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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 23, 2017

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June 3-4 Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin includes many events across the state

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

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.



Wyalusing State Park to celebrate 100th anniversary June 3

Contact(s): Paul Holtan, state parks, forests, trails and recreation public affairs manager, at 608-267-7517

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. - The public is invited to come out and celebrate Wisconsin's fourth oldest state park during a 100th anniversary celebration on June 3 at Wyalusing State Park. The celebration coincides with Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, when entrance fees to all state parks, forests and trails are waived.

A group of men at a park party in formal suits and hats. A few carry walking sticks. One of a series of photographs most likely taken by John Nolen, the well-known landscape architect John Nolen who recommended Wyalusing become a state park.
A group of men at a park party around 1908 in formal suits and hats. A few carry walking sticks. One of a series of photographs most likely taken by John Nolen, the well-known landscape architect who recommended Wyalusing become a state park.
Photo Credit: UW Madison Digital Collections

Wyalusing is one of four locations for Wisconsin's first state parks recommended by landscape architect John Nolen in a 1909 report to the State Parks Board. The State Parks Board recommended acquisition of the property, which the legislature approved in 1912. Development of the property took a few more years and the park officially opened in June 1917, making Wyalusing Wisconsin's fourth state park following Interstate in 1900, Peninsula in 1909 and Devil's Lake in 1911.

Due to its location at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, the area where the park is now located has a rich history. Different Indian cultures occupied the region as early as 9,000 B.C. and there is a procession of 28 Indian mounds along Sentinel Ridge overlooking the Mississippi River. Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet arrived at the Upper Mississippi River in 1673 after a four-day journey on the Wisconsin River. A monument at Point Lookout is dedicated to the two explorers.

During the Great Depression a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was located at the park that built park roads, trails, stone fireplaces in shelters and picnic areas and the stone walls along Point Lookout and the four other lookouts that offer expansive views of the bluffs and rivers below.

One of only two astronomy observatories located in Wisconsin state parks is also located at Wyalusing. The other is located at Harrington Beach State Park. The Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center is named after a park ranger who worked at Wyalusing for 30 years. The center and observatory are run by the StarSplitters Astronomy Club, a local non-profit group of astronomy enthusiasts who conduct regular astronomy programs at the park.

The Wisconsin Ridge campground offers spectacular views from atop the river bluffs making it one of the most sought-after campgrounds in the state park system. The park also has the Homestead campground, offering a total of 114 campsites, and an indoor group campground.

With views 500 feet above the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, the Wisconsin Ridge Campground has some of the most sought-after campsites in Wisconsin.
With views from 500 feet above the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, the Wisconsin Ridge Campground has some of the most sought-after campsites in Wisconsin.
Photo Credit: Wis. Dept. of Tourism

The park has more than 18 miles of hiking trails, some of which are groomed for cross-country skiing during the winter. A marked, 6-mile canoe trail starts at the park boat landing and winds through the backwaters of the Upper Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

The Friends of Wyalusing and Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce along with the Department of Natural Resources will be holding a 100th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday June 3, 2017.

For more information about the park, search the Department of Natural Resources website,, for keyword "Wyalusing."

The schedule includes:

For updated times and changes check (exit DNR).



"Universe in the Park" returns this summer to Wisconsin State Parks and Forests

Contact(s): Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs manager, 608-267-7517 or Universe in the Park, Dept. of Astronomy, UW-Madison, 608-262-3071

First session May 28 at Kohler-Andrae State Park

MADISON - If the weather cooperates, visitors to Wisconsin state parks and forests will have 44 opportunities at 21 different parks this summer to view and learn about the night sky by participating in the "Universe in the Park" outreach program conducted by students and staff of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If nights are clear, UW-Madison astronomy students set up telescopes for viewing the night sky during Universe in the Park programs.
If nights are clear, UW-Madison astronomy students set up telescopes for viewing the night sky during Universe in the Park programs.
Photo Credit: DNR

If the sky is clear, after a short talk and slideshow about astronomy, participants can gather around telescopes to view astronomical objects.

"Universe in the Park," (exit DNR) which began in 1996, is predicated on the idea that the best environment in which enjoy astronomy is outside under dark skies, according to Prof. Eric M. Wilcots, who coordinates the program. Wilcots said this year, the programs will focus on "exciting new discoveries in astronomy."

A typical session begins just after sunset, usually about 9 p.m., with a 20-30 minute talk and slide show about astronomy. Topics are left up to the speaker, and present a broad overview of astronomy and recent astronomical news such as the discovery of new solar systems and the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Most of the question-and-answer period takes place around the telescopes. During the height of the summer, the sessions can attract audiences of 70 to 80 people.

Visitors can show up for the slide show and question-and-answer period even if it is cloudy and the sky cannot be viewed through the telescope. If it is raining the sessions are held only if there is a shelter available.

