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Discovering the beauty of Wisconsin State Parks

Devil's Doorway signature feature of Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin
Dan VanDenBroeke
Stock Adobe
Devil's Doorway signature feature of Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin
The great thing is anyone who lives in the state of Wisconsin is probably pretty close to at least one state park that they can get to, more likely they're close to a few.

Alli Watters

From the Driftless Region to the Northwoods to the Door County Peninsula, the Wisconsin State Park System encompasses 50 state parks. The DNR manages 1-point-2 million acres of recreation areas as a part of this system, including state forests, state trails, and over six thousand campsites.

Courtesy of Evan Watters for Milwaukee Magazine.

With so much to explore, where do you even start? Well, for recommendations, freelance writer Alli Watters has plenty of suggestions to help you start planning. She wrote a guide to the Wisconsin State Park System for this month’s Milwaukee Magazine. Here are some of the parks that Watters lists.

Harrington Beach State Park

"It's on the sandy stretch of Lake Michigan, but it also has this really unique history to it. It preserves this old, historic Wisconsin quarry town. So, there's this big, crystal clear quarry Lake that you can walk around. And you can peer into this 45-foot pit because the water is so clear," Watters explains.

Kohler-Andrae State Park

"The big draw to this park is that it has a cord walk, which is a lot like a boardwalk, except instead of walking over water, you're walking over sand and you get to see these really delicate sand dunes and how beautiful they are," says Watters.

Aztalan State Park

This area preserves this ancient late woodland Native American village that was around roughly between the 11th and 13th centuries. Watters says, "In 1919, they did this massive excavation of the area and uncovered a lot of the original settlement. So, when you're there, you go into the visitor center and you can get this trail guide that will show you the history of this park and you can walk around and do your own self-guided tour, which is very cool."

Courtesy of Evan Watters for Milwaukee Magazine

Interstate Park

This is Wisconsin's first ever state park. Watters says, "Wisconsin was one of the very first states to even consider a setup like this. We started talking about the Wisconsin State Park system really early on, in 1878, the Wisconsin Legislature approved the protection of what was then called the State Park, one of the first of its kind in the country. But it wasn't until 1900 that that really came to fruition, and the State Park would eventually become Interstate State Park. And that also led to the founding of our Wisconsin State Park System."

Rock Island State Park

"Once you get to that island, there are no cars there. It's just people. You have to walk everywhere you go. It's quiet, like you've never heard, because when are you anywhere where there are no cars? And it's just super beautiful and spectacular," says Watters.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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