wolves and many other mammals. When spring and summer come, head back to the park to canoe, picnic, fish and swim. Whatever you do, keep an eye out for wild neighbors in the park.

Read and Explore Book

Owl Moon
By Jane Yolen

In this Caldecott classic, a young girl and her father head out on a winter night to talk to the owls. As you read the story and look at the illustrations, you can imagine walking through the shadows of woods and the brightness of clearings under the full moon. Next time there is a full moon, you should find a brave grown-up and head off on your own adventure in the night.

Willow River State Park

Daytime or nighttime, full moon or no moon, Willow River State Park is a great place to have an adventure. All winter long, you can camp, ski, snowshoe, ice fish and hike. If you're not ready for the quiet beauty of winter camping, visit the park in the warm season when you can fish and canoe on the lake or swim and picnic on the beach. Whenever you are there, be sure to spend time enjoying nature and the outstanding beauty of the prairies, forests, lakes and river.

Read and Explore Book

The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound
By Sallie Wolf

This book looks like a journal with sketches, taped-in notes, poems and watercolors. The author shares a whole year of bird observations and questions. After reading the book, you might be inspired to pick up a pen and blank notebook and start your own nature journal. 

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit

If you are looking for something to write about, visit Kettle Moraine State Forest. A quick hike to one of the historic cabins will surely inspire poetry or prose. Along the way, you’ll find prairies, springs, hills and valleys full of birds to sketch. And, if you need to get rid of some extra energy, try exploring the forest by bike, canoe or horseback before you sit down with your paper and pencil.

Read and Explore Book

Snowflake Bentley
By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Wilson Bentley grew up on a farm in Vermont. He loved nature and he loved to share his nature discoveries with his family and friends. When his parents buy him a camera, he spends days and winters trying to take pictures of snow crystals. You will be amazed at how patiently he waits for the perfect snowstorms and the perfect photographs. This book might help you to think about what part of nature you love the most and how you can share it with your friends and family.

Havenwoods State Forest

This urban green (or white!) space is the perfect place to share nature in the city. You and your family can explore the grasslands, woods and wetlands during all seasons. When there is sufficient snow cover, you can borrow snowshoes to use in the forest. You can also borrow binoculars, GPS units and other exploring tools so that you can find out more about your favorite parts of nature.

Read and Explore Book

Under the Snow
By Melissa Stewart

When snow falls, we love to sled and skate and have snowball fights. But at the end of the day, we go home where it is warm and safe. What about all those animals in the forests and fields? What do they do when snow blankets the ground?

Journey from your neighborhood to the woods, where ladybugs crowd together in a gap in the stone wall and a chipmunk snoozes in his burrow.  Take a side trip to the pond, where a fish rests quietly on the bottom and a green frog nestles in the mud, scarcely breathing.

Interstate Park

What better place to read about life under the snow than Interstate! During the last Ice Age, this park was buried under glacial ice and snow. Today, you can see sheer rock walls that rise 200 feet above the St. Croix River, carved by the melting water from those huge glaciers. Look for potholes in the rocks; these very unique rock features formed when sand and rocks swirled in whirlpools and drilled into the bedrock.

At the park’s Ice Age Center, view exhibits and a movie to learn about the frozen history of Wisconsin and the gifts of the glaciers.  Or follow a 2-mile snowshoe trail to discover parts of the park not easily accessible other times of the year.

Read and Explore Book

The Voyageur's Paddle
By Kathy-Jo Wargin

Voyageur is the French word for "traveler," but in the Great Lakes region during the seventeenth century it described the men who made their living trading furs and other goods along water routes. Young Jacques's father is a voyageur. He works long hours in bitterly cold weather, gone for weeks at a time. As he awaits his father's return from a season of trading, Jacques dreams of the day he will hold the canoe paddle and join the ranks of voyageurs.

Wyalusing State Park

From the steep bluffs at Wyalusing State Park, you can look down 500 feet to where the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers come together.  In the 1600s, these rivers were travelled by French voyageurs who came to the area to trade with the Native Americans.

In addition to spectacular views, Wyalusing State Park offers trails for cross-country skiing, winter hiking and snowshoeing. You can even see frozen waterfalls! In the summer, try the guided canoe trail and travel the waters where Voyageurs once paddled.

Read and Explore Book

Winter Eyes
By Douglas Florian

Whether you like winter or not, you will enjoy the short, fun-to-read poems in this book. The author invites you to get outdoors and sled, ice fish, build snowmen and ice skate. Then he encourages you to escape inside for some hot pancakes and cocoa. A trip to Wildcat Mountain to do some winter camping and skiing would also go well with that hot cocoa!

