Kayakers joined state and federal officials Sept. 24 to celebrate the unveiling of two new water-access, kayak campsites at Point Beach State Forest, highlighting the emerging popularity of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan State Water Trail.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with this project,” said Cathy Stepp, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. “When you’re on the lake, and you see the high bluffs and the beaches, it just takes your breath away. We’re just getting started. I want kayakers everywhere to know Wisconsin welcomes you.”
At the unveiling, DNR parks director Dan Schuller said Wisconsin’s portion of the Lake Michigan Water trail is 523 miles long and extends along a coastline that is rich in natural and cultural resources.
“This is Wisconsin’s first water trail,” Schuller said. “The DNR is now establishing a state water trails program and will be promoting it in 2015.”
The combined trail parallels the shore of four states and provides 1,638 miles of scenic, recreational opportunities. The DNRs in Illinois and Indiana have been working on their shoreline trails and Michigan has recently committed its shoreline. But it started here.
“Wisconsin DNR was the first leader,” said Angie Tornes of the National Park Service, who has worked for years on the water trail, one of the two federally approved Great American Outdoors Projects in Wisconsin, along with the Ice Age Trail.
Tornes said there are tens of thousands of sea kayakers. The sport promotes physical health and an appreciation for the natural beauty of the Great Lakes. It also spurs economic activity.
“There is a great enthusiasm about water trails,” she said.
The key is to have regularly spaced access points for paddlers to enter and leave the lake or to stop and take advantage of local resources along the shoreline. There are currently more than 125 suggested locations for paddlers to access Lake Michigan spread across the 11 counties on the coast.
A series of maps are available on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by typing “water trail” into the search box, which leads to this link: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/lakemichigan.
Schuller said the DNR is developing a new interactive map for the Lake Michigan Water Trail to be followed by a mobile version for smart phones and other portable devices. Both are expected by spring 2015.
More information on the beautiful Point Beach property is available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/pointbeach.