Go Outside and Play: Camp

Written by Mike Larson
    Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Go Outside and Play: Camp

When I was in college, I took a course on physical geography as part of my general education requirements. Our course textbook covered various unique and interesting natural areas in the United States ranging from the canyon lands of Utah to the limestone caves of Kentucky, and we learned about the specific geographic confluences that formed these natural wonders. One day my classmates and I were bemused to find that we were studying glacial features in the exotic locale of Southeastern Wisconsin. Having lived in the area most of my life, I never really thought of kettles, eskers, moraines, and drumlins as being anything particularly special, but apparently, these features that formed as giant sheets of ice retreated across the landscape are relatively rare in the topography of the world, and we're lucky to have them.

The state of Wisconsin has gone to great lengths to preserve some these landscapes in state parks, forests, and shorelines, creating a network of loosely connected hiking and camping grounds for all of us to enjoy. If you haven't been camping in a while, here is a site to help you have a good idea of what you should pack for your trip. What's that you say? "Boy, I've always wanted to experience a genuine drumlin, but I just don't have the camping equipment necessary to enjoy our local campgrounds..." Never fear! The Urban Ecology Center is here to help:

  • Our equipment lending benefit at all three branches offers tents, sleeping bags, cooking kits, roasting forks, backpacks, and hiking poles for you and your family's next outdoor adventure.
  • Interested in going on some day hikes? We've got binoculars, spotting scopes, and field guides for bird enthusiasts.
  • Are you more the 'picnic at the beach' type? No problem, we've got accessories for lawn sports  like croquet, bocce ball, badminton, and frisbee as well.
  • Ever wanted to try geocaching? Explore this high-tech scavenger hunt by borrowing a GPS unit from us, complete with instructions.

Southeastern Wisconsin has a variety of beautiful destinations for you to explore. Here are some of our favorites, all less than an hour from Milwaukee:

  • Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern and Southern Units: Excellent campgrounds, numerous hiking trails, and a variety of different ecosystems make this network of forests a personal favorite of mine. Also good for mountain biking or cross-country skiing in the winter.
  • Kohler-Andrae and Harrington Beach State Parks: Just a little ways north of Milwaukee are two beautiful state parks right on the Lake Michigan shoreline that feature sand beaches, dunes, hiking trails, and campgrounds. Perfect for a day trip or an overnight excursion.
  • Lakeshore State Park: Did you know we have a state park right in Downtown Milwaukee? Come to the Urban Ecology Center, get on a bike (or borrow one of ours!), and pedal two miles south toward the lake, through Veterans Park and past the Milwaukee Art Museum, to explore this small bit of nature in the middle of the city. Complete your journey by checking out the lighthouse and harbor behind the Summerfest grounds and under the Hoan Bridge. There is no camping allowed at Lakeshore State Park, but it is a perfect place for a day trip.

Playing in the sand at Harrington Beach State Park.

Mike Larson

Mike Larson

Mike is a happily married man living with his family in Milwaukee. As a young child he spent days playing along the banks of the Rock River, fostering a love for nature which eventually led him to study biology and pursue a career with the Urban Ecology Center. He enjoys connecting people with nature through his role as the Community Programs Manager. He hopes that the work he does can help make it possible for his two sons and other kids in Milwaukee to grow up with similar experiences to those he had as a child.


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