The Friends of Wyalusing State Park

fowBy Bruce Klang
Friends of Wyalusing President
2017 marks the centennial year as a state park here at Wyalusing. The Friends of Wyalusing State Park would like to welcome all visitors to explore and enjoy your park and appreciate its history.
We are a private nonprofit organization dedicated to .enhancing the interpretive and recreational experience of visitors to the park. We provide funding for much of the interpretive projects, information, and programming here at Wyalusing.
As we look back we know that this beautiful park would not be possible without the dedication of many people over the years.
Starting in the l860's, a young man named Robert Glenn not only dreamed of but strived to make this a special place for future generations. The forward-looking Wisconsin state legislature decided, in the first decade of the 20th century, that this area needed to be preserved. Paul Lawrence, the first park manager, worked his entire career to make that dream a reality.
On to modern day where many dedicated professionals and volunteers continue to preserve and protect that heritage and your park.
You can be a part of the next 100 years at Wyalusing. We welcome you to join our efforts to give back to your park. Please pick. up a brochure at the park visitor center or visit us online at http://www.wyalusingfriendsorg.
Your support will help Wyalusing State Park continue to be an inspiration to future generations of visitors like you. While you are here at the park please drop by the concession stand located adjacent to the Peterson shelter building. The concession is operated by the Friends of Wya1using State Park and proceeds from sales go back into the park for interpretive needs. We are also the first state park friends group to establish an endowment fund with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Your contributions to this fund will live on indefinitely, providing growth to be used for interpretive activities. You can learn more by picking up a brochure at the visitor center, the concession or our Website.
Many people come to Wyalusing and leave inspired. A few turn that inspiration into assistance for this magnificent place. It is our sincere hope that you truly enjoy your stay here at Wyalusing and hope that our efforts have enhanced your experience.  (To enlarge image, click on it.)

100th Anniversary Fun run-Walk

Come on out for free park admission AND a day of 100th-anniversary fun! The day kicks off with an organized trail fun run/walk beginning with registration at 8:30. Bring the family, bring your shoes and have a lot of fun! This is an untimed event meant to enjoy the outdoors while celebrating our 100th anniversary. First 50 people get a water bottle! Donations will be taken at registration! Details:
Sign up here:

Wyalusing State Park has much to offer for everyone

By Ted Pennekamp, Courier Press, 4/3/2017

Wyalusing State Park, at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, will be 100 years old this year. In commemoration of this event, a Centennial Celebration will be held on Saturday, June 3.

There will be an open house and free admission that day with fun activities planned for the whole family including nature hikes, children’s games, a 5K trail walk, history and park presentations, and music.

Wyalusing State Park is the state’s fourth oldest and one of the prettiest, offering great bluff-top views of the backwaters and main channels of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers.

Wyalusing is steeped in history and interesting geology, and park personnel are also continually trying to find new ways to appeal to the park’s clientele.

“I love the park and working with the public,” said Wyalusing Property Supervisor Chad Breuer. “The park can create some really good memories and experiences, and it’s getting busier every year. We continue to draw new clientele and repeat customers.”

Breuer said that new apps have been implemented within the past five years, such as the “Go Ranger” app, to help customers enjoy all that the park has to offer. “We’re continually looking at what the customers want,” said Breuer.

Breuer said there have been several improvements to the park in the last several years and there will be more to come.

The Larry Huser Astronomy Education Building was built in 1999, and many people make use of the observatory where the Starsplitters Astronomy Club conducts educational programs throughout the year for school groups as well as the public.

Breuer also said that the park is looking to upgrade some facilities and improve some roads. The Peterson Shelter, for example, recently received some tuck point and lighting work. Bids have also been let for a new shower building for the Homestead Campground.

In May, said Breuer, the park will be bringing back a part-time naturalist with financial help from the Friends of Wyalusing State Park, whose mission is to support and promote the educational, interpretive, and recreational goals of the park.

“Starting in May, the naturalist will be working with children and families,” said Breuer. “I’m really excited about that.”

Another improvement includes the re-establishment, in 2015, of a natural prairie on about two acres near the Larry Huser Building.

