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Outdoor Report

Published March 21, 2019 by the Central Office

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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).

Spring officially arrived March 20 with the vernal equinox and temperatures leading into it were very spring like, bringing a close to much of the outdoor winter recreation across the state.

Snowmobile trails now remain open in only a handful of northern counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR) and more are expected to close with warm weather this week. Many state parks and forests have discontinued ski trail grooming, so even if a spring snowstorm arrives most trails will not be groomed. Most mountain bike and horse trails are closed and will remain closed until they dry out. There is still up to 2 feet or more of snow in some northern counties, making it a great time to get out and explore on snowshoes, which are a must for trekking out in the woods.

Flood waters were rampant last week in some areas of southern Wisconsin but many went down over the weekend. As of March 20, the Trempealeau River had dropped to minor flood stage and the Crawfish, Rock, Fox and Manitowoc rivers were expected to remain in moderate flood stage through next week.

Rain events during the week and warming temperatures pretty much cleared the snow cover off the ice of Green Bay making for slippery foot travel. Perch season closed on March 15 for Green Bay and its tributaries and anglers fishing the final day of the perch season report catching decent catches of keeper perch. There are still some anglers fishing for whitefish, walleye and northern pike along the east and west shore, but action was slow. The Oconto River is open and anglers were trying their luck for walleye and salmon, with reports of some salmon caught. The Fox River is also open and walleye were being caught there.

Ice fishermen have continued to use the south portion of the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee but that ice will very soon be too thin for this to safely occur. They have been pulling some rather large brown trout out of the lagoon in high numbers. The harbor and Lake Michigan side at the park is open-water fishing already.

With warmer temperatures otters are being seen feasting on fish. - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
With warmer temperatures otters are being seen feasting on fish along river banks and below dams.Photo credit: Ryan Brady

With the warmer weather squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, and deer have been out in abundance as well. Snowshoe hare coats are turning brown; river otters are giving birth; grouse have started drumming; and maple sap is flowing. Whitetail does and elk cows are getting heavy with fawns and calves, as they are in their third trimester of pregnancy. Otters are being seen feasting on fish and muskrats are out chewing on cattails.

Bonus turkey harvest authorizations, previously known as leftover permits, went on sale this week. After zone-specific sales, all remaining turkey harvest authorizations for all zones will be made available for purchase at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 23.

With the arrival of spring, bird migration is on in full force. Sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, robins, and common grackles have arrived in earnest. Great blue herons, eastern bluebirds, and eastern meadowlarks have also returned, as well as the first eastern phoebes, song sparrows, white pelicans, and common loons.

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Statewide Birding Report

Migration is on! In the south, sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, robins, and common grackles have arrived in earnest. Great blue herons, eastern bluebirds, and eastern meadowlarks have also returned, as well as the first eastern phoebes, song sparrows, white pelicans, and common loons. Check your favorite shrubby habitats and field/woodland edges for the sky dance of American woodcocks, which are back now as far north and west as Outagamie and Sauk counties. Waterbirds are on the move now with excellent duck diversity at sources of open water, including first coots, pied-billed grebes, wood ducks, and many more. A count of 2300 greater white-fronted geese in Dodge County on March 19 was impressive. Flocks of tundra swans are also on the move there now as well. Overhead, red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures, and peregrine falcons are returning, while rough-legged hawks, bald and golden eagles remain in numbers but have begun their departure.

As expected, migration is far slower in the north where snow and ice continue. However, eagle migration has been excellent the past week, one count near Ashland tallying 60+ bald and 6 golden eagles on March 19. Canada geese, trumpeter swans, and a few ducks are showing up, as well as a few robins and grackles. Red-winged blackbirds have been reported only as far north as Hwy 8 so far but expect that to change in the week ahead. Pine grosbeaks have departed now, while common redpolls are making their best showing of the season, including a report of nearly 300 coming to feeders in Iron. N. saw-whet owls are calling more frequently now - listen after dark in a conifer-rich woodland near you.

