Named after World War II ace pilot Maj. Richard Bong, this 4,500-acre state recreation area was once destined to be a U.S. Air Force base. Those plans were abandoned in the late 1950s when the military decided to consolidate its facilities. The land was subsequently turned over to the state, who decided to turn the area into a wildlife preserve and outdoor recreation destination. In the future, the area may be incorporated into the larger Hamatack National Wildlife Refuge, a multi-state, non-contiguous collection of historic prairies, wetlands and forests. The area welcomes a variety of both family-friendly and thrill-seeking outdoor activities, making it an ideal outdoor destination for kids of all ages.
The best way to enjoy some outdoor play time at Bong State Recreation Area is by setting up camp at one of its two campgrounds: Sunrise and Sunset. Together, they offer more than 200 tent and RV sites, just 6 miles southeast of Burlington. Some sites provide electrical hookups, and a few are ADA accessible. Both campgrounds provide drinking water, flush and vault toilets, showers facilities. The Sunrise site is located on the east end of the recreation area, near Wolf Lake. Nearby, visitors have access to a nature center, fishing pier, playground, picnic areas and hiking trails. The Sunset site is located on the west end of the park, near several ponds and a horse trail. Dogs must remain leashed, and are only permitted in campgrounds and on some hiking trails. Campsite rates range from $15–$35/night.
Whether you like to recreate on the land, in the water, or in the air—yes, in the air—there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors at the Bong Recreation Area. For keeping your feet on solid ground, there are 41.5 miles of hiking, horseback and mountain biking trails available. This includes two short nature trails, one in a forested area, and one in open prairie near the lake; both are excellent for birdwatching. In the area that was to be the airfield’s runways, there are two ATV and dirtbike loops. For fun at the water, there is a small swimming beach and fishing pier, or you can put in your canoe, kayak or SUP for some paddling around Wolf Lake. For airborne recreation, a Special Use Zone in the park allows model airplane flying and rocket launching, as well as launching hang gliders and ultralight aircraft.