No amenities but worth it

Who knew this park out in the middle of nowhere would have camp sites! I have been visiting the falls for years as it is one of the most beautiful (and little known) places in northern Wisconsin.

I didn't realize until recently that Iron County actually has first come-first served camp sites at a variety of amazing locations at or near the North Country Trail. This park is not on the NCT but a short drive from Mellen.

The camp sites are rustic. No potable water, but the quality of the water from the river is good for filtering. There is a vault toilet in the parking area. There is 5 sites to choose from, all in a heavily wooded area. What this camp site lacks in amenities, it makes up for in sheer natural beauty. The falls may be accessed from a long set of stairs climbing down to see the lower falls. You can also take a shorter set of stairs down to a platform to see the upper falls. If you are willing to climb a little (it's not difficult or dangerous) you can get down to the base of the first drop and look down at the top of the 2nd drop.

There is so much to explore and enjoy here! It can get buggy in the summer heat so be prepared with lots of repellant. Oh, and the road in is all dirt and gravel.

Best Recreation!

I can't say enough awesome things about this park. The hiking trails and scenery are top notch, the variety of camping options are extensive and the quality of the sites are excellent.

If you just want to get away to some beautiful seclusion, this is the place. Even the RV camp site is nicely laid out, not far from the main doughboys hiking trail. In summer, the pads looked good, fairly level and mud free. The sites were heavily wooded and though near the main camp road, it didn't feel like a major throughfare.

I was actually really blown away by he handicap accessible site which was situated right near the top of brownstone falls. You could fall asleep listening to the water crashing down.

The trails were well maintained, especially the waterfall trail (Doughboys). Lots of overlook platforms and a selfy station. If getting away from people is your jam, there are lots of trails away from the hustle and bustle of the main trail. Dirt and turf with some lower muddy spots if you take the trails less travelled.

The swim beach is nice, just a short walk from the parking lot at the ranger station. Plenty of bathroom facilities. The main lot has flush and vault bathrooms, a little nature center (closed for covid), lots of picnic areas and a large spread out feeling.

I never felt crowded at this park which is saying a lot, given how popular it is. The drive there through the Chequamegon forest is even a joy!

Small rustic sites not private enough

Note: this is for the rustic sites only. Better spaces and facilities if you are camping in the RV park. 

Ok so this campground is really lacking compared to the Big Bay state park campground. One thing that stuck out for me is how close many of the sites are to the big (and busy) parking lot that was always filled to capacity in the summer months. 

If you are looking for privacy, you will need to move further from the bathroom shower house. The campground is situated on the bog rather than the island coast. Heavier bugs, less views, smaller sites. 

Showers are pay showers. Camp wood available for sale near shower facility. Hope you get there early enough for parking!  

Noise levels are a bit much during the day depending on the proximity to the bathroom and parking. Vaults are the most disgusting I have ever experienced.

Beautiful Island Park

So many great things to say about Big Bay state park. This park is located on Madeline Island, the biggest island in the Apostle Islands. 

I have been to this park more than once. It isn't the easiest to get there (you need a ferry ticket or chartered boat) but you can  take your car or RV on the ferry (RVs generally need a reservation ahead of time depending on size). 

If you are not taking a car, you can rent scooters or bikes (or bring your own). If camping, you will want to bring your car to drive to the park. It is a 7 mile ride to the park located on the other side of the island. Make sure you have your annual park sticker (or park pass confirm) when headed there. 

The park has beautiful hiking trails along the coast, a swim beach (water is cold!!), Kayak and SUP rentals for bay paddling. 

The modern bathrooms were decent (vaults are cruddy). The campsites are nicely wooded. Since the island is small, you can explore all of it on a three day weekend, whether that is hiking, paddling on the interior of the island into backwaters (you may see black bears on the shore).