Waterfowl, like this handsome male Hooded Merganser, are making their way back to Wisconsin's waters and will continue to build in numbers as ice retreats in the weeks ahead.  - Photo credit: Beverly Engstrom
Waterfowl, like this handsome male Hooded Merganser, are making their way back to Wisconsin's waters and will continue to build in numbers as ice retreats in the weeks ahead. Photo credit: Beverly Engstrom

The first great horned owls chicks have hatched in the south. Other breeding activity reported this week included red-tailed hawks and bald eagles on nests, American crows and common ravens nest building, territorial cardinals, sporadically displaying turkeys, and courting pairs of red crossbills. Rarities were few but included a harlequin duck in Sheboygan and Eurasian tree sparrow in Clark. Looking to the week ahead, conditions look favorable for new migrants on Saturday and especially Sunday, as well as Wednesday into Thursday. Help us track the migration by reporting your finds to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.
Saturday, March 23, 2019

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

For all events search Get Outdoors

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Updated cross-country ski trail conditions as of March 21-2019

Click on Cross-country ski conditions for all conditions or to sort by property or conditions. Click on links below for property conditions.

Blue Mound State Park - Trails are no longer being groomed and are now open to foot traffic.
Brule River State Forest - The trails were groomed and tracked on March 19. The entire trail system has been groomed and tracked. Conditions vary from ok to very good in certain sections of the trails. Skate lanes have some equipment ruts and the tracks are thin to full depth depending on where you are. Grooming will be suspended for the season unless conditions improve.
Copper Falls State Park - Crews attempted to groom on March 15 but trails were too soft. Skiing is not recommended. Unlikely that trails will be groomed again this season.
Interstate Park - Due to warming temperatures, water, ice, and melting snow, the trail will not be maintained specifically for skiing. Trail is now open to foot traffic.
Kettle Moraine State Forest - Lapham Peak Unit - All trails at Lapham Peak are open to hikers. Skiing is done for the season. The mountain bike/horse trail is closed to mountain bikes and horses until the trail dries out sufficiently to prevent damage.
Northern Highland American Legion State Forest - The Pallette Lake loop at Escanaba was groomed March 21. There is nice track but snow is blocky crystal typical late winter snow. Conditions are fair as tracks will be fast in the morning and slow in the afternoon. Nebish Road is starting to thaw and is a bit muddy in a few spots. Nebish Road should firm after cold nights but by late afternoon could get soft similar to the classic tracks. There is some debris in the track but not unusual for this time of year. Grooming is complete at all other trails, which are now open to foot travel.
Pattison State Park - The Overlook Trail was groomed and tracked this morning and is in good shape with half track depth. Oak Ridge and River View Trails were not groomed because of base hardness. There is half track available throughout the trail system. Be aware of changing trail conditions due to warm weather and glazing. We have 14 inches of base and 24 inches of snow in the woods.
Perrot State Park - Grooming efforts have ended for the year. Most trails still have snow but are hard packed, icy or have bare spots.
Peshtigo River State Forest - Trails are no longer being groomed and are open to foot travel.
Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - The MECCA trails were groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing March 20. Trails are open for spring skiing. The classic tracks and the skate deck were last groomed on 3/11. Trail conditions vary from ice, hard, corn snow, soft/wet. The Cabin is currently open daily through March 31.

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

March 23, 9 a.m.-noon: East Bluff Devils Lake - Help cut invasive shrubs and use brush to block unauthorized trails in and around East Bluff SNA at Devils Lake State Park. Take in some of the most breathtaking views Wisconsin has to offer and help protect some of the most uncommon species and natural communities in the Midwest. If the trails are not snowy/icy we'll be concentrating work efforts around the prairie and the Devils Doorway trail segment. This will be part of a series of monthly stewardship activities sponsored by Ben Bomkamp and Kerstyn Perrett of NatureWorks llc through 2019, who are hoping to help build enthusiasm and understanding of the role that we can all be playing to protect our state's most treasured and irreplaceable resources.

March 23, 9 a.m.-noon: Sugar River Wetlands - Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our "4th Saturdays" volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting and burning invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors in winter. If there is snow we'll have a fire. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning.

