Published December 20, 2018 by the Central Office
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).
After another week with minimal to no snowfall and unseasonably warm temperature, snow depth has been going backwards. Some rain and slushy snow this week did not improve the situation.
Iron County remains the only county with any snowmobile trails open and the warm up hit hard last weekend with a lot of melting and trails lost a lot of snow and are in poor condition according to the the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). About the only state owned cross-country ski trails that are skiable are the MECCA trails in Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area and the man-made snow loop at the Lapham Peak Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest. The trails are a bit soggy but so far are holding up to the rain and warm temps. Some other trails are skiable but there are exposed rocks, roots and other debris that could damage skis. However, the lack of snow has been a gift to hikers who have been out in force at many parks and forests. Even some horseback riders have been out this week and properties have seen an uptick in winter campers.
Ice continues to be thick enough in the far north for fisherman to be successful in catching game and panfish. Many positive reports from fishermen indicated good fishing conditions last week. With the mild temps, lake ice has not developed much in the last week in central and southern Wisconsin and some lakes have even started to open up and many channels on flowages remain open water. The Wolf River near New London has been very good for northern pike and some smaller lakes in central Wisconsin have been producing bluegills and crappies. The Bay of Green Bay is open and not safe. Fifteen anglers had to be rescued this week after ice they were fishing on broke off from shore and was blown into the bay.
Deer are moving well during daylight hours and archery hunters have reported some success. Select farmland zone counties of the state have an antlerless only rifle season over the holidays from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. All hunters in this zone must wear blaze orange/pink including archers. Only antlerless deer may be harvested in the farmland hunt regardless of weapon. Any counties not holding a Holiday Hunt firearm season follow normal archery and crossbow regulations, so archers hunting in those parts of the state can harvest any deer they have a tag for and they do not need to wear blaze.
The mild conditions are allowing for a variety of lingering species such as sparrows, flickers, meadowlarks, ruby-crowned kinglets and various water birds, including at least 11 species of waterfowl as far north as Lake Superior, while numbers of most winter finches, such as grosbeaks, redpolls, and crossbills, remain modest at best.
The winter solstice on December 21, will mark the shortest day of the year as well as having a full moon named the Cold Moon or the Long Night Moon in the night sky. In addition the Ursids meteor shower is active annually between December 17 and 24. The Ursids should have a sharp peak on the morning of Dec. 21, with as many as 10 meteors in an hour. But this year the meteors will pale next to the full moon.
It's pretty standard fare in the birding world right now, with modest numbers of mostly expected species well distributed across the landscape due to lack of snow and ice cover. Results of early Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) reflected as much in most areas, although the mild conditions are allowing for a variety of lingering species such as chipping, song, and white-throated sparrows, flickers, meadowlarks, ruby-crowned kinglet, brown-headed cowbirds, and various water birds, including at least 11 species of waterfowl as far north as Lake Superior. More extreme CBC finds this week included rose-breasted grosbeak near La Crosse, Baltimore oriole in Crawford County, and a scarlet tanager in Brown, which marks the first ever winter record of that species in Wisconsin. Speaking of firsts, the Hammond's flycatcher in Iowa county continues to be seen. Other rarities of note were Bonaparte's gulls in Bayfield County, greater white-fronted goose and hoary redpoll in Milwaukee, and Northern mockingbird in Ozaukee. The influx of snowy owls has slowed, leaving their numbers and distribution far reduced from last year at this time. Likewise, numbers of most winter finches, such as grosbeaks, redpolls, and crossbills, remain modest at best. Time will tell if a return to colder, snowier conditions will bring some new birds to the state in the month ahead. Report your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland
Saturday, December 22, 2018
For all events search Get Outdoors
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - We've seen the sun a few times over the past week. Combine that with mild temperatures, and our snow cover has dwindled to an inch or two with lots of bare spots in between. Some rain and slushy snow overnight has not improved the snow situation. Next week may bring some significant snowfall. Friday is the winter solstice - the start of winter and the shortest day of the year! With almost 15 1/2 hours between sunset and sunrise, the long nights could start to get you down. But while the current snow conditions limit the skiing and snowmobiling options, there are other things to do outdoors that will lift your mood. Winter Camping: Consider getting out the camping equipment again. Our campgrounds are still open for business! With the weather as it has been lately, it could be a great way to spend a weekend. Hunting: With some game bird and small game hunting seasons still open, there is still opportunity for hunting. Archery and crossbow deer season ends on Jan. 6, 2019. Hiking: With little snow, trail head access points on the state forest are easily accessible. Enjoy some solitude and explore the State Forest. It's a great time to check out some trails that you may not have hiked before. And no mosquitos! The 24th Annual River View Loppet ski races will be held on Jan. 5, 2019 at the AfterHours Ski Trails. There are classic and freestyle races for youth and adults. There is also a 3.5K Family Fun Tour! This event is sponsored jointly by the Brule Valley Ski Club, the Brule River State Forest, and the Brule Lions Club. Check out the Ski Club's website for more information and a registration form. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate
Pattison State Park - Pattison State Park has been enjoying some relatively warm temperatures as of late, and we are down to just a few inches of snow in the woods. The cross-country ski trails have not been groomed as of yet. Skiing is not recommended until we have enough snow to groom. There are exposed rocks, roots and other debris that could damage your skis. The Beaver and Little Manitou Falls hiking trails remain closed. The ski trails are open to hiking until grooming has started, and Big Manitou Falls trail is open. Winter camping is available at two electric sites as well as our backpack sites. Vehicle admission is required year round. - Gervase Thompson, ranger
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Iron County - Ice continues to be thick enough for fisherman to be successful in catching game and panfish alike. Many positive reports from fishermen indicated good fishing conditions last week. Snowshoers, skiers and snowmobilers are impatiently waiting on snowfall to repair poorly-shaped trails while future forecasts don't look promising. We expect to see freezing rain with possible snowfall the end of this week into the weekend. Few birds are left to be seen in Iron County; goldfinch, juncos and pine siskins are the main attractions at the bird feeders. Trumpeter swans have left Iron County seeking the open waters of neighboring Vilas County and others. Grouse are commonly seen roadside as the snow accumulation is less than normal and a hard crust has formed on top of what is left. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer
Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - Officially the MECCA cross-country ski trails are now open. Though the snow cover is a little light, crews were able to comb the trail for those of you who couldn't wait for real winter to get here. Please remember that from now on, no walking is allowed on the trails without skis or snowshoes! Even with the low snow level it will make grooming and maintenance of the trail more difficult. See You on the Trail. - Brett Bockhop, parks and recreation specialist
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Interstate Park - With a small amount of slushy snow and warm temperatures, expect wet and possibly muddy conditions on some sections of our trails. Visitors looking for some amazing views of the St. Croix River Valley should use the Pothole, Summit Rock, Echo Canyon, and River Bluff Trails. Visitors can walk on the Skyline Trail until there is sufficient snow to groom. The Lake O' the Dallas and some sections of the St. Croix River are frozen over. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. - Matthew Densow, ranger
Straight Lake State Park - There is approximately 1 inch of snow on the ground; however, with the warmer temperatures we have had lately, expect water and mud on the trails. The Straight Lake, Rainbow Lake, and Ice Age Trails all provide excellent views of Rainbow and Straight lakes this time of year. Rainbow and Straight Lake are frozen over currently, however, park staff do not monitor ice conditions. Ice Anglers have been seen on both Rainbow and Straight Lakes. Winter is a wonderful time to look at tracks in the snow. Coyote, deer, fox, fisher, and rabbits are all common tracks that you can see. The beavers have been working hard damming up the Straight River. You can see their handy work along the Ice Age Trail, especially at the stone crossing at the dam. - Matthew Densow, ranger
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The snow cover on the State Forest remains at a few inches. Although the ski trails cannot be groomed, outdoor enthusiasts can walk just about anywhere with just winter boots. Don't let the snow cover lull you into a sense of security as you hike into that swamp...there still is water everywhere and it may be camouflaged! On the plus side...no bugs! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Council Grounds State Park - There is very little snow on the ground, but with warmer than average winter temperatures hiking in the park is still a popular activity. We've had reports of owls on the move in the park and the deer are moving around as well. - Sarah Gilbert, ranger
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - The northern portion of Marinette county still has some snow on the ground but not more than about 5 inches. Mild weather has been the norm over much of the last week or so and lake ice has not developed much since the last report. Channels on flowages remain open water while non flow areas have somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-10 inches of ice. Be sure to check the ice as you go! Fishermen report mixed bags and spotty results. The central farmland portion of the county has an antlerless only rifle season over the holidays (Dec. 24-Jan. 1). All hunters must wear blaze orange/pink including archers. Only antlerless deer may be harvested in the farmland portion of the county regardless of weapon. The northern forest zone does not have the holiday hunt, so archers hunting in that part of the county can harvest any deer they have a tag for and they do not need to wear blaze. Cross-country ski trails remain partially open, ungroomed and in poor condition. According to the TravelWisconsin online snow trail report for the county, snowmobiling on trails in Marinette county is not recommended. Some trails remain open for ATV/UTV use.
