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Free admission to all state parks, forests and trails

MADISON – As high gas prices have people looking for vacation getaways closer to home, Wisconsin State Park officials are reminding people that a state park, forest, recreation area or state trail is located within easy driving distance of all state residents and of many people in neighboring states. And on Sunday June 8, anyone can visit any park, forest or trail for free during Wisconsin State Park Open House Day.

“Open House Day gives us the opportunity to share our unparalleled natural resources, events, and activities with the folks that haven’t visited recently or are new to Wisconsin,” says Dan Schuller, newly appointed Wisconsin State Parks director. “Whether peering over the bluffs of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers at Wyalusing, viewing rainbows in the waterfalls at Amnicon Falls State Park, or building sand castles at Whitefish Dunes in Door County, we delight in seeing kids in our parks and adults enjoying the pleasures of the sun and fresh air.”

Despite the AAA Wisconsin prediction of a one percent drop in holiday travel nationally, the Wisconsin State Park System is projecting some of its highest capacities to-date. Reservable campsites in Wisconsin state park and forest campgrounds are booked solid for the Memorial Day weekend, but as of late May, there were still campsites available for the weekend of State Park Open House at many parks and forests. People can check campsite availability or reserve a site (minimum two nights) through the State Parks Web site at [www.wiparks.net].

“With all the features Wisconsin has to offer in its state parks, we are predicting this to be one of the best camping years we have seen yet,” Schuller says. “When faced with the high travel costs of this season, Wisconsin State Parks can be found right at Midwesterners’ back doors and are a convenient, economic, and fun alternative destination for vacationers.”

State park attendance figures show visitation numbers were higher in 2007 by nearly 6 percent over 2006.

“This sets us apart from many of the other Midwestern states and proves what a terrific destination Wisconsin is for recreation and travel,” Schuller says,

With opportunities for bicycling, hiking, canoeing, boating, fishing, and horseback riding at various locations statewide Wisconsin boasts unique and diverse landscapes to interest all travelers.

On State Park Open House Day, no admission stickers are required on vehicles entering state parks, forests and recreation areas, and trail passes are not required for bicyclists, in-line skaters, or horseback riders using state trails that normally require a trail pass.

The event also coincides with Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin, so no fishing license is required to fish at the many lakes and rivers located in state parks and forests. Several parks are sponsoring free fishing activities, along with other special events:

  • Governor Nelson State Park, Waunakee, (608) 831-3005 – 20th Anniversary Event.
  • Governor Thompson State Park, Crivitz, (715) 757-3979 – Open House Day. Explore our 11 miles of hiking trail, fish on our inland lake or Caldron Falls Flowage and enjoy a cook-out lunch provided by the Friends of Governor Thompson State Park. Meet at the Woods Lake picnic area by the park office. Woods Lake and the park office are located at the end of Paust Lane off Ranch Road. Free Admission. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest—Northern Unit, Campbellsport, (920) 533-8322 – Youth Fishing Derby. Calling all anglers and potential anglers 17 years old and younger to Long Lake! Learn or practice your fishing skills through hands-on activities. Topics include casting, knot tying, tackle box basics, fish identification, safety tips and regulation knowledge. There will be plenty of time for fishing, too. Prizes will be awarded for the largest fish caught and the most fish caught, and a few lucky people also will receive door prizes. This is Free Fishing Weekend and the Wisconsin State Park System Open House, so no one needs a fishing license or Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker to attend. Adults are encouraged to participate with their children. Long Lake Recreation Area Fishing Pier. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan, (920) 451-4080 – Kite Building Workshop. Join in the fun of making and decorating a pocket sled kite during either of the workshop sessions, then head right out the door to fly the kite on the beach. Best for children 12 and under; 4-year olds will need parental help. $4 charge per kite kit. Call to register for a session. Park shelter in campground. 10 and 11 a.m. Learn About the Sun on Open House Day. Rustic Skies Astronomy will provide a solar scope to take a look at the sun and observe the prominences, filaments and sunspots. Children are invited to take park in some crafts. Free park admission today. Enclosed shelter building. 1-3:30 p.m.
  • La Crosse River State Trail, Ontario, (608) 337-4775 – Always on a Sunday: Prairie Walk. Here’s your chance to learn about native wildflowers and grasses on this remnant of railroad prairie. These are leisurely walks on level terrain. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat to block the sun. Enjoy the afternoon along the trail with local columnist and naturalist, Bob Lee! Search for hairy pucoon, golden Alexanders, spiderwort, Solomon’s plume, roses and lupines. Meet at the trail crossing on Commercial St. (County Highway J) in Rockland. 1:30 p.m.
  • Lake Wissota State Park, Chippewa Falls, (715) 382-4574 – Open House Lake Fair. Take a canoe ride, kayak ride, bluebird hike. Enjoy games, craft activities, exhibits and talks on relevant lake issues. Learn about Lake Wissota on a pontoon classroom ride. Learn about fishing and how to cast. Open House – Free admission. Sponsored by Friends of Lake Wissota State Park, Wisconsin Association of Lakes, and Beaver Creek Reserve. Nature Center and boat landing area. Noon – 4 p.m.