April 24, 2014
Black Bear Sighting?

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Black Bear

Since 2009 it’s been pretty well understood that black bears roam Devil’s Lake State Park. Well, a couple anyway. Sightings are very rare and often we are made aware of their existence by their scat (poop!), and not by an actual bear sighting.  In fact, just a few days ago it was reported that bear scat was found on Burma Road which is at the south-west corner of the park.  So yep, there are bear at Devil’s Lake and now is a great time to review your “Bear Aware” skills.  Follow the link below to our guide to camping and hiking in black bear country, i.e., Devil’s Lake State Park.



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April 23, 2014
Waiting for the big top to rise for the first time in many years at #circusworld #baraboo http://ift.tt/1pqQzZB

Waiting for the big top to rise for the first time in many years at #circusworld #baraboo http://ift.tt/1pqQzZB

April 23, 2014

Brown Trout Stocking at Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

April 23, 2014
Just Add Brown Trout

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falling-fish

Yesterday two truckloads of brown trout arrived at Devil’s Lake State Park from St. Croix Falls to replenish the stock in the lake.  Each truck holds about 2,800, 9″ trout, which are basically shot out through a pipe into the lake.  It was an interesting thing to see! Later in the week we’re expecting to see a 3rd truck which will mean that the total stocking of Devil’s Lake this year is going to be in that 8,000-8,500 range.

Video Snapshot!



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April 21, 2014
Cold Water Basics At Devil’s Lake

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Watching a Loon by kayak at Devil's Lake State Park

Well, the ice is off the lake here at Devil’s Lake State Park and that means people will be in a rush to get out on and IN the water.  Well, hold up there cowboy, it’s cold!  Waay Cold.  So cold that if you fall out of your canoe or kayak without the proper gear you could die within minutes.  No, seriously!

The first risk you take when hitting the water this time of year is called “Cold Shock”. Cold shock happens when you first hit the water and can kill you within 3-5 minutes.  Cold shock has been seen even in water temperatures as high as 77°F! (The water at Devil’s Lake right now is between 45f & 50F)  Sudden immersion in cold water can cause a gasp reflex and drowned you almost instantly.  If you survive the initial hit, your body can spasm and breathing rates will increase rapidly. You may experience extreme muscular pain. You will be gasping for air. The combination of muscle spasms and rapid breathing will make swimming nearly impossible at first.  You will likely put your face into or below the surface of the water whether you want to or not. It only takes an inhalation of about five ounces of water to cause drowning.  You don’t want to be in this situation.

If you manage to survive the first few seconds of cold water immersion, the clock is running.  You can expect to have anywhere from 5-30 minutes to get to safety. This is where most people make their big mistake.  They think they have plenty of time to get back into their boat or swim to shore.  The problem is that your ability to swim is quickly failing with each minute.  Your muscle control is slipping away and even your ability to think will begin to fail. Boaters usually first try to get back into their boats if they can. It’s not easy without proper training in warm water, let alone when the clock is ticking! Often boaters simply decide to swim for shore. As they fight to swim in the cold water, they will struggle for air. Their muscles will become weaker and weaker.  They may, and sometimes drown before they reach solid ground.

There is a great article that goes into the details of cold water shock and hypothermia in a 2008 issue of SeaKayaker Magazine that you can read here.

Proper Paddling Gear

Park Naturalist, Sue Johansen dressed for cold water paddling.

In the picture above, Devil’s Lake State Park’s naturalist, Sue Johansen is dressed for cold water paddling on Devil’s Lake.  She is wearing a drysuit which doesn’t allow water to touch your skin through the suit.  Under the drysuit she’s wearing multiple layers of wicking, insulating materials to stay warm.  She is wearing a life jacket specially designed for kayaking /canoeing in that it fits comfortably and will stay on when you fall in the water.  (While there are emergency inflatable life jackets out there, in cold water you may not have time to inflate them.)  Keeping your hands warm and functioning is imperative to safety. To keep her hands warm, Sue is wearing thick neoprene dive gloves. She also slides into neoprene pogies that wrap around her paddle. Sue’s feet are also protected by the drysuit with warm wicking socks underneath. She also wears a pair of thick neoprene boots to add more insulation (And traction on the rocks!).  Even wearing a simple hat will help you hold heat in your body.

So how long do you have to dress like this to really be safe on the water?  Well, how much of a risk taker are you? You definitely are facing some risk of cold water shock all year in Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers.  You do need to get to know your self as well. Hypothermia can sneak up on you even in warm conditions.  Heck, when I circumnavigated Puerto Rico by sea kayak in 2007, the water temperature was around the 80 degree mark and the air was nearly 100f and still with a wind, I’d start feeling cold after hours on the water. There would be nights where I’d be on the beach in my tent, shaking while wrapped in my sleeping bag!  The risk of hypothermia is always there.