No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - March 21 is the first full day of spring, although this part of Wisconsin seems to be lagging a bit behind. We have enjoyed some daytime highs in the 40s and the sunshine has definitely been helping melt the snow pack, especially in the exposed and southerly facing areas. This Saturday is forecast to break the 50 degree mark! So, the weekend should be a great opportunity to get outdoors and experience the slow but steady transition to spring. Fishermen and women are getting excited for the trout opener, as there has been increased interest on river conditions. As of 11 a.m. March 21, the Brule's discharge is flowing at just over 160CFS with a gauge height of 1.71 feet. Ice has gone out as far downstream to where County FF crosses, but remains locked up at Hwy 13. Douglas County has announced the closure of all Snowmobile Trails as of March 20. The AfterHours Ski Trail was groomed and track was set earlier this week March 19; however, conditions vary from OK to very good in certain sections of the trails. Skate lanes have some equipment ruts and the tracks are thin to full depth depending on where you are. Grooming will be suspended for the season unless conditions improve. Trail conditions will be dependent on future snow events and temps. Check the trail conditions page for the latest trail condition updates:- Mitch Pauly, visitor services associate

Amnicon Falls State Park - The Amnicon River is rousing itself from winter slumber. Snowmelt and some rainfall have brought the water level above the ice in many places. The face of the river is different each day as heat and cold, motion and resistance vie for supremacy. Lower Falls are largely ice-free, and a cleft has appeared in Upper Falls. The snowpack has settled considerably but walking is still difficult off-trail in knee-deep snow. - David Lindsley, ranger

Pattison State Park - A welcomed warm stretch has come to northwestern Wisconsin! There is still have around 24 inches of snow in the woods at the park, but we are losing some every day. The Overlook Trail loop was groomed and tracked on Monday, but the rest of the trails were not. The entire trail system is in good condition with half depth track throughout. Be aware of changing snow and trail conditions as it continues to warm up this week. Both Big and Little Manitou Falls are starting to loosen up with the warmer temperatures. Holes are forming in the ice allowing water to flow freely in spots. It is a transition period that a lot of people do not get a chance to see. The winter trails are not maintained, so if you come to the park to see the waterfalls, dress appropriately. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - The Grantsburg Area is finally experiencing some warmer temperatures! Spring weather and activities are just around the corner, but there is not much activity just yet. We are seeing some Canada geese moving around the area, as well as trumpeter swans (though there have been some of each of these species around during the winter). Highlights this week were a horned lark, a mallard, and a belted kingfisher. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Interstate Park - All trails are open to hiking. Snow depth varies on the trails. Some trails may have standing or flowing water due to the melting snow. Please use caution while hiking. Warmer weather is increasing animal activity in the park. Turkey and deer are commonly seen in the area around the Ice Age Center. Bald Eagles can be seen along the river. Red shoulder hawks and robins have made their way back to the park as well. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Straight Lake State Park - There is still a significant amount of snow at the park for anyone still looking for snowshoeing opportunities. Snow depth will vary in the park with some south facing slopes getting close to bare ground. Rainbow and Straight lakes are frozen over. Please remember, park staff do not monitor ice conditions. There is evidence of a winter fish kill on Straight Lake. Warmer weather is starting to bring early signs of spring. Robins have been seen in the park. Pairs of geese and swans have been seen on the lakes and river. Eagles, otters, and other scavengers can be seen at the dam feasting on the fish kill. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - Due to warming temperatures and melting the snowmobile trail gates will be closed within the next week or so. The Flambeau Hills Ski Trail may not be groomed again. There is still 26-plus inches of ice on the lakes. It may be a little sloppy, but still fishable. People have been fishing the Flambeau lakes. Always use caution when on the lakes. March sun is crusting the snow. The warmth from the sun is melting the snow daily. Snowshoe hare coats are turning brown; male red-winged blackbirds are returning; river otters are giving birth; grouse have started drumming; and the maple sap is flowing. Geese are heard and seen flying in Vs and early morning bird chirp songs are more perceptible. Staff have seen wandering porcupines, fishers, and muskrats. It's mating season for lots of different species. Groups of deer and elk are seen grazing and snoozing in the sun and feeding on down tree branches and brush in the finished logging sales. Does and cows are getting heavy with fawns and calves, as they are in their third trimester of pregnancy. Won't be long now and the youngsters will be out and about. Northern folk and critters are excited about any spring changes. Soon the white world around us will be brown then green. Road bans have gone on for all Flambeau logging sales in Price, Sawyer and Rusk Counties so all sales have come to a halt. The weather forecast calls for Saturday to be sunny, with a high of 49 and a low of 26. Sunday, slight chance of rain/snow then rain, with a high of 46 and a low of 15. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Spring is trying to come to the snow laden Northwoods. A few brave trumpeter swans and Canada geese have been sighted on the little open water available. A muskrat was spotted chewing on a cattail not anywhere near running water! Over knee deep snow is still making snowshoes a must for trekking out in the woods and outdoor enthusiasts need to be aware of extreme conditions from day to day during this breakup of the weather. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Council Grounds State Park - The snow is still deep in the woods and the deer have been very active using the park roads to get around. Canada geese are easily spotted on the river and we've had a report of a swan as well. Sunny and warmer weather predicted for the upcoming week should keep the snow receding. - Sarah Gilbert, ranger

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Rain events during the week and warming temperatures have pretty much cleared the snow cover off the ice making for slippery foot travel. Perch season closed on March 15 for Green Bay and its tributaries. The last day to get permanent shacks off Green Bay was March 17.