Several years ago, some park staff placed and maintained hummingbird feeders at and near the park entrance. As expected, the hummingbirds became quite an attraction, and a hummingbird educational program was established within the past few years. In fact, last year, hummingbird banders banded 65 birds.

“It’s become quite popular,” said Breuer. “Banding is a great opportunity for kids or adults. Data has been collected and the kids are fascinated. We conduct hummingbird banding two or three weekends each year.”

The boat landing, of course, is another popular feature of the park, as is the canoe trail. Breuer noted that the boat landing is run in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous anglers enjoy the waters bordering the park. Within the past few years, the canoe trail has been moved off of the main channel and is now more in the winding backwaters of the Wisconsin-Mississippi confluence. Breuer said that more signs have been put up marking the trail, which now can be enjoyed by canoeists and kayakers of all skill levels. He said the Friends of Wyalusing run the canoe and kayak rental and also a concession stand where customers can buy food, bug spray and other camping supplies.

For people wishing to read up on the history of the park and all that it has to offer, Breuer said that the 100th anniversary edition of “Wyalusing,” published by the Wisconsin DNR will be available within the next few weeks. The 99th anniversary edition has numerous interesting articles about the geology and history of the region including Native Americans, Europeans, fur traders, miners and farmers. There are also many articles and photographs about plants and animals, the many effigy mounds in the park, big sand cave, hunting and trapping opportunities, winter recreation, the old immigrant trail, camping opportunities, educational programs and a wealth of other information.

How Wyalusing State Park came to be

The idea to create a park at the junction of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers was both a local movement and statewide initiative. The Robert Glenn family, who owned the land, promoted the concept of a park around the turn of the century. At about the same time, the state Legislature commissioned a report on the subject of state parks for Wisconsin. The report, completed in 1909, recommended four sites in the state for immediate consideration for acquisition. This area was one of four recommended. The purchase was approved by the Legislature in 1912, and the park established in 1917. The park was first named Nelson Dewey State Park and changed to Wyalusing in 1937.

The present Nelson Dewey State Park, south of Wyalusing State Park near Cassville, was created in 1935. It preserves the first governor’s restored home.

The Civilian Conservation Corps

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public works program that put more than 3 million youths and adults to work, had a camp here. Its members built park roads and trails and started the Peterson Shelter, which was finished by another federal program, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). They built stone fireplaces in shelters and picnic areas.

A bronze plaque, commemorating the Civilian Conservation Corps at Wyalusing State Park is located in a large rock at the entrance to the Outdoor Group Camp (the site of the CCC camp). The “old park office” has been refurbished. An original kiosk, built by the CCC, is located immediately west of the “old office.” Large information panels describing the “Days of the CCC” are found in the kiosk.

Wyalusing State Park today

Wyalusing State Park has been a gem of southwest Wisconsin since June of 1917. More than 2,600 acres include stunning vistas, river wetlands and bluff-top forests. The park is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals including 284 distinct bird species. The Passenger Pigeon Monument near the Sentinel Ridge Trail is the first monument in the world dedicated to an extinct bird. The park has 22 miles of hiking trails, four caves, and 109 campsites.

More than 200,000 visitors enjoy camping, fishing and canoeing in the park every year.

The 100th anniversary logo for Wyalusing State Park depicts a Kentucky warbler and a Chinquapin oak tree. It was designed by local artist Arthur J. Schmitz.

Wyalusing State Park is open year-round from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. From Highway 18-Highway 35, turn west on County Highway C just south of the Wisconsin River Bridge. Follow County C to County X. Turn right on County X and go one mile to the park entrance. Directional signs are at each intersection.

