Devil's Lake State Park (Wisconsin)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Devil's Lake State Park
Devil's Lake from the West Bluff
Map showing the location of Devil's Lake State Park
Map showing the location of Devil's Lake State Park
Location of Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin
Map showing the location of Devil's Lake State Park
Map showing the location of Devil's Lake State Park
Devil's Lake State Park (Wisconsin) (the United States)
LocationSauk, Wisconsin, United States
Coordinates43°24′53″N 89°42′47″W / 43.41472°N 89.71306°W / 43.41472; -89.71306Coordinates: 43°24′53″N 89°42′47″W / 43.41472°N 89.71306°W / 43.41472; -89.71306
Area9,217 acres (37.30 km2)
Elevation1,329 ft (405 m)[1]
Governing bodyWisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Devil's Lake State Park is a state park located in the Baraboo Range in eastern Sauk County, just south of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Devil's Lake State Park is the biggest state park in Wisconsin.[2] It is around thirty-five miles northwest of Madison, and is on the western edge of the last ice-sheet deposited during the Wisconsin drift.[3] This 9,217-acre (3,730 ha)[4] state park is known for its 500-foot-high (150 m) quartzite bluffs along the 360-acre (150 ha) Devil's Lake, which was created by a glacier depositing terminal moraines that plugged the north and south ends of the gap in the bluffs during the last ice age approximately 12,000 years ago. The sand at the bottom of Devil's Lake is thought to be deposited by glaciers. Devil's Lake is situated in the Baraboo Hills. The Baraboo Hills are thought to be much older than Devil's Lake itself; they are approximately 1.6 billion years old and were once part of the Baraboo Range which is thought to have been taller than the Rocky Mountains.

In 1974, the National Park Service declared the Southern portion of the Baraboo Hills a National Natural Landmark. The Nature Conservancy also designated it as one of the Last Great Places; it is one of only 77 of these places in the world.[2] Loess covers most of the hills and forms the parent material of a brown silt loam soil. During the fall, the park's brilliant foliage makes it a popular attraction. The lake is surrounded by a mixed conifer-deciduous forest and the Baraboo Hills are also home to one of the largest contiguous hardwood forests in the Midwest.[2] Its scenic beauty along with its proximity to the Wisconsin Dells has made it one of the most popular of Wisconsin's state parks for both day use and overnight camping; the park receives over 1.2 million visitors annually.[citation needed]

Due to the long geological history of Devil's Lake and the Baraboo Range, the area has been used in geological research for years. The lake itself is rectangular in shape and is a little over a mile long from north to south and a half mile from east to west. It has many cliffs, unique rock formations and a variety of animal and plant species.[5] One of the most notable features of the park is the presence of large talus slopes on three sides of the lake.

Both the north and south shores have food courts and modern restroom facilities. The park has trails ranging from handicapped-accessible paved trails to difficult hiking or bouldering trails. There are also designated rock climbing areas for all levels of experienced climbers. There are also bike trails available. Devil's Lake State Park contains eight miles of off-road bike trails and a two-mile paved path that is available for people with disabilities. There are three popular campgrounds at the park containing 407 campsites all together, one of which contains a sledding hill.[2] There are many quartzite rock formations, such as Balanced Rock and Devil's Doorway, throughout the park. Effigy mounds are also located throughout the park. The park contains approximately twelve miles of the 1,200-mile (1,900 km) Ice Age Trail.

Parfrey's Glen, Wisconsin's first state natural area, is managed by the Devil's Lake State Park and located just east of the park.

Nearby attractions include Devil's Head Resort, Cascade Mountain Resort, and the Circus World Museum.


The area where the park now stands was first settled by pioneers in the mid-1800s. By the start of the 20th century, the area had become a popular vacation destination for wealthy families from Chicago and Madison. The first hotel was established in 1866, 50 years before the park was founded.[6]

The park was founded in 1911.[7] It was home to five resorts, two of which were perched on the west bluff. No trace of any of these hotels remains. There were also many private residences in the west and south shores of the lake, only four of which remain. At various times the lakeshore hosted water slides, lodges, and golf courses. The clubhouse of one course sat on the current location of the park's nature center. By the 1940s, the hotels were all closed, and the park was retreating to its former natural self.

From 1934 to 1941, approximately two hundred members of the Civilian Conservation Corps resided in a work camp. These young men built many of the trails, buildings, and benches still in use today.[7]

Visitor center[edit]

The visitor center houses a three-dimensional model of the park from a top-down view.

Nature center[edit]

Nature Center near the main entrance road

The exhibits at the park's nature center focus on the geology and natural history of the area. Public nature programs are offered in the summer, as well as evening programs on Saturday nights in the Northern Lights Amphitheater. The nature center also has many historical photographs that come from as far back as the 1800s. They also have many displays of examples of the flora and fauna that can be found throughout the park.[2]

Glacial features[edit]

North Glacial Moraine is well covered by the north shore developments. The parking lots, concession building and the picnic shelter all sit atop the moraine. This moraine forms the northern border of Devil's Lake.[8] The moraine is approximately 80 feet (24 m) thick.[9]

Southeast Glacial Moraine – is located between the East Bluff-South Face and the South Bluff. The Group Camp is located atop the moraine. It is best seen from the Roznos Meadow parking area along State Route 113.[8] The moraine is approximately 130 feet (40 m) thick.[9]


The park has several American Indian mounds. Across the parking lot from the nature center are effigy mounds built in stylized animal shapes, such as a lynx and a sparrow. In front of the concession building is a linear mound, one of several geometric mounds in the park. These mounds were used as ancient burial sites by early North Americans. The nature center offers courses on the history of the effigy mounds.[10][11]

Baraboo Range[edit]