Wildcat Mountain State Park

Wildcat Mountain has something for all the senses in all the seasons. In winter, your nose can take in the smell of tall pine and hemlock trees. In spring, your ears will pick up the sounds of migrating birds. In summer, your fingers will enjoy gently touching the fronds of walking ferns. And, in fall, your eyes will enjoy the picturesque Kickapoo River. Whether you are exploring Wildcat Mountain from the back of a horse or the hull of a canoe, remember to use all your senses to take in the beauty.

Read and Explore Book

Winter Trees
By Carole Gerber

Trees take on a different look when winter comes. As the book says, “They stand distinct as skeletons. We clearly see the form of each: the egg shape of the maple tree; the taller oval of the beech . . .” Take time while you are the park to look at the shapes of the trees, the colors of the bark and the patterns of the branches.

Copper Culture State Park

This park contains a burial ground used by the Copper Culture People thousands of years ago. They left behind copper awls, fishhooks and spear-points. The burial grounds were discovered by a 13-year-old boy in 1952 and now the park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After you visit the burial grounds in this quiet park, you can read a book that encourages you to look more closely at nature.

Spring Read and Explore Books State Parks
Read and Explore Book

Are You a Ladybug?
By Judy Allen

You might be a ladybug if you have lots of brothers and sisters, eat aphids for every meal and wear spots on your wings! After you read this book, you will know all about ladybugs. It might take a while, but you should be able to find ladybug eggs, larvae and adults at Big Foot Beach State Park.

Big Foot Beach State Park

This family-friendly park sits on the shores of Lake Geneva. The sandy beach, wooded campsites and picnic areas invite you to stay and play...or fish...or hike...or swim. You will not be alone! Visit the butterfly garden, prairies and woods to find all kinds of insects. If you are lucky, you will be there when the ladybugs emerge from hibernation in spring. Look closely along the beach for large groups of ladybugs!

Read and Explore Book

At Grampa's Sugar Bush
By Margaret Carney

This book tells the story of a young boy and his grandfather enjoying their annual rite of making maple syrup on grandfather's farm in Canada. They drill the holes in the trees, gather the sap in buckets and cook it over an open fireplace. They enjoy tasting the sap, smelling its sweetness in the air as it cooks and, finally, pouring the tasty syrup on grandma's pancakes.

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit

The Kettle Moraine Northern Unit is comprised of about 30,000 acres stretching 30 miles across Sheboygan, Fond du Lac and Washington counties. The forest is home to hundreds of species of trees, other plants, and wildlife.  It includes 12 state natural areas. For a tree-top view of the landscape, climb the 60-foot observation tower or hike the easy, 0.75-mile Moraine Nature Trail that begins at the Ice Age Visitor Center.  A booklet linked to the numbered posts along the trail identifies common trees of the Kettle Moraine. Can you find maple trees? People gather maple sap for making maple syrup.

Read and Explore Book

City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male
By Meghan McCarthy

The main character in this story, Pale Male, lives in New York's Central Park. While many people hurry by and never notice the unusually pale red-tailed hawk, others spend their days watching him and his mate raise a family. This book will encourage you to look for wildlife wherever you live or visit! What is the most unusual animal that you have seen in the city?

Lakeshore State Park

This small park is surrounded by water. From the park, visitors can look east to watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan and west to see downtown Milwaukee, Summerfest and Discovery World. The shoreline and open water often harbor waterbirds, while prairie areas of the park provide a refuge for several grassland bird species. Take your binoculars when you go so you can scan the water and the nearby buildings for birds in the city.

Read and Explore Book

Earthdance
By Joanne Ryder

Celebrate Earth Day every day by reading this book in the great outdoors! You will have to read it two times. The first time, read it and look at the great pictures. The second time, have someone read it to you as you pretend to be the earth dancing in space, spinning around, changing the seasons and carrying all the animals and plants along with you.

Governor Nelson State Park

On the shores of Lake Mendota, this park offers everyone a little bit of everything every day of the year. You can explore prairies, beaches, marshes and woods. All facilities are accessible including a barrier-free playground, an accessible fishing pier and two viewing platforms. On most days, you can see the state capitol where Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, once served as governor of Wisconsin. Visit the park on Earth Day—or any day—and celebrate nature!

