The Friends of Wyalusing

The Friends of Wyalusing was formed in the late 1990’s. The organization had 16 members. Since its inception, the mission of the Friends of Wyalusing is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the visitor experience by enhancing the connection between nature and the park visitor. Today, there are eight active members and a little more than 80 members on the roll.

The Friends of Wyalusing made their presence known as “big Stinky” met its demise in 2001. The removal of Wisconsin’s largest open-pit toilet became a national event. The Friends of Wyalusing had its most successful T-shirt sales ever. Quite literally, a truck load of t-shirts were sold as a fund raiser. The Friends of Wyalusing made a cleaning that year.

The Friends of Wyalusing also played a part in Wisconsin’s Centennial celebration of its Park system. Hundreds of people came to the park to see the launching of four hot air balloons. One of the balloons was a huge Smoky Bear. A decade later, the Friends group celebrates Smokey’s birthday. Smokey Bear leads children and adults around Wisconsin Ridge Campground inviting one and all to the birthday party held at the Peterson Picnic Shelter. Smokey rides in the back of the Park’s electric vehicle. Children decorate their bicycles. The Friends of Wyalusing, organize the event which ends with games, stories birthday cake and ice cream.

One of “The Friends” most successful events was known as “The Spirits of Wyalusing Past”.  Interesting, colorful, historical tidbits of the area are presented by ‘Spirits of Wyalusing Past’. The “Spirits” are portrayed by members of “The Friends” and other volunteers who have talent and a willingness to portray a character.  It was moved to the last weekend of September in 2004, because of more favorable weather. Local scout groups and camping families decorate and carve donated pumpkins. The lighted pumpkins and lighted tiki torches were placed along the .5 mile trail part of which follows the Sentinel Ridge. The Friends of Wyalusing and family members served as guides. After the walk, home-made treats are served. A silent auction was also held during the event. Each of the items was donated by member of The Friends of Wyalusing. It was not unusual to have over 250 visitors attend this event.

However, due to dwindling members who live close-by, The Friends of Wyalusing have found it very difficult to maintain this program. The “Spirits of Wyalusing Past” was changed to Harvest Celebration.  The Harvest Celebration still has, pumpkin carving, Lighted tiki torch walk, a silent auction and snacks. In place of the “Spirits” a live band plays music in the Peterson Shelter.

During the early 2000’s the Friends of Wyalusing began to operate the concession stand in the east end of the Peterson Picnic Shelter. The concession stand operates during the summer camping season. All of the profits are returned to the park for projects which enhance the visitor experience.
Through Affinity Grant Awards, matching funds and other grants, The Friends of Wyalusing have been able to provide almost all of the information signage, trail signs and nature signs found in the park, including the entrance sign welcoming all to Wyalusing State Park. Informational kiosks, found throughout the park, provide information about invasive species, Friends events, and park happenings.

The Friends group assisted in the purchase of a new flagpole at the visitor contact station. The Amphitheater, located at the Hugh Harper Indoor Camp, was partially funded by the Friends of Wyalusing. A fireplace insert, located in the fireplace of the Nature center, provides warmth to campers and park visitors during cool damp days thanks to the Friends group. The Friends of Wyalusing also provided funds for the major rehab of the Paul Lawrence Interpretive Center.

The Friends of Wyalusing through matching grants, paid for completely rewiring the Peterson Picnic Shelter, Nature Center, and the Concession stand in 2014. The Friends of Wyalusing are very thankful for the 1000’s of people who visit the park, and stop by the concession stand to purchase items, rent canoes or kayaks, or drop off donations.

In 2014, The Friends of Wyalusing, helped with the rededication of the Passenger Pigeon monument.

In 2015, the Friends of Wyalusing State Park along with shared grants funded a new playground at Homestead Picnic area.  In addition to the Homestead campground.
One of the most note-worthy projects that the Friends of Wyalusing has undertaken is the creation of the Endowment Fund. The Friends of Wyalusing was the very first Friends group to start an Endowment Fund for a State Park. When asked about the meaning of the Endowment Fund for the future, Kathy Paske, Secretary of Friends of Wyalusing said, “The park is a special place in many different respects--historical, geographical, diverse flora and fauna and spiritual to name a few. We want to make sure future Friends have the means to continue our conservation and education efforts.”

We are hopeful that a shower building and bathrooms will become a reality shortly,for Homestead Campground.

The website  - features interactive maps, 100’s of photos, 10’s of videos, and information formatted for Web-enabled devices.

FOW Endowment Fund

Friends of Wyalusing were THE FIRST Wisconsin Friends Group to start endowment fund...

The Friends of Wyalusing is the very first friends group of a state park in Wisconsin to start an endowment fund for a state park. We started by depositing a $1000 in an "acorn fund" with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.  The goal was to deposit $1,000 each year until the fund reached  $10,000. at that point we could either withdraw 5%  of the fund or let it grow.

The Friends of Wyalusing State Park are very proud to be able to leave this legacy for future generations and hope you will support us in making our "acorn" grow into a mighty oak for the future.

