Contact(s): Missy Vanlanduyt, Wisconsin State Parks, 608-266-7617 or Paul Holtan, DNR Office of Communications, 608-267-7517
MADISON - Visitors to Wisconsin state parks, trails and forests this summer will find many repairs have been made to the nearly $8 million in damage to properties in a series of storms and flooding events that hit last summer.
They will also find that some of the properties that suffered the most severe damage will still have some closed areas while major repairs continue to be underway.
Between June and September last year, 32 state properties in 21 counties sustained nearly $8 million in damage due to rain, flooding and tornado events. Heavy rains across northwestern Wisconsin in June and again in August caused significant damage at Amnicon Falls and Pattison state parks, including the washing out of Highway 35 above the dam at Pattison, which drained Interfalls Lake.
The hiking trails upstream of Interfalls Lake, sustained so much damage that they remain closed this year. Access to Little Manitou Falls is only by parking in the nearby lot and walking a short distance to the falls. The beach is closed due to the mandatory order to keep the dam gate open until the dam is found to be safe. Most trails to Big Manitou Falls have re-opened. Hikers are encouraged to utilize the ski trails for additional opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. DNR staff, on all levels, are working on plans to fix the damaged trails. Amnicon Falls State Park has nearly all areas open to visitor enjoyment.
Also in late August, heavy rains and storms caused the temporary closure of Wildcat Mountain State Park in Vernon County and approximately half of the Long Lake campground in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Fond du Lac County, where the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado had touched down.
A number of state trails also suffered major washouts, closing sections of trails in both northern and southern Wisconsin.
"We've made great progress in making repairs at many of our properties across the state," said Ben Bergey, Wisconsin State Park System director. "We still have some repairs to make, so visitors will still find some closed areas. The good news is that because we have so many properties offering recreational opportunities there are plenty of alternatives for people to enjoy."
The Kettle Moraine campground, Wildcat Mountain and Amnicon Falls state parks are completely repaired and open. Highway 35 over the dam at Pattison State Park was repaired and temporary repairs were made to the dam. Interfalls Lake will remain drawn down until permanent repairs can be made to the dam, which are expected to be completed by late 2019 or early 2020. There are a number of Douglas County parks nearby that offer swimming beaches and there are 16 public beaches on Lake Superior in Douglas County (both links exit DNR). The campground and access to both Big Manitou and Little Manitou water falls are open as well.
Repairs have been made to Badger, Sugar River and Military Ridge state trails. Repairs have been made to sections of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, Wisconsin's renowned first rail-trail in the nation, but the trail remains closed from Norwalk to Elroy. The segments from Norwalk to Wilton and Kendall to Elroy will be open by early Fall 2019, though the segment from Kendall to Wilton will remain closed for the season.
Other trail closures include:
Check the DNR website for current condition updates as sections of trails will be opening as they are repaired throughout the season.
There are many other trails that remain open, including 11 miles of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail from Sparta to Norwalk, including Tunnel #3. The damage at above-mentioned segments are significant in nature and will be designed and repaired in 2019, with a plan to be open for use in 2020. The public is asked to not enter closed areas as these areas have significant hazards and crews will be working in these areas with heavy equipment.
Other opportunities to hike and bike state trails in the area include the Great River, La Crosse River, and Great Sauk state trails as well as countless loop trails at other state and county properties.
The Saunders State Trail in Douglas County will also be closed for the summer due to flood damage; however, segments of the Gandy Dancer State Trail are expected to open throughout the summer. Visit www.douglascountywi.org for the most current conditions. The Gandy Dancer State Trail in Burnett and Polk counties are in good condition and open biking and other outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Wild Rivers State Trail in Douglass County is also open and has opportunities for ATV and horseback riding as well as hiking and off-road biking.
"Staff from the Wisconsin State Park System and other Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources programs have worked hard since the June and August storms to repair hundreds of areas of damage," Bergey said. "Unfortunately, there are still some significant areas of repair needed but countless other areas have been repaired in the last year. We thank the public for their patience as we continue to work repairing flood and storm damaged areas and get them open for the enjoyment of the public."
For information on other recreational opportunities, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Explore Outdoors," which provides a searchable database of DNR properties and activities. For more about state parks, trails, forests and recreation areas search "Parks," or "Find a Park."