Backpack site not good

I am torn on this. One side of me that likes seclusion, hiking out in nature and not seeing anyone else for miles, really loves this place. But the other half of me that dislikes poorly maintained trail, muddy and buggy sites, no facilities whatsoever and feeling isolated and concerned about injuries really can't review these sites highly.

We parked in the lot located near the Fish Lake Wildlife Area off Shogren Road. There are three remote backpacking sites from 3/4 mile to 1 1/2 miles from the parking area. No potable water or vaults anywhere in site.

Benson Brook is right near the St Croix by a small bridge crossing and literally steps off the hiking trail. I questioned whether it was a legit camping site or not. Randall Creek is on a small low lying spit right by the little creek. You might be able to get enough to filter but don't count on it in later summer months.

Ticks were extremely heavy in the spring. Between the mud and ticks, I would never recommend camping in spring. The hike in was not easy. Downed trees over uphill sections, large sections of mud and some overgrown brushy spots.

We did not see a single soul out there but us. Now I know why. If you love seclusion and don't mind zero amenities, bugs, mud and brush, go for it! It is a survivalist's dream.

Beautiful surroundings

Pattison state park has gone through some hard trials over the past few years. Heavy storm and food damaged washed out the main freeway to the park, destroyed the river side trails from Little Manitou to Big Manitou falls and shut down the public beach and campgrounds for some time.

The state has been pouring a lot of money into the repair and improvement of the park since then. They undertook the building of a new shower house facility, repairing all the hiking trails and restoring the observation decks and trails around Big Manitou Falls.

Pattison features the 4th highest waterfall east of the rockies (highest in WI/MN). Even the "Little" Manitou falls is 31 feet in height. It is also within a one hour drive to several other amazing parks with waterfalls.

The family camp sites are small, sometimes not the greatest with tree coverage and a bit of a walk to the shower house facilities.

The staff there are nice. There is lots of parking available. Easy and quick access to see both of the falls from parking areas. This is a nice weekend camping location. The trail system is limited in miles so more than two or three days may be too long for those that like to hike and explore.

Fantastic cart in sites

I enjoy camping away from the hub bub of the family campground and opting for the backpack or cart in sites. Luckily, Great River Bluffs has some of the nicest cart ins I have encountered.

The 5 sites are well spaced out with lots of trees, nice flat tent pads, a newer clean vault and good fresh water both within a short distance of all the sites.

The surrounding hiking trails feature incredible views of the Mississippi River valley, high upon a bluff. The sites are away from the heavy foot traffic of picnic areas and primary hiking trails, though during the day there will be a few hikers walking the trail down the middle of the cart site trail to get to a fantastic lookout site. There weren't tons of people but it might bother those that don't want to see anyone while there.

There are two vault toilets. One at the parking lot and one between camp site 3 and 4. If you want a shower, you have to drive up to the family campground which is a good half mile away.

Canoe camping at its best

This was the first time I canoe camped and it became one of my favorite ways to travel and pitch a tent!

A group of friends and I launched from a public launch 20 miles up river with the help of Jack's Canoe for shuttle drop off. Right away there were some nice riffles to paddle and we paddled for 12 miles occasionally encountering some class one rapids, rocks and shallow sandbars. For the most part, the water rarely was over 8 feet and often averaged only a couple feet deep, enough for a loaded canoe and two passengers to easily navigate.

We found an excellent group camp site with several tent pads, picnic table, fire ring and latrine. It was heavily wooded and the mosquitos in July were in full force!

The Namekagon is a gorgeous river and worth the paddling adventure. The 2nd day we paddled 8 miles to the St Croix junction and met the shuttle. That last section was far more challenging rapids. When canoeing, you should have a good steering partner to avoid the rocks and potential spills!

Amazing canoe camping

The Turtle Flambeau Flowage is dubbed the "Boundary Waters of Wisconsin" and for good reason! The quality of the waters, vast array of channels, islands and camping spots is simply amazing.