'I am so proud to be part of Wyalusing State Park. At this moment, the Friends of Wyalusing are making a very positive step towards the future of this park.' Brian Hefty, Wyalusing State Park Manager continued, ' I am certain that this Endowment Fund will only grow."

When asked about the meaning of the Endowment Fund for the future, Kathy Paske, Secretary of Friends of Wyalusing said, "The park is a special place in many different respects--historical, geographical, diverse flora and fauna and spiritual to name a few. We want to make sure future Friends have the means to continue our conservation and education efforts."

Bruce Klang wrote, "For all of my adult life, I have worked for Wisconsin State Parks. I have seen first hand the impact these natural areas can have on park visitors of all backgrounds. Our family grew up camping and enjoying our parks and we hope that future families will have the same opportunities."

The Friends of Wyalusing State Park Endowment Fund is a permanent endowment that was created by the Friends of Wyalusing State Park to provide a perpetual source of funding to support the natural resources and educational, interpretive and recreational needs of Wyalusing State Park. The Endowment fund was begun in February of 2009. The endowment is managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Contributions to Fund are tax-deductible and can be made by sending a check to the Natural Resources Foundation of WI, Attn: Friends of Wyalusing State Park Endowment Fund, PO Box 2317, Madison, WI 53701 or by donating online at

If you love Wyalusing State Park and want to help protect its natural beauty and recreational opportunities for future generations to enjoy and explore, consider leaving a legacy gift behind by including the Friends of Wyalusing State Park Endowment Fund in your will. To leave a bequest to the Fund, simply incorporate the following language in your estate plans: “I give [describe the gift] to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [federal tax id # 39-1572034], a nonprofit corporation organized and existing under the laws of Wisconsin and with a principal mailing address of PO Box 2317, Madison, WI 53701. This gift shall be designated to the Friends of Wyalusing State Park Endowment Fund.”

Winter Fun–XC Ski Trails

Wyalusing State Park offers a 8.2 miles of cross-country ski trails for all levels of skiing abilities. All trails are accessible from the Astronomy Center Parking Lot. Skiing trails include the Turkey Hollow, Whitetail Meadows and Prairie trails. Cathedral Tree Drive affords the cross-country skier a beautiful view of the Mighty Mississippi.
Whitetail Meadows is groomed for traditional skiing.  Turkey Hollow is groomed for both traditional and skate-skiing.  The roadway to Henneger Point is groomed for skate-skiing and can only be accessed from Turkey Hollow Trail near the Homestead Picnic Shelter. 
Turkey Hollow is the more challenging of the trails.  White Tail Meadows is a good trail for beginners.  Please park in the Astronomy Center Parking lot ( located just past the park office) for access to all ski trails
All trails except the ski trails are available for winter hiking and snowshoeing. A frozen waterfall at Pictured Rock Cave awaits those brave enough to walk or snowshoe from the park office on Homestead Camp Road to Sugar Maple Nature Trail. Frozen waterfalls can also be found at Big Sand Cave and Little Sand Cave located on Sand Cave trail near the old park office.
The Park does not monitor ice conditions on the rivers. Be extremely cautious of ice conditions at all times.
Reminder – Park admission stickers are required on all vehicles entering the park.  If the office is not staffed, please self register at the park office.
Winter enthusiasts are invited out to the park to enjoy  the snow while it lasts.  Please no hiking or dogs on ski trails.

Winter Fun at Wyalusing State Park

Winter Fun at Wyalusing State Park

Lookout Point
Do you have “cabin fever”? Are you tired of shoveling snow and just watching the snow fall and the wind blow? With the return of snow to southwest Wisconsin, Wyalusing State Park offers a number of outdoor activities for all ages.

The cross country ski trails have been groomed and tracked and are in very good skiing condition. All ski trails at Wyalusing State Park are tracked for both classical and skate skiing. Whitetail Meadows is an excellent trail for beginners. Turkey Hollow Trail is a challenging trail for the more experienced skier. For those looking for a longer route, Cathedral Tree Drive is accessed via Turkey Hollow Trail at Homestead Picnic Shelter. 

Views of the Mighty Mississippi can be seen through the trees along Cathedral Tree Drive. Parking for all ski trails is available at the Huser Astronomy Center, just past the park office on the right side of the road. Please, no dogs or hiking on the cross country ski trails.

Snowshoeing enthusiasts enjoy their silent sport along Sand Cave and Sentinel Ridge Trails. Both of these trails are accessed easily from adjacent parking areas. Both of these trails are popular with winter hikers as well as those snowshoeing. An excellent view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers can be found at Point Lookout, which is the starting point for Sentinel Ridge. A frozen waterfall can be found along the Sand Cave Trail. Pictured Rock Cave, located on Sugar Maple Nature Trail, also has a frozen waterfall. Getting to Pictured Rock Cave involves hiking or snowshoeing from the Park Office. Many people enjoy a walk through the Wisconsin Ridge Campground, part of which is plowed for winter use. The Wisconsin Ridge Campground is located 500 feet above the Wisconsin River.

The boat landing on the backwaters of the Mississippi River is a popular place for ice anglers. Ice fishing is by far our number one use in the winter. We do not monitor ice conditions.

