Spending the Night In Wisconsin’s Great Outdoors Just Got a Whole Lot Easier
Wisconsin is a state that is committed to public lands. We actually had the very first state park and there are now 66 state parks that cover more than 60,000 acres; another 471,000 acres are state forest land. One of the best ways to see and explore our state is by camping. The state has more than 5,000 campsites on public lands. These range from drive-in spots for 2-4 people on up to large family and group campgrounds. There are indoor group locations, accessible locations and even those that can only be reached by foot, boat or horseback. From Big Foot Beach State Park to the south up to Big Bay State Park in the Madeline Islands and from Kinnickinnic State Park to the west and Rock Island State park out in Lake Michigan, nearly every inch of our state is near a public land space to explore. And now doing so has gotten even easier.
Until recently, if you wanted to camp in a Wisconsin state park, you had to plan ahead. There was no deciding to camp on Friday night or Saturday morning and heading out right away, secure in the knowledge that you had a campsite.
Folks looking to make last-second plans would have had to head to the park and find out when they got there if there were campsites available. Obviously, most people didn't take the chance that they'd pack up and travel only to be turned away. That meant far less spontaneous camping than a lot of Wisconsinites would like.
But a recent change to the system means that same-day reservations can be made at a number of state parks. It's a pilot program that rolled out May 1. Visitors hoping to camp at Amnicon Falls, Big Foot Beach, Big Bay, Mill Bluff, Nelson Dewey, New Glarus Woods, Potawatomi, Rocky Arbor, Tower Hill and Yellowstone Lake can go to wisconsin.goingtocamp.com and make same-day reservations.
Reservations can also be made at those same parks by calling (888) 947-2757 (9 a.m.-11 p.m. May 1-Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday Nov. 1-April 30), or by picking up a new yellow, weatherproof phone at any of the 10 parks to make a booking.
Five more parks cannot be reached by phone, but will be reachable using the online system to make same-day reservations during the reservation season: Council Grounds, Devil's Lake, Lake Kegonsa, Mirror Lake and Peninsula State Park.
Same-day reservations can also be made at any park office when it is open. This pilot program does not affect the parks that have always had campsites available for walk-ups. Same-day reservations will not be subject to the $7.75 reservation fee, but each park and camping site has different charges and there is always the charge to enter a Wisconsin state park - the $28 car sticker is usually the most economical for those who want to camp.
This access to our great outdoors changes things significantly for those of us that like spur of the moment decisions or maybe want to make sure the weather cooperates before they make plans.
Whether you just get the itch to head outside or plans drop through and you decide you want a night under the stars, this new system makes it so easy and should make it a whole lot more appealing for Wisconsinites to camp and enjoy the outdoors.
There's never been a better time to load your family in the van, grab the tents and hit the trails. Teach your kids how to really roast a hot dog or a s'more, enjoy the peace and quiet away from the stress of life and maybe even unplug for a day or two. You can do that whenever the mood strikes you and that's pretty awesome. Make sure you take advantage so that the program continues to expand and the feature gets offered at even more state parks.
Learn more about the state parks from the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Here’s the website for booking same-day sites online:
wisconsin.goingtocamp.com. Or call (888) 947-2757.