Read and Explore Book

Fawn at Woodland Way
By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

If you like reading about the everyday lives of animals, you will like the books in the Smithsonian's Backyard series. This book follows a mother deer and her fawn as they look for food, wade in a pond, watch for danger and munch on a lilac bush in someone's backyard. After reading this book, you will probably want to go for another walk so that you can hear a deer snort or stomp its foot on the ground.

Kinnickinnic State Park

If it is too cool to swim, waterski and sunbathe along the St. Croix River, head into the Kinnickinnic River valley. You will be surrounded by tall pine trees and limestone cliffs. Remember to take your binoculars. This valley is a great place to see birds and mammals in the park. Plan to hike early in the morning or at dusk to increase your chances of seeing wildlife, including deer.

Read and Explore Book

Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush
By Lynne Cherry

In this story, Flute hatches out of a little turquoise egg, learns to fly, eats berries and insects, flies to Costa Rica for the winter and returns to start a family of his own. You will be amazed at all the hazards that a small songbird faces as it simply tries to survive. Birds like wood thrushes depend on places like state parks to find food and shelter. If you see nesting birds on your hikes, watch them from a distance. As you will see in this story, birds have enough problems without having to worry about noisy people!

Lake Wissota State Park

The 1,062 acres of land and 6,300-acre lake at Lake Wissota State Park provide lots of opportunities for you to camp, hike, fish and swim. The young mixed hardwood forests, pine forests, prairies, marshes and open water also provide lots of habitat for birds, mammals and other wildlife to live and raise their young. Birders have seen over 200 species of birds at Lake Wissota. You can pick up a bird species list from the park office and check off the ones you see.

Read and Explore Book

Paddle to the Sea
By Holling Clancy Holling

If you’ve ever wished for an adventure of your own, you will enjoy reading or listening to this book. A young Indian boy carves a small canoe and sends it off to “paddle” to the great salt sea. The little canoe heads down streams, around the Great Lakes and finally splashes into the Atlantic Ocean. To reach its destination, the little canoe needs help from wind, waves and people.

 

Kohler-Andrae State Park

Two parks have come together at Kohler-Andrae State Park to make a great place to explore sand and water, forest and marsh and animals and plants. Here you will find cordwalks across the dunes, nature trails, picnic areas and campgrounds. And, with almost two miles of sandy beaches along Lake Michigan, Kohler-Andrae is a great place to read a book—or two.

Read and Explore Book

Poetrees
By Douglas Florian

You really should read this book in the shade of a tree! Get ready to open it vertically so that you can enjoy the tall trees painted inside. You will read poems about seeds, leaves, roots and unusual trees from all over the world. After you read the book, take a hike on Basswood Nature Trail, Great Oak Trail or Walnut Trail at New Glarus Woods State Park.

New Glarus Woods State Park

What is now peaceful New Glarus Woods State Park, with its winding trails and restored prairies, was once considered a deep, dark forest, filled with tall trees and wild animals. If you visit the park's hilly terrain, you can see remnants of this forest. Some of these trees are over 250 years old! Trees aren't the only old things in this park. Some of the park's trails and roads were used by Paleo-Indians, early European explorers and Swiss colonists. As you walk well-used paths next to old trees, you might be inspired to write your own poetree!

Read and Explore Book

Snakes are Hunters
By Patricia Lauber

In this Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science book, you will discover how snakes are alike and how they are different. You will find out how snakes find their food and how they can swallow prey bigger than their heads. When you read about how snakes warm up and cool down, you will probably want to take a hike around the park looking for snakes basking in the sun on a cool day.

Natural Bridge State Park

To see the largest natural arch in Wisconsin, you will need to visit Natural Bridge State Park. The opening of the sandstone arch is 25 feet high and 35 feet wide. Near the arch is a rock shelter that people first used 11,000 years ago! The park's 530 acres of oak woods, open fields and prairie patches are great places to look for wildflowers, birds, mammals and snakes. The park is located in Sauk County and this area is definitely snake country. Thirteen of Wisconsin's 19 species of snakes are found here.

Read and Explore Book

What in the Wild?
By David Schwartz & Yael Schy

What better place to read about the revealing of nature's mysteries than Mirror Lake State Park! This book invites you to become a nature detective. First, you read the poem and try to solve the mystery. Then you open the page flap to reveal the answer and more information about the animal. This book will definitely inspire you to search for your own nature mysteries to solve.