Identification of wildlife tracks and searching for bird nests now visible in the leafless trees, are other ways to get out and enjoy winter at Wyalusing State Park. The park office bird feeders are usually stocked with sunflower seeds and suet. There is nothing as pretty as the bright red cardinals against a backdrop of snow laden trees. Juncos, chickadees, blue jays, mourning doves, goldfinches, nuthatches, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers as well as an occasional pheasant round out the winter residents taking advantage of the feeders.

All vehicles entering a Wisconsin State Park are required to have an admission sticker. This is an excellent time of the year to purchase an annual sticker as it affords entrance for the entire year to any Wisconsin State Park or Forest. Daily sticker and hourly stickers are other options. Please use the self-registration at the park office to purchase stickers if the office is not staffed. For more information, please visit our website at or call 608-996-2261.

Winter in Wyalusing with Children.

Most think that winter can complicate plans to spend quality time outside with your children. However, winter can provide many fun things you can do together outside that you cannot do the rest of the year. Wyalusing State Park is open year round. Here are some great Wyalusing winter activities.


The nice thing about snowshoeing is the openness of exploration it allows, regardless of whether you pull into a parking lot or just decide to explore off of the nearest trail. Another benefit of the openness that snowshoeing provides is that the snow is likely to be less trampled upon and more light and fluffy. Snowshoeing lets you and the little ones enjoy the nip in the air while surveying the land to see what you can find, much like searching for seashells at the beach. With your children's imaginations as your guide, snowshoeing can become your family's go-to outdoor activity for wintertime.

Stay on marked trails until you're comfortable with the area. If it's your first time on snowshoes, Walk along the unplowed roads. Park in the office parking lot, walk along Homestead campground road.

Stay off of marked x-cross country ski trails.

Sand Cave trail offers a wide trail following the contours of the bluff. Ski poles will help stablize the walker on the few steep sections of the trail. Remember to bring goggles and a thermos of hot chocolate or cider.

Dress everyone in very warm layers. Make sure to use sliding apparatuses that have nothing sticking out, such as an air valve on an inner tube. Bring snacks, hot chocolate, and even lunch.

Tracking Winter Animals

Click on image to expand
Winter is the perfect time to track animals. We may see fewer animals during the winter, but the season helps us see more evidence of their lives by showing us their tracks. A light snowfall on bare ground or on top of an icy crust provides the blank pages. Armed with a little knowledge, children can decipher the clues that animals leave.

Asking the following questions can help your children in animal identification:

  1. How many toes does the animal have? Deer have two, dogs, cats, and coyotes have four, and weasels have five.
  2. Does the track show claw marks? Squirrel and fox tracks show claws. (Dog tracks do, too.)
  3. Is there a line in the snow? Mice sometimes leave the imprint of a tail in the snow; porcupine tails leave troughs.
  4. Are the tracks spread far apart or are they close together? Answering this question tells children whether the animal is big or small and whether it was traveling quickly or slowly.
  5. Do tracks go over or under downed trees? A bigger animal will go over a downed tree, while a smaller animal may choose to go under it.
  6. Did the animal stop to eat? Be sure to look up. Deer chew on small tree branches.
  7. Do tracks stop at a tree? A squirrel can climb a tree. A rabbit can't.

Even where wild animals aren't that common, tracks can tell useful stories. There are tricks to telling the difference between dog and cat tracks. Dogs have pointed toes, and their tracks often show claw marks. Cat tracks are rounded and don't show claws. Children can remember these differences by remembering that dogs have pointed faces and cats have round heads.

Children should use their ears as well as their eyes to follow winter animals. have the children call barred owls—"who cooks for you, who cooks for you all"—to see if they'll return the call.

Does a woodchuck leave winter tracks?


Groundhogs go into profound hibernation, greatly reducing their metabolic rate. Their body temperature drops to just a few degrees above ambient temperature. Because their hibernation, the deepest portion of the burrow where they hibernate, is below frost line, that produces a body temperature as low as 39-40 degrees F.

Groundhog Daze is coming to Wyalusing State Park on Feb. 5th, 2011. Featuring critter tracking, tiki torch lit sunset hike, and food for a fun filled winter afternoon in the park. Vehicle park admission and a donation to help defray costs. Sponsored by the Friends of Wyalusing. Please call 608-996-2261 for weather related cancellation.

It’s So-o-o Quiet!

Something magical happens during the winter at Wyalusing State Park. Simply put, it’s quiet.

As past Wyalusing State Park camp ground hosts, we looked forward to the summer weekends, when the families enjoyed the park. Sitting next to a fire in the evening, listening to children and adults telling stories, making Some-Mores, and the evening sounds were magical. However, the winter brings a solitude, that one can only enjoy by being here.

A breeze through the pine plantation, the cry of winter birds, are magnified ten fold. Gone is the high-pitched drone of the mosquito!

Gaze through the open branches up the Wisconsin River Basin. One can see for miles since the foliage is gone for the winter.

Winter camping is still available at Wyalusing State Park. Wisconsin Ridge campground roads are plowed. A winter camper will have to clear the snow from a camp site. Water is available.