August 24, 2014
Road Construction on South Shore

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South Shore Road Construction at Devil's Lake State Park

It’s never been exactly “safe” walking along the section of South Shore Road that connects the West Bluff trails to the sidewalk at the south end of the lake. Speeding cars and a blind corner rarely mix well! Now, that’s finally changing.

After a search for remnants of an endangered orchid that was once found in the area turned up nothing, construction was allowed to go ahead. Soon the sidewalk along south shore will be extended to meet the West Bluff trails. Until then, hikers need to be extra cautious around the machinery and drivers will also want to go slow through the construction area.

Note: South Lake Road will be closed on Monday 08-25 and Tuesday 08-26 from 6 AM – 9 AM by the boat landing to replace the culvert.



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August 16, 2014
It’s Jewelweed Season!

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Jewelweed Wisconsin

Did you know that when you touch a Jewelweed seed pod it will pop? It’s a big surprise and lots of fun for kids and adults who have never tried it before. The time to give it a go is right now!

Jewelweed is a common plant at Devil’s Lake State Park and in the region in general. Most often it’s found filling ditches and wet areas along streams. (There’s a bunch up by the Devil’s Lake State Park nature center as well!) Jewelweed stands 3-5 feet tall and often grows in clumps. It’s fairly easy to recognise with thick squarish stems and orange horn-like flowers. The seed pods look like little peapods and will when ripe will pop at the lightest pressure.  (Watch the video)  Have fun!



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August 15, 2014
This Weekend Aug 15-17th

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Badger Steam & Gas Show in Wisconsin

The big area event this weekend is the annual Badger Steam & Gas show featuring: antique tractors, steam engines, antique cars, trucks, and snowmobiles, models/miniatures, woodworking and print shops and more.  There is also a huge flea market that’s often worth the price of admission all by itself. Food available on the grounds as well.  The event runs through Sunday the 17th and is held at their show grounds between Baraboo & Wisconsin Dells. [MAP CLICK HERE]  If you’ve never been to the Badger Steam & Gas Show, it is a loud, dusty affair with lots of walking involved. Kids will love the the noise, the machinery, the animals and of course the food.  However, if you have allergies or asthma be prepared to deal with thick smoke and dust throughout your day.

Archery Day at Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin

Park visitor trying her hand at the park’s Archery Days event.

Meanwhile at Devil’s Lake State Park, this is the last Archery Weekend event.  Drop in any time Saturday or Sunday from 10:30 to 3pm to try your hand with a bow and arrow. Whether you are experienced with a bow or never tried, there will be certified instructors to help kids of all ages with some target practice. The location is easy to find between the north shore bat condo and boat landing.  More events at the park this weekend include a presentation by Eric Carson, Associate Professor at the Wisconsin Geologic and Natural History Survey at the University of Wisconsin Extension, who will share what they’ve discovered about Devil’s Lake through the many soil cores they’ve taken, Animal Feeding at the Nature Center, Friday night Fish Fry and a “Stuck on the Rocks” ropes rescue presentation.  Click here for event calendar and details.

Oh yes, and don’t forget the Farmer’s Market, Saturday from 7:30 AM - 1:00 PM & the Sunday Market, Sunday from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM on the historic downtown square here in Baraboo.

I think that covers the big stuff.  Have fun this weekend and be safe out there!



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August 13, 2014
Where Should Visitors Park?

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Pewit's Nest State Natural Area

So let’s face it, this has become a farce. Those in charge of managing Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area have simply abdicated or given up. What’s more, they have created a trap for visitors by not providing adequate parking.  This is a very old problem and it seems the bucks are passing faster than migrating sandhill cranes.

I could rant on about the destruction going on in Pewit’s Nest as well as Parfrey’s Glen state natural areas here in Baraboo.. and I have.. (Poor Norman Cart Fassett must be rolling in his grave!) In the end if we don’t act, the earth will shrug us off and move on. Until then we’ll simply allow these special places to be flattened by overuse because, “It’s not my problem.”  Then our community will wonder where all the visitors went, shocked and amazed to learn that “nature” was the real attraction all along.

