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Contact(s): Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs manager, 608-267-7517; Theresa Stabo at 608-266-2272 (free fishing activities)
May 23, 2017

MADISON - A 100th anniversary celebration of Wyalusing State Park, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the Seth Peterson Cottage on Mirror Lake, more than 20 fishing clinics across the state, an art fair along the Willow River and a family fun day with outdoor skills are among the events that highlight Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin on June 3-4.

The first weekend in June offers ample opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors in Wisconsin. Admission stickers are waived for Wisconsin's state parks and forests, trail passes normally required for those 16 or older who bike, in-line skate or horseback ride on state trails are waived, and no fishing licenses are needed to fish state waters. State park and forest campers still need to pay for their campsites, and fees are not waived at Heritage Hill State Park, which is operated by a non-profit organization that charges a per-person admission to the park.

Wisconsin law requires those who use Wisconsin ATV or UTV trails to display either Wisconsin registration or a Nonresident Trail Pass, but on Free Fun Weekend, ATV/UTV owners do not need to have their machines registered in Wisconsin and nonresidents do not need to have a trail pass.

On Free Fun Weekend trail passes are waived for state managed trails like the popular Elroy-Sparta State Trail, known for its three tunnels.
On Free Fun Weekend trail passes are waived for state managed trails like the popular Elroy-Sparta State Trail, known for its three tunnels.
Photo Credit: DNR

June 3 is National Trails Day and more than 10 hikes are scheduled on properties around the state, including hikes on the Ice Age Trail through the Kettle Moraine State Forest's Southern and Lapham Peak units. A grand opening celebration of the Rock River Water Trail will take place on Saturday, at the Rotary River Center, in Beloit. The Rock River Water Trail (exit DNR) runs along the Rock River through 11 counties in Wisconsin starting at the headwaters in Fond du Lac County and ending at the Mississippi River in Rock Island, Ill. The Friends of the Red Cedar State Trail and Hoffman Hills will be hosting Trails Day at the Red Cedar State Trail will offer activities at the Menomonie Depot Visitor Center, including bike helmet and bike safety checks.

The Friends of Pike Lake are hosting a Discovery Day on Saturday, June 3 at the Pike Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest that begins at 9 a.m. with a bird hike and runs through noon with t-shirt printing, archery, fishing and more. And Kohler-Andrea State Park will offer Music in the Park with singer, songwriter, entertainer and recording artist Brett Hall providing an evening of John Denver music.

On Sunday, June 4, visitors to Harrington Beach State Park can start the morning off with the Friends of Harrington Beach State Park hosting a free all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, with a side of sausage and applesauce - though donations to the friends group are accepted that will directly benefit the park.

The Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy will celebrate the will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed cottage at Mirror Lake State Park on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Mirror Lake residents and Wright devotees formed a non-profit organization, The Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy, to save and restore the Cottage as Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned it, and to give it a new and useful life. The award winning three-year, $300,000 rehabilitation project was completed in 1992. Information on the cottage and celebration is available on the conservancy's website (exit DNR).

The Friends of Willow River State Park will host the annual Art Along the Willow on Sunday. Visitors can stroll through the park past booths of many fine arts and crafts. Musical groups will provide free entertainment. And the Richard Bong State Recreation Area friends group, Bong Naturalist Assoc., will be hosting a Family Nature Faire with art and nature booths, live animals, raffles and food.

People who enjoy geocaching can participate in coordinated geocaching events and games June 3 at the Red Cedar State Trail and on Sunday, June 4, a Cache Quest at the Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit will challenge participants to find three caches spread out across the forest.

Find parks, forests and trails by searching the Department of Natural Resources website for "find a park" and find events by searching for "Get Outdoors," and then click on the "type" button and select "Free Fun Weekend."

Free fishing clinics offered at parks, other locations

During Free Fun Weekend people can fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep, and any seasons when you must release certain fish species.

Fishing licenses are not needed to fish on Free Fun Weekend and more than 20 fishing clinics are held statewide.
Fishing licenses are not needed to fish on Free Fun Weekend and more than 20 fishing clinics are held statewide.
Photo Credit: DNR

More than 20 free fishing activities are taking place around the state that can be found by searching the DNR website,, for keywords "free fishing weekend." Activities vary, but most offer loaner equipment and hands-on instruction. Some clubs and civic groups even provide free fishing equipment to children that becomes theirs to keep so they can fish again.

Three state fish hatcheries will be holding open houses on Saturday, June 3. Osceola Fish Hatchery in Polk County has a kids' fishing clinic planned while Les Voigt Hatchery in Bayfield and Brule River State Fish Hatchery in Douglas County offer catch and release opportunities and a variety of activities for people of all ages.

Many state properties take advantage of free fishing and fun weekend by offer fishing clinics, including High Cliff and Harrington Beach state parks, Richard Bong State Recreation Area, the Northern, Southern and Pike Lake units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and the Brule River State Forest. A 600-gallon native fish tank will be on display both days at Peninsula State Park.

Need fishing equipment or want to rent a boat, canoe, kayak or bicycle to enjoy the weekend?

No fishing gear? No problem. Many state properties have loaner fishing poles that people can borrow. Contact a Tackle Loaner site at one of several state parks, DNR regional offices or partner organizations to borrow one. Call the DNR staffer or partner listed for each site to find out what specific equipment is available and to arrange to pick it up.

A number of parks offer canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals for those who want to get out on the water.
A number of parks offer canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals for those who want to get out on the water.
Photo Credit: DNR

Looking to get out on the water for some fishing or paddling fun or want to try stand-up paddleboards or take a bike ride without hauling a bike to a property? Wisconsin state parks and forests have partnered with private concessionaires and friends groups to offer rental equipment at some properties. Equipment is typically available during the summer months. Please note that properties may have a limited supply of rentals and all are first-come, first-served. All boat, canoe, kayak and SUP rentals include a life jacket. Contact the property for pricing, available dates or more information.

Stay safe on the water - wear a life jacket

Whether people are enjoying Free Fun Weekend from a fishing boat or are just out on the water in a canoe or on a paddleboard, state conservation wardens are reminding them to wear a life jacket.

All vessels, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard, and for any boat 16 feet and longer, one approved throwable device.

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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