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Wildlife watching is the nation's second most popular outdoor pastime. (The first is...no, not that! Try gardening.) In Wisconsin, more than two million people enjoy viewing birds, butterflies, deer and a host of other critters each year. TRAVELER would guess that a good three-quarters of those folks if not more carry cameras to capture what they've seen on film.
Whether you enjoy taking the occasional snapshot with a point-and-shoot, or prefer to pack a 4x5 and a tripod into the backcountry for landscapes a la Ansel Adams, why not consider showing your work to others who also love and enjoy the outdoors?
Wisconsin's oldest state park, Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls, celebrates 100 years of providing outdoor recreation with a photo contest. Submit your work of either Wisconsin Interstate Park or Minnesota Interstate Park (on the opposite bank of the St. Croix River) in one of six categories. Winning photos in each category receive ribbons and will be displayed at both parks. The Grand Champion photographer will win an additional grand prize. Entries accepted through August 6. (715) 483-3747.
Buckhorn State Park in Juneau County would like to see your images of wildlife, wildflowers, plants, people and open landscapes...all taken within park boundaries, of course. The park will accept entries for its photography competition through September 30. 608/565-2789.
P.S. Wisconsin Natural Resources is always on the lookout for fine outdoor photography. Review our photographer's guidelines, and if you're interested, drop us a line!
If the August heat has you in a swoon, do your wildlife watching the easy way: Visit Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, where thousands of butterflies flit freely within the friendly confines of the refreshing Bolz Conservatory. You'll see 24 species of domestic butterflies and three moth species native to Wisconsin and tropical areas of the U.S., including painted ladies, swallowtails, and zebra longwings. You can also learn how to plant a backyard butterfly garden. The "Butterfly Bonanza" runs through August 20. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. 608/246-4550. Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Don't forget your camera.)
To watch an event so wild it's not even taking place on Earth, visit the "Darkest Park on the Door Peninsula" (Newport State Park in Ellison Bay) for the annual drama of the Perseid Meteor Shower. Last year's visitors saw more than 50 meteors in an hour's time. That's a lot of stardust, friend. Bring a blanket and a flashlight. August 12, 8-11 p.m. 920/854-2500. (Don't forget your tripod.)
Could there be a more delightful (or more romantic) way to watch a river's life and wildlife unfold than from the decks of a real steamboat? The Julia Belle Swain plies the Mississippi River from LaCrosse north to Winona, Minn., and south to Prairie du Chien. Along the way, you'll pass by sloughs and islands, home to many migrating birds. Take a short sightseeing excursion, a dinner cruise, or a trip lasting several days, such as "Autumn on the Upper Mississippi" – a five-day cruise from September 21-25. The steamboat docks at Riverside Park in La Crosse. For a trip schedule, see Julia Belle Swain or call 1-800-815-1005 (in the La Crosse area, (608) 784-4882). (Don't forget the film!)