But I’m sidetracked. My little rant today is actually about ticket trapping visitors that all started when someone said, “Let’s create an inadequate parking area at Pewit’s Nest.” I’ve even heard suggestion that inadequate parking was intentional to keep numbers down. If true, that planner should be fired! What it did do was force people to park up and down a dangerous corner. In fact just last Saturday cars were parked so far down the road, that they were beginning to park up a further side road as well. How crazy is that?? Sure, we could say that the driver’s are at fault and that they should just follow the laws and come back later.. But frankly we all know better and you can’t hide behind the letter of the law when you need a long-term solution.

While locals often visit during the week, most weekend visitors have made a special effort to visit. They may only have this one Saturday or one weekend to visit. Do we expect them to drive by? Really?

Here’s one snippet from a TripAdvisor review,

“We were going to visit on another day a month or so ago, but turned around because there are only 8-9 parking places and the 12 or so cars on the road all had parking tickets on them.” - Read the rest of the reviews here.

We, our community, our state, told them “Come! Visit! It’s A Must See!”.  Then we didn’t provide them parking. Then to add insult to injury, and get this, then we pass out parking tickets. On any given Saturday, Sauk County patrol officers can basically harvest parking tickets at will around Pewit’s. It’s no secret locally. It just is. Pewit’s Nest on summer Saturdays reminds me of one of those private wedding parties you drive by, where cars are lined up and down the side of a  busy highway and you’re just waiting for someone to get hit trying to get into their car.  Just crazy.

Even a Wisconsin Trails article mentions tickets. Not ideal advertising.

Typical trash at Pewit's Nest

Typical trash & fire remains at Pewit’s Nest

Here in Baraboo, these beautiful natural areas are ours. Yours and mine. We need to care more. We also need to realize that the visitors to these areas are our guests and they help us pay the bills. The answer isn’t to close these areas to the public as some have suggested. We simply need deal with the issues of being popular, invest in the infrastructure to match our visitor needs & numbers, provide appropriate law enforcement and for Pete’s sake, provide adequate parking!

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!



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August 12, 2014
Shorebirds Head South

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Stilt Sandpiper - Sauk Prairie Wisconsin 2014

Wisconsin birders are getting geared up for the 2014 fall migration which kicks off each year as shorebirds begin to move south as early as July! In fact right now it’s possible to find a variety of shorebirds right here in Sauk County.  The most popular hotspot at the moment has been reported along the Wisconsin River at the Sauk City canoe launch where a variety of sandpipers have been spotted. This and many other current “hot spots” can be located on an interactive map provided by Wisconsin ebird; Click here to open map.  You are also invited to join the Birds of Sauk County Facebook page to share photos and updates.

Below are a few shots we’ve captured along the Wisconsin River recently…

Least Sandpiper - Juvenile

Least Sandpiper – Juvenile

Lesser Yellow legged Sandpiper

Lesser Yellow legged Sandpiper

Sandpiper Squabble

Sandpiper Squabble

Stilt Sandpiper

Stilt Sandpiper



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August 11, 2014
Backyard Explorer – Page Creek Marsh

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Page Creek Marsh Wisconsin

Page Creek Marsh State Natural Area is less than an hour drive from Devil’s Lake State Park and is certainly one of the most “wild” state natural areas we’ve been to for our Backyard Explorer series.

Page Creek is 643 acres of swamp, bog, wet prairie, sedge meadow and sandy oak savanna. The area is known as a staging area for sandhill cranes during the fall migration. It is also said to be home for two rare animals; the blanding’s turtle and the slender glass lizard. On our visit in early August, we saw sandhills, a variety of hawks & other birds, an egret and a large variety of butterflies & dragonflies.

The trails at Page Creek Marsh are not for folks looking for a “walk in the park.”  In fact, if you’re directionally challenged, you may want to put a waypoint on your GPS to mark the location of your car, just in case. Bug spray, long sleeves and pants are also good ideas.