Universe in the Park events are free, but visitors to Wisconsin State Parks and Forests must have a daily or annual vehicle admission sticker.

Anyone interested in attending a session should always contact the park to make sure the program is being held as scheduled, because the schedule occasionally changes. A "UitP Schedule" (exit DNR) is available on the Universe in the Park website and these and other astronomy events at Wisconsin state park properties can be found by searching the DNR website for "Get Outdoors" and selecting "astronomy" under the activity "type" button.

2017 Universe in the Park Schedule

May 28Kohler-Andrae State Park
June 10Mirror Lake State Park
June 16Devil's Lake State Park
June 17Governor Dodge State Park
June 24Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit
July 1 Yellowstone Lake State Park
July 7 Devil's Lake State Park and Interstate State Park
July 8 Mirror Lake State Park and Willow River State Park
July 13 Peninsula State Park
July 14 Newport State Park
July 15 Governor Dodge State Park and Rock Island State Park
July 16 Potawatomi State Park
July 19 Devil's Lake State Park
July 22 Governor Thompson State Park and Kohler-Andrae State Park
July 29 Buckhorn State Park and Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit
August 5Devil's Lake State Park
August 11Peninsula State Park
August 12Governor Dodge State Park and Newport State Park
August 13Rock Island State Park
August 17Amnicon Falls State Park
August 18Copper Falls State Park and Willow River State Park
August 19Big Bay State Park and Interstate State Park
August 26Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit, Mirror Lake State Park and Roche-A-Cri State Park
September 1Potawatomi State Park
September 2Peninsula State Park and Yellowstone Lake State Park
September 3Newport State Park and New Glarus Woods State Park
September 16Buckhorn State Park
September 23Governor Dodge State Park and Kohler-Andrae State Park
September 23Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit
September 30Copper Falls State Park
September 30Devil's Lake State Park
October 7Peninsula State Park



Slow the spread of invasive species by keeping firewood local

Contact(s): Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Invasive Forest Insect Program Coordinator, 608-264-9247

MADISON - People heading out camping this Memorial Day weekend and through the summer can do their part to protect Wisconsin's urban and wildland trees by burning firewood locally, and not moving it from location to location.

"Keeping firewood local is one way everyone can do their part to protect Wisconsin's forests," Andrea Diss-Torrance, invasive forest pest program coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

For people camping at state parks and forests, state law requires any firewood brought to a property be from within 10 miles of the campground and be from outside of a quarantined area in Wisconsin or another state [PDF], unless the property is also within a quarantined area. Firewood certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection that has been processed to kill potential pests and diseases hiding inside is also acceptable.

People coming to camp at state parks should buy their wood at the park and not transport wood from other areas to avoid spreading invasive species.
People coming to camp at state parks should buy their wood at the park and not transport wood from other areas to avoid spreading invasive species.
Photo Credit: DNR

Most state park and forest campgrounds have firewood available for sale, with hours of firewood sales varying by property. Check on firewood availability by searching the DNR website,, for "find a park." Choose a park or forest property from the dropdown menus. If the property offers camping, click on the link for "camping information."

People can also use the national Firewood Scout website,, to check where firewood is available. Firewood Scout is operated by a nonprofit organization established to help people buy firewood locally. The Department of Natural Resources does not verify the accuracy of firewood listings outside of state-managed properties.

Firewood Scout also offers information on invasive species of concern and a set of questions consumers can ask to help assure the wood they purchase is at low risk for spreading invasive insects and diseases.

"Firewood Scout is an excellent outreach tool that raises awareness of invasive species issues while also empowering people with the necessary information to be part of the solution. That is a recipe for success," said Diss-Torrance.

For more information on the risks of moving firewood, or firewood rules in Wisconsin, go to the DNR website,, and search keyword "firewood."



Cedarburg student wins 2018 state park sticker design contest

Contact(s): Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs manager, 608-267-7517

MADISON - A design of the sun setting behind a lake-side campsite won the 2018 Wisconsin State Park admission sticker design contest for Carly Rishel, a senior at Cedarburg High School. The winning design will be printed on state park and forest annual vehicle admission stickers and will be displayed on more than 265,000 vehicles.

2018 Winning Design

Winning design by Carly Rishel
Cedarburg High School

Rishel will receive an engraved plaque, a 2018 annual vehicle admission sticker featuring her design when they become available in December and a state trail pass.

Second place was won by Grace Wroblewski also of Cedarburg High School whose entry depicted an owl with a full moon in the background and third place was won by Megan Miller, of Waupun Area High School, with a design of a whitetail buck deer.

Honorable Mention went to:

To see all of the sticker contest entries, search the Department of Natural Resources website,, for keyword "contest."