There are several public boat launches for launching a canoe, kayak or fishing boat. Unfortunately there are also some ski boats launching which should be forbidden on the flowage. There is nowhere that water levels go over 15 feet and in fact usually average 8 feet or less. There are random large rocks, stumps right out in the middle of what looks like a good area to open up a power boat and ski. I fear some day someone will die or destroy their boat on a collision.

When canoe camping, the best place to launch from is Murrey's Landing or Fisherman's landing. These two spots are closest to the voluntary wake zone where you won't see speed boats. There are 60 camp sites spread throughout the flowage.

We settled on this amazing site called "Zelda's" nestled in a bay which is off the main drag of boats. It was quiet, heavily wooded, secluded and perfect for two. This site (like many) was on its own private island. The site had a fire ring, latrine and nice tent pad. This site is considered "rustic" because it lacks a picnic table and bench around the fire. We didn't mind though.

Our site happened to have a mating pair of eagles about 50 yards from our landing. There was also a nice sandy beach 100 yards from our landing on an opposite strip of the flowage. We paddled over, laid out a blanket and sun bathed in a little used area.

We can't wait to go back and stay at another camp spot!

First to Review
Great campground, bad reservation system

After a long hard hike on the NCT, we hiked into camp ready for a meal and a good sleep. We had spot #7 reserved, easily the most beautiful camp spot on the lake. A wonderful strip of sandy beach, heavily treed site, nice flat tent pads, a picnic table and fire pit.

Our hearts sank as we walked to the site only to encounter a big RV parked there and it appeared someone was set up for the weekend. We were baffled! I had my print out confirm and proof it was ours but there was no camp host or any kind of ranger on site. We were on our own.

So the people who took our site shows up. They tried to explain to us that there was a mistake in the reservation system and they had the site reserved too. I have no idea if it was a fabrication or not. But we were willing to share the camp site since we were only there for one night anyway.

We pitched our tent. Enjoyed the sunset over the lake and settled in for a nice sleep.

Pros: Large treed campsites Close vault Excellent potable water Beautiful serene lake Close to the NCT trailhead Vault cleaned daily Dumpsters and bear lockers Quiet camp sites No light pollution. Clear skies Minimal bugs in late august

Cons: No camp hosts No firewood for sale Gravel back roads far from town No contact with forest service for issues NCT stretch of trail through the campsite is not that great

I would camp there again but drive and not hike in.

Beautiful camping and hiking destination

This park has literally everything to offer for campers. There is a newly filled lake after the reconstruction of the dam. This is a non motorized lake for paddling, swimming and fishing. The lake is fed by the Willow River which features one of the most beautiful water falls in Wisconsin. There are miles of well maintained trails from easy and flat to hilly and challenging. 

The campgrounds in both the 300 and group camp areas are heavily wooded. Shower facilities and easy potable water access. This campground would get a 5 star if the camp sites were bigger. Most of the spots in the 300 by Little Falls lake are close together with little separation or privacy. The park offers so much recreation that this downside can be overlooked. 

Oh, and the bug levels are extremely low. They must treat the park as there are virtually no mosquitos on the summer trails and heavily used areas of the park!

Wonderful cart in sites

The cart in sites are fantastic at Wildcat Mountain! Each site is spacious with most heavily treed for shade. Each site has a nice large flat pad for a tent or two, fire ring, bench and picnic table. Proximity to potable water, vault or modern toilets and designated parking are all within 400 yards of all sites. 

The park is located in the Kickapoo valley area where the driftless area is amazing to hike. You can kayak or tube down the river that is flanked by high limestone bluffs. The hiking trails are well maintained. There is also extensive horse trails, a beautiful outdoor ampitheater for viewing sunsets and access to the river right in the park. 

The campers were respectful and quiet. Our campsite was fairly clean when we arrived. Contactless registration due to covid 19. That made getting set up quick and easy!  The cart provided was fairly big for less trips. I would happily camp here again!