There are two small areas where visitors could park both along county road K.  One is simply a gated old road and one, a small parking area. We nearly missed the main parking which was a small patch of open grass and only recognisable as a natural area due to the garlic mustard boot brush sign which could be seen from the road. Hiking into Page Creek, you need to stay aware of the trail which is little more than a deer trail through the sandy oak savanna area.  In spots the trail becomes nearly impossible follow and only a bit of investigation will keep you on the right track. What signs there are are old, falling down and facing only in one direction.

Boardwalk at Page Creek Marsh

Boardwalk at Page Creek Marsh

Near the marsh, the trail drops into thick brush and then again seems to disappear completely.  Again, with some investigation, the trail can be found under thick brush. Stooping low you can push through the thicket to get to the bank of the marsh.  If you reach the right spot, you need to look down through the tall grass and cattails to find the boardwalk.  The boardwalk through the marsh is made up of 2×12(ish) boards, often near rotten, loose and unstable. Hikers have to feel their way through the tall grass while walking along the boardwalk.  It’s easy to lose your footing, which depending on the time of the year, could make for a wet day.

Great Egret in Wisconsin

Great Egret flies over Page Creek Marsh

It was in the marsh where we encountered the most wildlife. As we came to the small wooden bridge in the feature photo (top), a loud squawking alerted us of an egret rising out the tamarack swamp in front of us. We also saw a few ducks and heard cranes in the distance.  As we navigated the rickety boardwalk, we were surrounded by dragonflies and butterflies who were drawn to the hundreds of pink flowers atop 5 foot tall joe-pye weed.  This is really a beautiful spot and well worth the effort.

The boardwalk continued into from the marsh into the tamarack forest on the other shore. It was nearly impossible to not walk off of the boardwalk just to get around the overgrown plant life along the bank.  The soft planks led us into the deep tamarack swamp area.  On our visit the forest floor was dry, but I wouldn’t plan on that for most visits!  Eventually the trail leads back up a hill into sandy savanna once again. The trail again becomes lost in a sandy glade on the edge of a hilltop prairie.

Standing at the edge of the prairie, we had hiked most of Page Creek’s “primitive trail” and there was no way to continue on without without GPS, or at the very least, a compass to guide us. From this point, we turned back and made our return to the car.

Adult and younger Sandhill Cranes at Page Creek Marsh

Page Creek Marsh Sandhill Cranes

Page Creek State Natural Area is a wonderful slice of northern Wisconsin wilderness and worth the trip just to see the wildlife. Depending on conditions and season allow yourself about 2-3 hours to hike the trail, longer if you spend a lot of time watching the critters.  Again, visitors to Page Creek need to be comfortable in woods and marsh with very primitive or no trails to guide you.

I’d like to get back there this fall myself when the cranes are gathering.  If you go, you need to be comfortable in woods and marsh with very primitive or no trails to guide you. You’ll also want to bring bug spray to deal with mosquitoes and ticks.  Oh yeah, and bring a sense of adventure… you’ll need it. :)

More Information



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August 8, 2014
The “Haps” This Weekend! (Aug 8-10)

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Art Fair on the Square in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

The big event in the area this weekend is the Summer Art Classic on the square in downtown Baraboo.  This Sauk County Art Association event features fine arts and crafts, musical entertainment, poetry, and food.  The Summer Art Classic runs Saturday 9am to 4pm on Baraboo’s historic downtown square.

At Devil’s Lake State Park this weekend you can immerse yourself in music and nature.  Tonight (Friday),  you can join the park naturalist just as the sun goes down for the popular Lawn Chair Bat Watch.  People of all ages bring their lawn chairs and hang out at the park’s big bat condo to watch our resident bats head out for the evening hunt.  There’s a trivia game for the kids with little prizes as well.  The Friday night Fish Fry begins at 5pm outside of the park’s north shore Chateau as well.   Saturday night the Big Band Dance is going on at the Chateau from 7:30pm to 10:30pm featuring the sounds of the Hal Edwards Orchestra.  Cost is $10 and happens at the Chateau on the north shore. However, it should be said that lots of folks simply sit outside on the grass (or even in their kayaks) to enjoy the music and the summer evening.  For more park events, costs & details head over to our events page here.