Mirror Lake State Park

Mirror Lake is a calm lake that reflects the surrounding woods and cliffs. You can canoe, hike, swim, camp, fish, picnic and play at this 2,200-acre park. That's a lot of space for people and wildlife. The sandy prairies, pine/oak woods and lake are home to deer, red foxes, sandhill cranes and many other wild animals. Those animals leave behind tracks and traces everywhere they go. Spend some time in nature around Mirror Lake and you will find mysteries waiting to be revealed.

Read and Explore Book

A Wood Frog's Life
By John Himmelman

If you like amphibians, you will enjoy following a wood frog's life from an egg in a shallow pool−to a tadpole−to an adult frog. After reading this story, you will want to hike along a woodland path searching for wood frogs and other wildlife. Observe them with care and then let them continue on their way.

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Pike Lake Unit

At Pike Lake, you can follow the Ice Age Trail to Powder Hill trail and climb to the top of a glacial kame to see the view from the lookout tower. When it is warm, you can swim and canoe and bike. When it is snowy, you can ski and snowshoe and ice fish. But if you come in very early spring, you will want to hike out to the woodland ponds and listen for the calls of wood frogs!

Read and Explore Book

Zipping, Zapping, Zooming Bats
By Ann Earle

While you are waiting for the bats to return to Yellowstone, sit down and read this book from the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science series. You'll find out how baby bats are born, how bats catch insects with their tails and why bats are an important part of nature. You might even be inspired to follow the directions at the end of the book and build your own bat house!

Yellowstone Lake State Park

If you like bats and hate mosquitoes, you will love Yellowstone Lake State Park! Every summer, more than 4,000 little brown bats live in bat houses throughout the park. You can join other campers who gather around the houses in the evening to watch the bats zip, zap and zoom through the sky. When you are not watching bats, there is plenty of room for fishing, boating and swimming in the 455-acre lake. If you prefer land, there are miles of trails to hike, bike, ski and snowmobile in the 1000-arce park.

Read and Explore Book

Zoo in the Sky
By Jacqueline Mitton

Take an illuminating ride through the starry night sky with National Geographic's Zoo in the Sky! Little Bear and the Great Bear in the Northern Sky; the scaly dragon winding his long tail; the Great Dog chasing the Hare in the Southern Sky; all are beautifully rendered in Christina Balit's vibrant art, studded with shiny stars, which perfectly illustrates Jacqueline Mitton's rich text.

Peninsula State Park

Considered Wisconsin's most complete park, Peninsula offers camping, a summer theater, an 18-hole golf course, sand beach, bike trails, a lighthouse and eight miles of Door County shoreline. The rollicking waves that skip towards Peninsula's sky high bluffs are part of the Niagara Escarpment. Peninsula is known for spectacular sunsets. After the sun goes down, see what constellations you can find illuminating the night sky.

Summer Read and Explore Books State Parks
Read and Explore Book

Are You a Dragonfly?
By Judy Allen

Lake Michigan shorelines are great places to read about and watch dragonflies. This book will have you imagining that you can breathe water through your tail, split right out of your skin and catch dinner with your front legs. In the end, it will be up to you to decide... are you a dragonfly?

Point Beach State Forest

With six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, three state natural areas, 17 miles of hiking trails and a very tall lighthouse, Point Beach State Forest is a great place to get outdoors and discover yourself. Could you be a dragonfly zooming over the water? Or are you a kid lying on a sandy beach, biking the Rawley Point Bicycle Trail,  and hiking on the Ice Age Trail? Whatever you decide, keep your eyes to the sky for dragonflies!

Read and Explore Book

Around the Pond: Who's Been Here?
By Lindsay Barrett George

In this story, two children head off to find blueberries for a pie. Instead, they find all sorts of tracks and signs that wild animals have left behind. Can you help them solve the mysteries before you turn the pages? After you read the book, find your favorite grown-up and take a walk around one of Newport's bays or lakes. Will you be able to find and solve some mysteries of your own?

Newport State Park

Plan to visit Wisconsin's only wilderness park this summer! With 2,373 acres of land, 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, over 38 miles of trails and 16 backpack campsites, Newport State Park is a place where you can get away from the Door County crowds. In addition, Europe's Lake and Rowleys Bay should provide you with great places to do some exploring.

Read and Explore Book

Dark Emperor & other Poems of the Night
By Joyce Sidman

This book is full of poems about nocturnal things like owls, bats, moths, mushrooms and even a baby porcupette. Each page includes a fascinating illustration and information about the night. After reading the story, you will probably need to go on a night hike! How many nighttime things will you see or hear?