Marinette County - Pike fishermen report slow fishing for pike on tip-ups at the mouth of the Peshtigo. One or two fish being caught for an all-day sit, although the fish being caught are a little larger than other areas. Anglers fishing the Menominee River at Hattie street and the dam deck report slow fishing for brown trout with no fish being reported caught.- Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Anglers fishing the Oconto Breakwater for whitefish report slow fishing with lots of fish seen on camera but few willing to commit. Anglers were averaging 1 or 2 fish for a half day fishing. A few walleye and northern were also being caught on jigging raps tipped with minnow heads. Tip-up anglers reported slow fishing inside the river mouth and the harbor area. Anglers fishing out of Oconto Park 2 report catching limits of perch before the season closed. Whitefish anglers heading out to the rock piles and reef report catching a few whitefish on jigging raps and jigs with waxies. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Anglers fishing the final day of the perch season report catching decent catches of keeper perch. Heavy fishing pressure was observed over the weekend for anglers targeting pike. Tip-ups with shiners were catching a few northern in the mid-20s. Whitefish anglers report catching a few straight out from the river mouth using jigs and waxworms. On the Fox River the Fox Point boat landing was opened up of ice over the weekend and boat traffic was observed south of 172 up to Voyageurs Park. Anglers fishing the walleye deck in Voyageurs Park report slow fishing with no fish caught and only a few whitefish nibbling. Lots of water and debris coming over the De Pere dam. One party fishing at Volk's Landing reported fishing for whitefish and caught 15 all day, and also set some walleye and pike lines for short periods and caught one of each. - Jeremiah Shrovnal, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Door County - Snow melt has made it easier for trekking over the ice, and the depth was reported at 20 inches on Saturday. One angler fishing at Sugar Creek caught a 15-inch whitefish in just over two hours of fishing and another angler caught two whitefish in 5 hours of fishing. Anglers fishing at the Red River caught 11 whitefish among them throughout the whole day. - Jeremiah Shrovnal, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Oconto County - Snowmobile trails south of Mountain are closed. From Mountain north they are open but in fair condition as there is water on the trails in spots, bare spots, and icy areas. Use caution if on the trails this weekend. They will close at midnight Sunday, March 24. Fishing has been poor on inland lakes and ice conditions are not safe. The Oconto River is open and individuals are trying their luck attempting to catch walleye and salmon, with reports of some salmon caught. The Fox River is also open and walleye were being caught there. Deer and turkey are on the move as bare spots in fields and woods are starting to open up, and they have been crossing roads frequently. Be alert when driving. Robins and other song birds are also being seen, so spring is here. Let's hope for no spring snow storms and a good weather spring. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Governor Thompson State Park - All trails now open to snowshoes and hiking. There is plenty of snow still in the woods and we are seeing turkeys and deer in large groups on the trails. Caldron Falls Flowage is now experiencing it's spring drawdown. Please be careful on the ice as ice conditions may change abruptly. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Cross-country ski trails are no longer being maintained. Conditions may be icy with some bare spots. There is still 8-12 inches of snow in most places. Visitors are seeing migratory birds, including grackles, wood ducks and American robins. - Brian Markowski, property manager