The vehicle admission stickers provide access to more than 60 state park, forest and recreation area properties across Wisconsin. The stickers are required on all motor vehicles stopping in state parks and recreation areas. Some state forest and trail parking areas also require a sticker.

Annual admission stickers cost $28 for Wisconsin residents or $38 for nonresidents. A family with more than one vehicle registered to the same household may purchase additional state park stickers for $15.50 for residents and $20.50 for nonresidents. A senior citizen annual sticker for $13 is available for Wisconsin Residents 65 years of age and older. The 2017 admission stickers will go on sale in early December.

This is the 27th year a Wisconsin high school student has designed the Wisconsin State Park admission sticker. The contest is open to students in grades nine through 12 or equivalent, attending public, private or parochial schools or home schooled in Wisconsin.



Canine distemper confirmed in multiple counties

Contact(s): Lindsey Long, DNR wildlife health, 608-219-5038

MADISON -- State wildlife health officials have confirmed that canine distemper has been identified in raccoons, gray foxes and skunks that were submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for testing from Vilas, Kenosha and Racine counties. Examination and testing of animals collected from Ashland, Oneida, Portage, and Adams counties are still pending.

Canine distemper is caused by a virus that is highly contagious among certain species of wildlife including raccoons, gray foxes, skunks and other closely related mammals. When canine distemper affects the nervous system of wild animals, the signs observed are similar to those observed in animals with rabies and can include lack of fear of people, weakness, aimless wandering or stumbling, seizures and sometimes aggression. All animals that have been submitted in this outbreak have also been tested and found to be negative for rabies.

Although the canine distemper virus does not infect people it is important to note that it is not possible to identify the disease an animal may have from observing a sick animal. As a result, people should avoid contact with wild animals in general and especially those that appear sick.

People are also reminded to keep pets indoors or under direct control when a sick wild animal is present as domestic dogs and ferrets can also be infected with this virus. Exposure often occurs through close contact during sneezing or coughing events, but it can also be shared through food and water bowls.

DNR wildlife health officials recommend removing outdoor dishes when not in use and securing garbage to help reduce contact between wild animals with each other and with pets. Although there is a vaccine available for dogs and ferrets, the best protocols for keeping pets protected against canine distemper virus should be discussed with a veterinarian.

If a person has direct contact with a sick wild animal that results in a bite or scratch they should contact their county public health department for guidance. In the case of a pet being bitten or otherwise exposed, contact a veterinarian or Dr. Yvonne Bellay at Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for further guidance at 608-224-4888.

People should report sick or dead wildlife to the DNR wildlife biologist for their county. A contact list can be found on the DNR website,, by clicking on the link for "contact" and then selecting staff directory and searching for "wildlife biologist" for their county.

Canine distemper virus appears to circulate in the raccoon population in Wisconsin and each year there are scattered reports of sick mammals. The DNR wildlife management program keeps track of these reports in a comprehensive database as part of efforts to monitor wildlife diseases and their effects on wildlife populations.



Deadline is July 3 for high school artists to enter DNR trout and salmon stamp contests

Contact(s): Joanna Griffin, DNR trout coordinator,, 608-264-8953

MADISON - High school students can be part of Wisconsin conservation history and build their resumes and portfolios by entering their artwork in the state's contests for the 2018 designs of the inland trout and Great Lakes salmon and trout stamps. Entries are due July 3.

Students in grades 9-12 are invited to enter the design contests for 2018 trout and salmon stamps. The 2017 inland trout stamp is shown.
Students in grades 9-12 are invited to enter the design contests for 2018 trout and salmon stamps. The 2017 inland trout stamp is shown.
Photo Credit: DNR

Winning entries will be featured on the collectors' stamps that anglers and others may buy, on the cover of the trout fishing regulations, and on Department of Natural Resources web pages. The winning artists also receive a plaque.

This is the first year the stamp design contests target high school students, says Joanna Griffin, DNR trout coordinator. "We thought that opening the contest up to high school students would encourage more kids to get interested in trout," she says. "Wisconsin offers tremendous trout and salmon fishing and we want to invite a new generation to discover the fun."

Students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 or the equivalent, attending public, homeschool, private or parochial schools in Wisconsin during the 2016-2017 school are eligible. Students can submit only one entry per contest, but may enter both the inland and Great Lakes contests. Entries must be received or postmarked by July 3, 2017.

Subject matter for the stamps must feature living species of salmon or trout commonly found in Wisconsin's waters or appropriate subject matter relating to trout and salmon fishing. Artists are not limited in their choice of colors or medium, but the medium selected must be of permanent quality such as pen and ink, oil, watercolor etching or pencil.

Once the artwork has been submitted, DNR will create an online gallery and open the voting through the Web and Facebook in July. The top entries from the online voting will move to a final round of judging by a panel of judges with expertise and interest in wildlife art, trout and salmon.


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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