The lack of snow makes trail use difficult BUT it also makes for nice walking through the woods. This is a great time to get out and enjoy a stroll through the woods or to get out and do some cut stump treatment of undesirable woody plants (ie Buckthorn). - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Oconto County - There is ice on most lakes in Oconto County but with recent warm ups I wouldn't trust the ice. Here in Oconto Falls there was 10 inches of ice on the Oconto Falls pond and individuals were ice fishing on the Machickanee Flowage. The Bay of Green Bay is open and not safe. Be extra safe on the ice and maybe wait until next week when things get colder again. No snowmobile trails are open in Oconto County yet. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - If you can find open water, you probably find Canada Geese - for the southern waterfowl zone. There are some great hunting opportunities and recently some great early winter weather to enjoy the sport of waterfowl hunting. Anglers have been enjoying a good bite on northern pike and panfish. The Wolf River near new London has been very good for northern pike and some smaller lakes in central Wisconsin have been producing some good sized bluegills and crappies. There are still a lot of Bald Eagles in central Wisconsin. They can usually be found near open water and the weather has been warm enough to get out and enjoy some birding. Archery hunters have also reported some success - and have stated hunters need to find a food source and you will find the deer. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden supervisor, Wautoma
Snow depth has been going backwards as we continue to get warm weather. As a result, no trails are groomed or open. Deer are moving well during daylight hours, should be decent hunting the rest of the season. Have heard some decent reports of panfish biting on the smaller local lakes. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - Trails were packed to develop a base today after we had about 2" of snowfall on 12/12/18. With warmer temperatures present, ski trails have been downgraded to poor condition. - Jarrod Kehring, property manager
Waukesha DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The man-made ski loop was groomed Wednesday night. It rained overnight and into the morning, so the trails are a bit soggy. The plan is to let the trail dry out a bit and keep an eye on the temperatures. If the trail starts to get icy we will scratch it up. So far the trail is holding up to the rain and warm temps. Lights will be on until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. No lights on Sundays. - Jay Abts, ranger
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The lack of snow has been a gift to hikers this December. Many have been coming out to hike the Zillmer and Greenbush trail systems as much as they can before it turns into winter ski trails. Hikers looking for very scenic experiences have been section hiking parts of our 31-mile Ice Age Trail unit. This week we saw several horse riders enjoying our 41 miles of bridle trails. Though the leaves and temps have dropped, people are still coming out to Mauthe Lake campground for some winter camping. Campsite self-registration and a potable water spout is available at the entrance. The number of hunters observed has been declining: some were out pheasant hunting last weekend and this week we've seen a few remaining pheasants still roaming the Dundee/New Prospect area. With the recent warm and rainy weather it'll be important for ice anglers to check with local bait shops for ice conditions before heading out. Open water has been spotted on sections of Mauthe Lake and Thursday's rain could make it worse. For those looking to purchase park stickers and trail passes as gifts, the Ice Age Visitor Center in Dundee will be open only Saturday this weekend from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Please call ahead to be sure of hours. - James Enigl, ranger
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Lake Wissota State Park - Happy holidays! The warmer than normal weather has not been good for snow sports activities. Ski trails have not received enough snow to be groomed but enough snow will come eventually. There is still ice on the surrounding lakes so ice fishing is a great option for spending time outdoors this holiday season. Species of birds seen or heard include ravens, black capped chickadees, phoebes, northern juncos, pileated woodpeckers, barred owls and bald eagles. - Nathan Fries, ranger