Whitefish Dunes State Park - There is still a lot of snow and ice on the trails. Rain and warmer temps have impacted trail conditions. Trails still have tracks from skier use and a good base for some late season skiing. There are no plans to groom trails due to the warm temperatures. The best option for hiking is the Black Trail at this time. Hiking is allowed on the Black Trail and also the new loop parking in the Pine lot and walking to Whitefish Creek. Please pick up a map or stop by the Nature Center for guidance. Leashed dogs are allowed on hiking and snowshoeing trails only. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Some anglers are still catching some nice panfish through the ice. The panfish are being caught in shallow areas for the most part. Some birds are back in Central Wisconsin - sandhill cranes, bluebirds, redwing black birds. You may even see more... There is standing water in most areas. Be on the watch for flooding and high water. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Lakeshore State Park - The snow is almost gone from Lakeshore State Park, and red-breasted mergansers are beginning to return in full-force. Robins and red-winged blackbirds have also started making their way back to the park, sure signs that spring has begun. Ice fishermen have continued to use the south portion of the lagoon as of March 21, but we anticipate that ice will very soon be too thin for this to safely occur. They have primarily been pulling some rather large brown trout out of the lagoon in high numbers. The harbor and Lake Michigan side at the south entrance to the park is open-water fishing already, and the north portion of the lagoon is beginning to quickly thaw with some areas of open water. - Angela Vickio, naturalist, Milwaukee

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Spring is here and it sure feels like the forest is waking up. Staff and visitors report seeing/hearing sandhill cranes, Canada geese, black-cap chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, some woodpeckers, and some hawks frequently. Squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, and whitetail deer have been out in abundance as well. Trails are thawing out and closed to mountain biking and bridle riding. The Tamarack Trail and Boat Launch Road at Mauthe Lake are flooded. Hikers looking to get outside, but not muddy, have been taking advantage of the scenic gravel Lake-to-Lake bike trail that spans 6.5 miles between Mauthe Lake and Long Lake. This should be a favorite for those looking to see some wildlife as it goes through a variety of wildlife habitat popular with spring migration. It is advised that hikers/bikers stay between forest headquarters and County Hwy F; as the section south of headquarters to Mauthe Lake campground has seasonal flooding and the section north of Highway F to Long Lake Campground is closed for repairs to the boardwalk. The ski trails at Greenbush and Zillmer are no longer being groomed and now open to hiking. Visitors have been hiking the Ice Age trail near Greenbush Group/Picnic areas, Parnell tower, Butler Lake, Mauthe Lake, and the Highway 28 horse/snowmobile lot. Please be careful as areas that saw heavy usage during the winter are still ice covered in sections, especially heavy forest canopy or downhill sections. Consider bringing along shoe traction-assisting devices like crampons/cleats. Visitors have been camping this week at Mauthe Lake and we expect more to take advantage of the warm conditions predicted this weekend. Self-registration is available at the rec area entrance and sites in the 100s-400s loops are available - some in the 100s, 200s, and 400s are electric. The shower building is still closed and potable water is only available from the well located behind the entrance booth. Enjoy! - James Enigl, park ranger

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South Central Region

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Waterfowl have been moving into the area as local rivers and waterways open up. Good numbers of white-fronted geese have been seen in flooded farm fields in the central part of Dodge County. Tundra and trumpeter swans have been seen in the surrounding areas as well as at Horicon Marsh. Hooded mergansers, bufflehead, wood ducks, redhead, common merganser and mallards are starting to move into the area. Water levels are still high but slowly dropping as long as the dry weather continues. Great-blue herons have returned to the Fourmile Island rookery on the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. Maple sap is flowing steadily. Be sure to find time to come and hike the trails and visit the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center for spring break. Discounts are being offered from March 18-29 for the Horicon Marsh Explorium. The education center and Explorium is located at N7725 Highway 28 in Horicon, WI. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Flood waters were rampant on Wednesday and Thursday last week but went way down over the weekend. Some area marshes are still holding high levels of water, with more snow/ice left to melt. This last week saw a huge push of waterfowl into the area. Area marshes are slowly starting to thaw, and open water pockets in large marshes like the Mud Lake Wildlife Area, are holding huge flocks of ducks and geese. Other migrants such as great blue herons and turkey vultures have been spotted this week in the county as well. Robins are plentiful. Tom turkeys have been seen walking in pairs or alone this week, a good sign for early turkey season hunters. Prescribed burning may begin this weekend at the Rocky Run State Natural/Fishery Area. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

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West Central Region

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - There is still a lot of snow on unplowed roads, parking lots and trails. Snow is slowly melting and the lake is still covered in ice. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. The lake is in draw down and unknown when the ice will be out or lake levels back to normal in the end of April for putting piers in. Sandhill cranes have returned to the park! We are slowly seeing signs of spring. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, March 21, 2019

Contact information

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Sarah Hoye
Director Of Communications
Office Of The Secretary
(608) 267-2773