Perrot State Park

During the day, you can explore 1,270 acres of goat prairies, deep valleys, steep wooded slopes and wetlands. You can rent a canoe and paddle around Trempealeau Bay. You can ride your bike on the Great River State Trail. And, if you still have any energy left, you can climb to the top of Brady's Bluff for a spectacular view. But when night comes, you should find a place to relax and read a good book.

Read and Explore Book

Fireflies at Midnight
By Marilyn Singer

You can start reading this book of poems when the first robin sings at dawn. Every few hours, a new animal tells its story in verse. In early morning, you can read “Crayfish.” Mid-afternoon brings “Monarch Butterfly.” And, at midnight, you can finally read “Firefly.” The author left plenty of times during the day open for you to write your own verse! Which animal will you write about in the late morning or just after dark?

Mill Bluff State Park

What a great place to spend a whole day! In the morning, you can hike the 233 stone steps to the top of Mill Bluff and enjoy a picnic lunch. Then, off to the beach to swim while it's hot!In the late afternoon, you and your family can head over to the Omaha Bike Trail. After a late supper, you can pitch a tent, relax and wait for the fireflies.

Read and Explore Book

Growing Patterns
By Sarah Campbell

After you read this book, you will never look at a flower or pinecone quite the same again. The book will help you see patterns in the numbers of petals, the arrangements of scales and the spirals in seed heads. How many patterns can you find on a hike through the park?

Roche-a-Cri State Park

This park's main feature is a 300-foot-high rock outcropping with Native American petroglyphs and pictographs. By using the accessible ramp and observation deck, everyone can see this amazing rock art,featuring stylized birds, bird tracks and a thunderbird. People drew some of those patterns 1000 years ago! But those aren't the only patterns in the park. If you hike through the forests and prairies, you can also find patterns that nature has made.

Read and Explore Book

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
By Paul Fleischman

After a full day of exploring Rock Island, find a partner and sit down by the campfire to recreate the joyful sounds of insects. The author wrote these poems for you to read aloud—sometimes in unison, sometimes alternating back and forth. As you read, you will hear your voices expressing the flickering light of fireflies or dizzying spin of whirligigs. Listen to the sounds of the park. Maybe you will want to write your own poem for two voices.

Rock Island State Park

This park is a quiet place. No cars. No bikes. You can hear the waves, boats on Lake Michigan, swimmers at the beach, campers in the campground, the tour guide at the historic lighthouse, hikers and picnickers. If you listen closely, you will probably also be able to hear birds singing and insects calling.

Read and Explore Book

The Legend of Sleeping Bear
By Kathy-Jo Wargin

People write legends to help them explain or understand history. This legend explains how Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was formed. Find a warm spot on the sand at Whitefish Dunes State Park to read this legend about a mother bear and her two cubs. In the story, they must escape a forest fire by leaving Wisconsin and swimming across Lake Michigan. When you are finished with the book, look around at the sand in the park. What shapes and stories do you see in the dunes found here?

Whitefish Dunes State Park

This Door County park features the highest sand dunes on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Here you can stroll along Lake Michigan, watch waterfowl at Clark Lake, use the boardwalk to discover the wetlands or relax on one of the many trails throughout the forested sand dunes and beech forest. This day-use park is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. That allows plenty of time to explore,  build a sand castle and read a story!

Read and Explore Book

Look Out for Turtles!
By Melvin Berger

If you are curious about turtles, you'll like reading this Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science book. You'll learn which turtles can move fast, how turtles eat with no teeth and why turtles might be in trouble.

Merrick State Park

This park is located on the backwaters of the Mississippi River. It is a great place to fish and canoe. If you don't have a canoe, you can rent one. Don't miss the self-guided canoe trail! Whether you explore the marshy backwaters by boat or on foot, watch for egrets, herons, muskrats, otters and, of course, turtles!

Read and Explore Book

Muskrat Will Be Swimming
By Cheryl Savageau

The girl in this story, Jeannie, loves living down by the lakeshore until her classmates start to call her a Lake Rat. Her Native American grandfather reminds her of the important role the muskrat plays in legends and encourages her to remember that she is part of the lake and that the lake is part of her. After you read the story, you might want to take your favorite grown-up down to the lake so you can swim like a muskrat.

