Group Camping is on the Increase in Wisconsin
Responding to increasing demand for camping in the Black River State Forest (BRSF), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Board on Wednesday (March 27) approved converting an equestrian campground to a rustic group camp, the La Crosse Tribune reported.
Equestrians have largely gone elsewhere since a campground and associated trails were created in 1983 for them at the 68,000-acre state forest, east of Black River Falls, said Peter Bakken, superintendent. The forest is approximately 2 hours southeast of Minneapolis and 2 hours northwest of Madison, near I-94
“There are several better trails near us,” Hansen told the DNR Board. “Wild Rock Park is (nearby) and has 20 times the use because of their better amenities (for equestrians),” Bakken said.
While equestrian interest in BRSF has languished, group camping certainly hasn’t, he said. Camping reservations are often booked 11 months in advance, and campgrounds remain busy “year round, and every day of the week of the summer. Groups aren’t being accommodated.”
Horses and riders will be welcomed through Memorial Day weekend. Then the equestrian campground will be closed for a few weeks and reopened as a group campground by June 7.
The trails will remain but won’t be maintained for equestrian use, saving the DNR “quite a bit of money,” he said. All forest roads will remain open for equestrian use unless otherwise posted.
Conversion will involve shrinking the campground’s “footprint” by one-third and taking down the horse trail signs, Bakken said.
“It will be rustic but still a nice facility … with a new vault (flush) toilet building, parking for at least eight RVs, a group fire ring and we’ll add some equipment like horseshoe pits,” he said.
The new campground will have an official 50-person capacity, he said.
“It will be open through deer hunting season, so we expect it will popular with hunters in the spring and fall. In the summer we’ll get Boy Scout-type groups, family reunions; there are just not that many opportunities for that without being in a group campground so we’ll add another,” he said.
BRSF remains popular due to its location near Interstate 94 and amenities, Bakken said.
“We have some of the best ATV trails in the state, there’s good hiking, hunting on the property, fishing and canoeing opportunities, too,” he said.
Hansen calls the BRSF area “one of the wildest in Wisconsin,” as it’s adjacent to the 118,000-acre Jackson County forest and Clark County’s 130,000 public forest acres.