The Baraboo Range National Natural Landmark is 50,700 acres (20,500 ha) in southern Wisconsin. It is an exhumed mountain range consisting of the largest contiguous forest in southern Wisconsin.[12] The range is largely composed of Baraboo quartzite and is divided in half by Devil's Lake. The highest point of the range is 1620 feet.[3]

Hiking trails[edit]

  • Balanced Rock Trail (0.4 miles (0.64 km), 45 min.) – Difficult
  • CCC Trail (0.3 miles (0.48 km), 45 min.) – Difficult
  • Devil's Doorway Trail (0.1 miles (0.16 km), 15 min.) – Easy
  • East Bluff Trail (1.7 miles (2.7 km), 1½ hrs.) – Medium
  • East Bluff Woods Trail & Loop (3.4 miles (5.5 km), 2½ hrs.) – Easy/Medium
  • Grottos Trail (0.7 miles (1.1 km), 31 min.) – Easy
  • Ice Age Trail Entire Loop (13.7 miles (22.0 km), 8-10 hrs.) – Medium/Difficult
  • Johnson Moraine Loop Trail (2.8 miles (4.5 km), 1½ hrs.) – Easy
  • Parfrey's Glen Trail (0.7 miles (1.1 km), 1 hr.) – Easy/Medium
  • Potholes Trail (0.3 miles (0.48 km), 30 min.) – Difficult
  • Roznos Meadow Trail (1.8 miles (2.9 km), 1 2/4 hrs.) – Easy/Medium
  • Sauk Point Trail (4.5 miles (7.2 km), 3½ hrs.) – Medium/Difficult
  • Steinke Basin Loop Trail (2.4 miles (3.9 km), 1½ hrs.) – Easy
  • Tumbled Rocks Trail (1.0 mile (1.6 km), 45 min.) – Easy
  • Upland Loop Trail (3.8 miles (6.1 km), 2¾ hrs.) – Medium
  • West Bluff Trail (1.4 miles (2.3 km), 1½ hrs.) – Medium

There are 41 miles (66 km) of hiking trails in the park. The highest point is 500 feet (150 m) above Devil's Lake.[13]

Rock climbing[edit]

The geology of the Baraboo Hills surrounding Devil's Lake makes it one of the premier rock climbing areas in the Midwest, with climbs of varying difficulty. The Baraboo Hills are primarily granite and quartzite, which is solid enough to climb. Most outcroppings in the region, especially in the Driftless Area, are composed of sandstone or limestone, which are too brittle to climb safely.

Rock Climbing Areas at Devil's Lake State Park[edit]

Devil's Lake has enjoyed a history of rock climbing since early ascents in the 20th century. Climbers such as the Stettner Brothers, and members of the hard-climbing group "DLFA"[14] have frequented the park extensively. Guidebooks cover more than a lifetime's worth of unique "routes" and sub-areas of the park.[15] For climbers, unique names for each major bluff formation is important in finding specific climbs and areas. The climbing style and protection system at Devil's Lake is known for its difficult, glassy rock and traditional fall-protection methods and anchors.[15][16]

East Bluff[edit]

The "East Bluff" refers to the Eastern outcroppings in the park, and includes many sub-areas for climbers, including "Doorway Mass" which are climbs surrounding the famous Devil's Doorway formation, "Balanced Rock Wall" near the famous Balanced rock, and an area off of the CCC trail known as the "East Ramparts" which is the most popular due to the high concentration of sheer, unbroken cliff faces to climb.[17]

West Bluff[edit]

The west side of the park features climbing areas such as "Stettner Rocks", The Cleo Amphitheatre, and the "Lost Face". The Cleo Amphitheatre features the classic climb of a 25 ft freestanding spire known as "Cleopatra's Needle"[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Devils Lake State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1980-08-29. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Regional & Property Analysis: Sauk Prairie Recreation Area". July 2012: 1–67.
  3. ^ a b Salisbury, Rollin; Wallace Walter Atwood (1897). "Drift Phenomena in the Vicinity of Devil's Lake and Baraboo, Wisconsin". The Journal of Geology. 5 (2): 131–147. Bibcode:1897JG......5..131S. doi:10.1086/607730.
  4. ^ "Pick a Park – WDNR". Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  5. ^ Trowbridge, Arthur (1917). "The History of Devil's Lake, Wisconsin". The Journal of Geology. 25. 25 (4): 344–372. Bibcode:1917JG.....25..344T. doi:10.1086/622484.
  6. ^ Lange, Kenneth; Berndt, D. Debra (1980). "Devil's Lake State Park: The History of its Establishment". Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. 68: 149–166.
  7. ^ a b "Devil's Lake State Park: 100 Years of Stories". Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Devil's Lake State Park, Landmark Nature Trail; Baraboo, Wisconsin, 2008
  9. ^ a b Devil's Lake State Park, West Bluff Self-Guide Tour; Baraboo, Wisconsin, 2008
  10. ^ Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (2011-01-05). "Effigy Mounds of Devil's Lake".
  11. ^ Wayside exhibits located by each mound
  12. ^ Final Environmental Impact Statement-Badger Army Ammunition Plant
  13. ^ Map and Trail Guide to Devil's Lake State Park. Baraboo, Wisconsin: 2004.
  14. ^ Limvere, Darin (2013-05-03), Watch The D.L.F.A. Online | Vimeo On Demand, retrieved 2018-11-02
  15. ^ a b c Olof., Swartling, Sven (2008). Climber's guide to Devil's Lake. Mayer, Pete. (3rd ed.). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299228545. OCLC 223848284.
  16. ^ a b "Devil's Lake State Park, WI - Rock Climbing - Midwest Outside". Midwest Outside. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  17. ^ Knower, Jay (2016). Devil's Lake: A Climbing Guide. Wolverine Publishing. ISBN 978-1938393259.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]