Lake Kegonsa State Park

Lake Kegonsa got its name from the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Indians. It means “Lake of Many Fishes.” Today, the lake is still a great place to see and catch fish. When you head to Lake Kegonsa to camp, swim or hike, be sure to take your binoculars. This is also a great place to watch for wildlife like red foxes, deer, turtles, frogs and muskrats.

Read and Explore Book

Once There Was a Tree
By Natalia Romanova

As soon as you open this book, you will know it is different. It was first printed in Russia. The story is about what happens when lightning strikes an old tree and a man cuts it down. A progression of animals come to use the old stump, but the author wants the reader to think about who owns it. If you sat down on a stump to read this book, this would be a good time to see who might be sharing it with you!

Rocky Arbor State Park

Rocky Arbor's sandstone bluffs and tall pine trees muffle sounds and offer quiet shelter. It is easy to forget that Wisconsin Dells is just a few miles away when you are hiking, camping or picnicking in this park. Walk the one-mile nature trail to learn about the sandstone bluffs and the different plants that live around and on top of them. Then sit down under one of the tall pines to read a good book.

Read and Explore Book

The Raft
By Jim LaMarche

When Nicky is stuck spending the summer with his grandmother, he is not very happy. His grandmother is an artist who lives on a river and she doesn’t even have a television. But when a magical raft appears, Nicky suddenly sees the river and all the animals that live there very differently. He spends the rest of the summer on the river—swimming, dreaming and becoming an artist himself. Maybe you will find that Brunet Island is the perfect place to be a “river rat”for a day or a whole summer. 

Brunet Island State Park

With the Chippewa River on one side and Fisher River on the other, Brunet Island is surrounded by bays, quiet lagoons and river channels. Don't forget your fishing gear, canoe and swimsuit! Pack a pair of binoculars, too. Deer, beaver, otters, porcupines, great blue herons, bald eagles, owls and many other animals live on and around the island. With over 1300 acres to explore, you will also need some comfortable shoes. And, if you read The Raft before you pack for the park, you will know to bring a sketch pad and some pencils!

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Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems
By Joyce Sidman

If you like poems, great drawings or interesting facts about nature, you are going to enjoy this book. You can read about spring peepers, diving beetles, cattails, duckweed and, of course, water boatmen. After reading the book, you will probably need to visit the lakes again to see what you might have missed the first time!

Governor Dodge State Park

This huge park is packed full of hills, bluffs, valleys and lakes. But it is the 247 acres of water that you will want to be sure to visit. After swimming, canoeing, picnicking and fishing, find a quiet spot where you can look for the plants and animals that live in the lake. If you take along a net or an empty container, you might be able to find some of the smaller creatures described in this park's book!

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Waterfall Watchers
By Pam Rosenberg

After you read this book, you will have to go back to the falls and decide how Big Manitou and Twin Little Manitou Falls were formed. Were they formed by erosion or because the earth's crust moved? Are they cascade waterfalls or cataract waterfalls? If you were a waterfall scientist, would you study the rocks, the water or the plants and animals that live around the falls?

Pattison State Park

If you like waterfalls, you have to visit Pattison State Park! At 165 feet high, Big Manitou Falls is the highest waterfall in Wisconsin and the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Even if you aren't a waterfall watcher, you will find many things to do at Pattison. You can explore the lake, swim at the beach, camp, hike, fish and watch wildlife. Or, you can just listen to the roar of the water falling!

Fall Read and Explore Books State Parks
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Archaeologists Dig for Clues
By Kate Duke

In this lively, informative title in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, a boy and his friends go on a dig in a local cornfield with their archaeologist friend Sophie. The children are disappointed when they don't find treasure or a mummy; all they dig up are rocks and pebbles and dust. But Sophie explains that archaeologists love garbage and that the fun is in the detective work, on the site and in the lab, finding out how ordinary people lived long ago.

Aztalan State Park

Aztalan State Park contains Wisconsin's most important archaeological site, an ancient village that thrived more than three thousand years ago.

The people who settled Aztalan built large, flat-topped pyramid-shaped mounds and a stockade around their village. They hunted, fished and farmed on the floodplain of the Crawfish River. Portions of the stockade and two mounds have been reconstructed in the park.

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Autumnblings
By Douglas Florian

The poems in this book are short, playful and inventive. Imagine maple seeds falling down like “fallicopters to the ground.” The author includes several lists, such as “what to do with autumn leaves,” what I love about autumn,” and “what I hate about autumn.” If you aren’t inspired by the poems, perhaps you will want to copy the autumnally-colored artwork.