Yellow legged Sandpipers - Wisconsin

Lesser Yellow legged Sandpipers on the Wisconsin River in Sauk Prairie

Attention Birders: Now if you’re a bird lover, you may be interested to know that lots of birds seem to be gathering early this year and might be worth checking out this weekend. Sandpipers are gathering on the Wisconsin River near Sauk Prairie and larger than usual groups of Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese have been seen in rural fields around Baraboo. What do they know that we don’t know?  If you want more details about the birds of Sauk County feel free to join the Facebook Group, “Birds of Sauk County” right here.



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August 5, 2014
The Dog Doo Paradox

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poop-on-a-stick

O.K. hikers, I’m sure you’ve seen this bizarre trend out on the trails, right? Crazy dog owners going through the trouble of actually bagging up their dog’s leavings, but then tossing the bag along the trail…, or better yet, placing it on a trail marker or hanging it from a branch?

Whaa? If you can’t cope with pet poop enough to carry it out, how can you pick it up in the first place? boggles the mind. And if that paradox doesn’t fry your brain, think about someone going out of their way to enjoy a “nature trail” but then feeling no qualms about leaving a plastic bag full of doggy doo hanging on a stick…

Dude, are you waiting for the State Park Pet Poop Concierge Service to come along? Do you suppose that the poop fairy to take the bag and then leave a free park sticker for you to retrieve later? Do you believe that leaving the doggy doo in a bag on the trail is better for the environment than if you had simply let the dog do it’s thing off trail in the first place?

I won’t bother asking anyone to carry their bags out, because, well, if you were going to, you are already… Thank you.

Poop Bags Problem Around The Country…



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July 31, 2014
Falcon Spotting!

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Peregrine Falcon

So this is cool. A pair of Peregrine Falcons has been spotted in the rocks around Devil’s Lake State Park. At one time Peregrines were nearly wiped out due to the spraying of highly toxic insecticide DDT that caused their eggs to have very thin shells which didn’t survive or were crushed when incubated. This was the same issue that almost wiped out Bald Eagles here in the lower 48. Peregrine falcons were placed on the Wisconsin Endangered Species List in 1975.

Today, since the ban of DDT, US falcon populations are starting to recover. In fact, while still endangered in Wisconsin, Peregrine Falcons have been delisted by the federal government since 1999.  That said, from what I’ve heard, no Peregrines have been seen in Devil’s Lake State Park for at least 10 years!  So, welcome back!

Now, if you don’t know much about Peregrine Falcons, check out the links below…



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July 25, 2014
Event Highlights July 25-27th

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Music In The Park - Devils Lake

‘Sup this weekend? Stuff! Starting of course with Baraboo’s second annual Circus Heritage Celebration and parade Saturday at 2pm. We’ve posted that information right here. Of course there are a few other events going on at the park and in the area this weekend, so here are the highlights…

Here at Devil’s Lake State Park in addition to the weekend naturalist programs (including a Bat Watch tonight!), you’ll want check out the free “Music in the Park” concert put on by the Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park. Spend a Sunday evening at the north shore of Devil’s Lake State Park for a live outdoor concert featuring Swing Crew. Fun is the bottom line with this interactive, acoustic band. The shows feature a wide variety of music, audience participation, jokes, stunts, cornball humor and toasts. Join the fun, join the show and you could be the recipient of The Swing Crew bumper sticker. Great time for the kids as well!   There is also a big band dance on Saturday night at the park’s north shore Chateau from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm.

Now in the area you can also join the village of Merrimac for their Merrimac Community Festival on the shores of Lake Wisconsin from 8am to 8pm featuring live music as well with “Flip City”. For details check out their Facebook page at http://ift.tt/UrZOLc.  Click here for a map to the festival site.

Meanwhile over in Portage just 15 minutes drive from Devil’s Lake, you can take in the old fashioned Columbia County Fair that is running now through Sunday. You may want to take in a demo derby or tractor pull while you’re there!  Visit their website for details.

Have a great weekend!



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