The point is, cold water is more dangerous than most people realize. After a long winter here in Wisconsin, many of us want to get on the water desperately and often take more risk than we should.  Right now, it’s just too cold to be in without proper gear.  And this year, the cold water will remain later into the season due to the cold spring we’ve had.  So, be careful out there. Stay safe!

If you’d like to give kayaking a try, keep your eye out for nature center kayak tours at Devil’s Lake this summer.



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April 20, 2014
2014 Official Visitor Guide Is Available!

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Official Devil's Lake State Park Visitor Guide for 2014

The 2014 Devil’s Lake State Park Official Visitor Guide is now available free to pick up at the park office or visitor center. The paper guide offers lots of handy maps and tips that will come in handy when visiting or camping at the park.



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April 19, 2014
Unmarked Helicopters

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Helicopter over the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area

For years alien watchers and conspiracy seekers in the area have mentioned the black, unmarked helicopters that have roamed low in the skies over the Army’s Badger Ordinance plant, now the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area. Some wondered what was “really” going on in there. I mean, why would anyone combine a military ordinance plant with a dairy research center?  It just doesn’t pass the “smell” test.. And why the unmarked choppers plying the twilight skies?

Now, I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but many years ago I met a big, secretive man who made his home in Merrimac, Wisconsin not far from the base, who swore something was going on. The fact that he ran an alien conspiracy website at the time notwithstanding. He told me stories of people being chased from the property by choppers and escaped cattle roaming the roads late into the night only to be gone the next morning.  ”And we know what was going on with cattle out west don’t we?”

Well, when I took my 13-year-old through the gates of the new Sauk Prairie Recreational Area right after it opened this month, he was more than ready to explore the “abandon base”.  For him it was not about nature, it was about mystery, adventure and… seeing stuff. Oh, and to be sure you will see stuff!  There are abandon buildings, rusty gates, blocked roads and closed areas everywhere you look.  You can’t help but wonder what is hidden down those restricted roads. What could they be hiding?  Well, my son thinks he found one of the secrets! It all starts with a ladder down into a now flooded, underground secret somewhere..  We’ll have to talk about that more one day.

Black Helicopter - Sauk Prairie Recreational Area

Unmarked Helicopter – Sauk Prairie Recreational Area

I was reminded of all this crazy conspiracy stuff just the other day when I was driving through the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area. I was driving past a broken old building I’ve come to call the “Vulture Building” due to the vultures lined on its roof the first time I was there. I had just turned a corner when I saw a chopper coming in low from the south-west. It flew in slowly right over my Jeep then slowly circled in front of me and came back around. I pulled my truck up under some northern white cedar trees and sat.  The chopper continued around behind me and came in so low to the road that dust and grass began to whirl around on the ground.  I drove forward, the helicopter lingered for a few moments before turning east and disappearing in the distance.  I continued on out of the park and headed home.

What’s going on in there?  Maybe you should have a visit and find out!

—–

**Of course we’re just having fun, but as they say, “It’s all about presentation” and exploring an abandon base full of secrets may offer you kids an interesting approach to exploring the new Sauk Prairie Recreational Area. (While you just look for birds of course!!) Just remember, stay out of the restricted areas. Frankly, they’re not safe!  (Oh, and the bit about being circled by the chopper.. that really happened!)



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April 18, 2014
Frozen!

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Frozen Heron - Devil's Lake State Park

Video Clip – Nothing like an April snowfall to make you even more anxious for spring!  This poor heron at the rookery on the south shore certainly looked like he was more than tired of Wisconsin weather!



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April 17, 2014
Spring Cleaning at Badger (SPRA)

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Prescribed Burn at the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area

Have you visited the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area located on the southern border of Devil’s Lake State Park yet?  Remember, this time around the new public land is only open until May 27th as there is still a lot of work to do out there. If you had visited the SPRA today, you would have seen smoke rising from somewhere on the southern end where workers from DNR and Devil’s Lake State Park were performing a controlled burn.

Controlled burns are used to help restore historically fire-adapted environments such as Wisconsin’s grasslands, prairies and oak savannah. Fires bring health back to the land by removing brush, shrubs, dead wood and non-native plants. Native fire-adapted plants will quickly regrow and the land will be awash in green, often in just a couple of weeks! It’s an amazing transformation!!

It’s worth noting too, that restoration burns are not simply about plants. Many insects and animals are specially adapted to live in these specific fire-adapted environments. Controlled burns maintain they open environments they need to survive.

If you would like to see more pictures from today’s burn and more pictures from the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area in general, check out our SPRA Pinterest Board.  If you plan to visit Devil’s Lake State Park in the next few weeks, why not take a drive over to the SPRA and have a look around as well.  It’s a little rough around the edges at the moment, but it’s easy to see what an amazing place it will be,  not too far into the future!



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April 15, 2014

This video is about Spring Thaw - Water Fall

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