Rib Mountain State Park

Rib Mountain is one of the highest places in the state...so it is the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful fall day. From the top of the observation tower on the top of Rib Mountain, you can see fall colors for miles. Take your camera, hiking boots and picnic lunch so you can spend the whole day. Take your notebook, too. You just might be inspired to write an autumn poem!

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The Birchbark House
By Louise Erdrice

If you are a “superior”reader, pick up this novel about a young Ojibwa girl who lives on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island with her family in the mid 1800s.This historical fiction follows 7-year-old Omakayas or Little Frog and her adopted family through four seasons on the island.

Big Bay State Park

The Apostle Islands are rich in cultural, natural and geological history. Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island shares much of that history. You can take the ferry to Madeline Island then bike or drive to the park. Once there, you can explore the barrier beach, hike the boardwalk through the sand spit or canoe past a sea cave. On a calm summer day, it is easy to dream of living on the island all year. However, as you read The Birchbark House, you might think differently about survival on an island surrounded by an unpredictable lake.

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The Gift of the Tree
By Alvin Tresselt

This book tells about a tree that is over one hundred years old. As the tree ages and slowly dies, it bears the marks of woodpeckers, windstorms, fungi and beetles. In the end, the tree gives its life back to the forest. Trees really have quite a story to tell if we take the time to look and listen to them.

Nelson Dewey State Park

You will enjoy hiking, picnicking, camping and fishing in this park along the Mississippi River. As you explore, you will notice interesting things from the past—stonewalls, Indian mounds, old buildings and abandoned lead mines. If you take the time to learn about these things, you will learn the history of this land. But don't stop there, the woods, prairies, bluffs and trees at Nelson Dewey have stories to tell, too.

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If You Find a Rock
By Peggy Christian

In this great book, you will learn about all kinds of special rocks that can help you do special things, like climbing, wishing and splashing. After you finish the book, you will probably need to go find a skipping rock and toss it out over the water or find a sitting rock covered with cool moss or turn over a hiding rock with all kinds of things living underneath it. High Cliff is a great place to explore rocks!

High Cliff State Park

If you like rocks, you need to check out High Cliff State Park. You can see the limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment, visit an old quarry and stop by the ruins of a lime kiln. After you have checked out the rocks, climb the 40-foot tower for a spectacular view. Then you can do all the things that you expect to do at a state park, like hiking, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, swimming, camping, biking and more!

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A Log's Life
By Wendy Pfeffer

If you like to learn about how old things can be remade, you will enjoy this book that tells the story of an old oak tree that falls in a storm. Many animals live in the tree as it slowly turns into soil. Then, one day, a squirrel buries an acorn in the rich earth and the process starts all over. It might also amaze you that the illustrator used only paper and glue to make the artwork for the book—now that is making something extraordinary from something very ordinary!

Tower Hill State Park

Wear sturdy shoes and pack a hearty lunch when you visit Tower Hill! You will want to see the restored smelter house on top of the bluff and then hike down to Mill Creek where the finishing house used to stand. When the shot tower was in operation, it turned ordinary bars of lead into sphere-shaped, polished lead shot. While you are at this historic park, you can also camp, fish, canoe and search for old foundations, roadways and ruins.

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The Moon Book
By Gail Gibbons

If you are curious about the moon or wonder how it appears to change shape, you should read this book. The pictures and text explain the moon's phases, eclipses, craters and legends. When you are done reading, you will want to go to a place where you can see a lot of the sky, like Buckhorn State Park!

Buckhorn State Park

There is a lot of sky to see in this park. Open water, grasslands, savannas and desert-like sand blows give you a good view of the sky both day and night. You can watch for osprey hunting over the water. Or you can sit on top of the 20-foot observation tower and look for wildlife. Whether you are fishing, hiking, camping or playing on the water, look up every now and then. You might just see the moon. It can be in the sky at any hour of any day or night—sometimes full, sometimes just a sliver. Keep your eye on it!

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The Salamander Room
By Ann Mazer

If you have ever dreamed of having a wild animal for a pet, you will enjoy reading this story about Brian's plans for turning his bedroom into a good home for a salamander. If you should find a salamander or other small animal at a state park, take some time to look at it, then carefully put it back right where you found it. As you will see in the story, a wild animal needs a home that is very different from a human home.

Governor Thompson State Park

This wild park is so new that there aren't many trails, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything to do! You can boat, swim, picnic, fish and relax. You can also explore 2,800 acres of woods and water. While you are exploring, look for amphibians like toads, frogs and salamanders. This part of the state is home to six of the seven species of salamanders. Maybe you will stumble upon a four-toed salamander or an eastern red-backed salamander while you are exploring.