The Friends of Wyalusing, the Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin DNR will be hosting the 100th anniversary celebration on June 3. For updated information, interested persons can check

For more information about Wyalusing State Park, there are several links on the Wisconsin DNR website:

Welcome to Wyalusing State Park

Wyalusing State Park is located over 500 feet above the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin River. The park contains 2600 acres including stunning bluff views, river wetlands, bluff-top forests, and home to hundreds of species of plants and animals including 284 distinct bird species.
The logo for Wyalusing State Park and The Friends of Wyalusing State park features the Kentucky Warbler and Chinquapin Oak tree.
Within the park boundaries, three threatened species: Cerulean and Kentucky Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher can be seen throughout the summer. All are more southern species that nest along the steep slopes of this park.
During the spring and summer, the rolling song of the Kentucky Warbler can be heard throughout the forests. The Kentucky Warbler spends most of its time on the ground in moist, leafy woodlands in search of insects. Despite its bright colors, it can be surprisingly hard to see in the shadows of the deep forest interior.
The Kentucky Warbler winters in the tropics of central Mexico and the Yucatan Penninsula. A group of Kentucky Warblers is collectively known as a "Derby" of warblers, perhaps, because it is named for the state in which it was first discovered in 1811, by Alexander Wilson.
The Chinquapin Oak, a Wisconsin Special Concern plant.  It is native to eastern and central North America, ranging from Vermont west to Wisconsin and south to South Carolina, western Florida, New Mexico, and northeastern Mexico from Coahuila south to Hidalgo. It is very rare in Wisconsin, barely reaching the southwestern corner of the state on a few very dry sites near the Mississippi River. Chinkapin oak is generally found on well-drained upland soils derived from limestone or where limestone outcrops occur. Occasionally it is found on well-drained limestone soils along streams.
The 100th Anniversary emblem for Wyalusing State Park was designed by local artist Arthur J. Schmitz for the park's centennial, a volunteer donation incorporating updated artwork of the traditional Warbler & Oak representation. 

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.

Letter from the President

Friends of Wyalusing State Park
13081 State Park Lane
Bagley, WI 53801
imageHard to believe but another season is drawing to a close. As we look back on the things we accomplished in 2016 with your support, we also look forward to 2017.
We provided programs and events for school groups and the public this year that were well received. We assisted the park with important needs like AED’s. We concentrated this year on non-personal interpretation signage and this will continue into 2017. Next year is indeed special as Wyalusing State Park turns 100. We ask for your help to celebrate this milestone. Mark June 3rd, 2017 on your calendar. Your executive board is working on events to make this centennial celebration memorable. And you can help.
Per our By-Laws, on October 10, 2016 at 6:00 PM at the Peterson Shelter we will have our annual general meeting and election of Officers/Directors for 2017. This is your chance to have your voice heard in the organization. Please attend if you can. Your current board has been in place for a number of years and does a great job but fresh ideas are always welcomed. If you or someone you know would like to get more involved, here is that opportunity to help start off the Park’s second hundred years on good footing.
I have been pleased to serve as your President and will continue in whatever capacity I can as long as I am able.
Your Friend,
Bruce L. Klang
President – Friends of Wyalusing State Park.

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.”

It’s So-o-o Quiet!

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

The summer weekends and days bring families to 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.

New Playground–Homestead Picnic Area

DSC_0086Children visiting Wyalusing State park have a new playground! The playground is located at Homestead Picnic Area. The playground was made possible through the generous donations of The Friends of Wyalusing State Park, Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, and the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Property Grant.
The playground features a slide, rock climb, log jam climb and two swings. The ground cover is 8 inch bark.
It is hoped that the new playground will introduce park visitors to an area of the park. The Homestead Picnic area is located via the Homestead Campground.  A walking/biking trail is located at the end of the south section of the campground.  The picnic area has a  accessible bathroom, water, and a picnic shelter with a fireplace.  The new playground and picnic area is also accessible by car. There are two parking lots – one next to the shelter, and the second located at the Sugar Maple Nature Trail.
Robert Glenn and his family’s  home and farm were located what is now called Homestead Picnic Area. Homestead Campground was part of Glenn’s land.  Robert Glenn had a dream, that one day, this land would become a state park. Finally, in 1917 his dream became reality.  Before Wyalusing State Park, the land was known as Marquette State Park, and Signal Hill State Park. In 1917, it was officially named Nelson Dewey State Park. However locals called it Glenn Park after Robert Glenn, whose dream it was to have the land an official state park. Finally, in 1937, the park was officially called Wyalusing State Park.
Additional Photos can be found by clicking here.