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Spider's Lunch
By Joanna Cole

This All Aboard Reading book is about garden spiders, but garden spiders don't only live in gardens! The information in this book also applies to many other kinds of spiders. You'll learn how spiders weave their webs and use them to catch food. Fall is a great time to look for spiders as they build large webs, lay eggs and move through the air using their silken balloons. Look for them as you hike and explore at Devil's Lake. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Devil's Lake State Park is the largest state park in Wisconsin. That means there is a lot of space to hike, climb over rocks, camp, fish, bike, picnic, swim and explore. When winter comes, you can ski, snowshoe and ice fish. But one of the best times to visit Devil's Lake is fall when the leaves are changing and the animals are getting ready for winter. As you are looking at all the big impressive things at Devil's Lake, take time to look for the small impressive things, too—like spiders!

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The Sky is Full of Stars
By Franklyn M. Branley

If you've always wondered about the colors, sizes and patterns of stars, this Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science book will answer many of your questions. You can use the pictures in the book to find some constellations in the sky. Then you can just lie back on the beach and play dot-to-dot with the stars.

Harrington Beach State Park

With one mile of Lake Michigan shore and sky, Harrington Beach is a great place to play in the waves during the day and watch the sky during the night. If you aren't a swimmer, surfer or scuba diver, you can pass the day fishing in Quarry Lake, picnicking at Puckett's Pond or searching for fossils along the shoreline. Just head for the beach at sundown to watch the sky fill up with stars! If you are lucky, the Northern Cross Science Foundation will be in the park with their telescopes and star charts.

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A Tree is Nice
By Janice May Udry

The first page of this book announces, “Trees are very nice. They fill up the sky.” Throughout the book, the author describes how trees give us food, shade and places to play. After you read this book, you should find a nice tree and give it a hug.

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Lapham Peak Unit

What better place to read a book about trees than in a forest full of them! There are some great reading places at Lapham Peak. You could try reading while biking the Prairie Path Trail or while hiking the Ice Age Trail. However, the best place might be the top of the 45-foot observation tower. From there, you can see miles of nice trees!

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Underfoot
By David Schwartz

This Look Once−Look Again book explores things that are found on and under the ground. A close-up photo of an animal is followed on the next page by a photo of the whole animal. Your job is to try to use the photos and clues to guess the animal before you turn the page. If you have a digital camera along, try taking your own close-up pictures. Can your friends guess the animal's identity before you show them the photo of the whole animal?

Potawatomi State Park

Your feet will be very busy at Potawatomi State Park if you choose to hike 2.8 miles of the Ice Age Trail, climb the 75-foot observation tower, beach comb two miles of shoreline and bike eight miles of trails. Every now and then, take a break and look down at what is underneath your feet. Are you stepping on hemlock needles, limestone cliffs, or somebody's home?

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Where in the Wild?
By David Schwartz & Yael Schy

You should read this book before you take a hike at Amnicon Falls. The photographs and story will teach you about the different ways that animals use camouflage to hide. You will see animals that use spots, speckles and stillness to avoid being eaten. When you have found all the hidden animals in the book, grab a camera (or a notebook) and a grown-up and try to make your own pictures of camouflaged creatures and hidden surprises.

Amnicon Falls State Park

From the covered footbridge, you can see and hear the Amnicon River as it rushes over the falls. As you hike the trails, you are stepping on hidden lava that spewed from cracks in the earth over one billion years ago. You can camp in secluded campsites, sneak through the forests in search of wildlife or fish for elusive muskies. Everywhere you turn, there are secrets and surprises!

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Wisconsin Forest Tales
By Julia Pferdehirt

One way to learn about the past is to read about people who lived long ago. While the characters in this book are fictional, the stories they tell about the forests of Wisconsin are based on facts. You can read about the Menominee people in the 1830s, a family who survived the Great Peshtigo Fire, the children in a modern school forest and many more tales. Happy time traveling!

Heritage Hill State Park

A trip to this historical park is a great way to learn about northeastern Wisconsin's rich heritage. At this outdoor living history museum, you can visit a fur trader's cabin, an 1850's community, a Belgian farm and buildings from Fort Howard. Whether you visit on a regular day or for a special event, you will get to experience a unique look at Wisconsin's past.  

Last revised: Thursday March 23 2017