BUCKHORN STATE PARK
Buckhorn State Park, established in 1971, includes a 4,500-acre park and wildlife area, a peninsula in the Castle Rock Flowage of the Wisconsin River, and land along the Yellow River--a paradise for water recreationists, hunters, hikers and nature lovers. It has an outdoor group camp, 42 cart-in campsites, 11 drive-in sites, two-level accessible wildlife blind, accessible cabin, accessible fishing pier and waterfowl hunting blinds.
Before the 1830s, this area of Winnebago Indian (Ho Chunk) land was considered "unbroken wilderness."
Reports of vast stands of pine timber enticed John Kingston to the area in the hope of finding these stands and establishing a lumbering company, In the winter of 1837, he and Samuel Pilkington walked miles of the frozen Wisconsin and Lemonweir Rivers finding no extensive pine forests, Discouraged, they returned to the Portage area believing the reports were only a myth. But in 1838, Kingston again tried exploring the Wisconsin River, this time starting from Grand Rapids, He found the mouth of the Yellow River where the dark color of the rater convinced him that a large body of pine timber lay upstream, After staking a claim in the Necedah area, Kingston formed a lumber company with Thomas Weston and John Werner, Lumbering became the way of life in he newly established towns of Necedah, Germantown and Werner.
But his boom was short-lived. By 1877 , most of the big white pines had been out. Settlers moved in when the lumberjacks moved on. The whole area filled with small farms. Pasture was at a premium because of the area's marshes. Farmers' cows grazed woodlots, eliminating the brushy cover most wildlife needed.
But in the late 1920s change was in the wind. There was talk that hydroelectric dams were coming to the area which would forever change the rivers. Farms near the Wisconsin and Yellow Rivers were being sold to the Wisconsin River Power Company in anticipation of the new impoundment.
Left unattended, the land began to follow natural succession creating the typical central Wisconsin cover of aspen, scrub oak and jack pine now prevalent. This brush habitat increased deer and other wildlife populations dramatically.
In the late 1940s, upon completion of the Castle Rock dam, the Wisconsin and Yellow Rivers backed up to form the Castle Rock Flowage. The towns of Germantown and Werner became just a memory as the flowage covered most of the land where they once existed.
But just as the water erased evidence of the area's past, it also etched the landscape, creating a new peninsula with countless finger-like sloughs that has become Buckhorn. The Department of Natural Resources purchased the land in 1974 with the goal that the state park and wildlife area planned would be managed to allow most of the land to again become "unbroken wilderness."
Buckhorn State Park offers a rare chance to enjoy camping in a wilderness setting. Reservations are available from April through November.
Buckhorn has 42 backpack sites; one of them accessible for people with disabilities. Our backpack campsites are all secluded, with electrical hook-up and most are located near the water. You get to them by foot trail or by boat. Garden carts, to haul in your camping gear, are available for many of the sites. Toilet facilities are available at these sites, but you will need to transport your supply of drinking water. Three sights (27-29) on the shoreline can accomodate tents or hard-sided and pop-up trailers.
There are also eight family campsites (A1-A8) which can accommodate tents or hard-sided and pop-up trailers. Each family site has a picnic table and campfire ring.
There are three group sites that can accommodate up to 40 people each.
Camping is available year round at sites 8, 9, and 16. Campers must register at the park office or use the self-registration box in the office parking lot before setting up. Site 8 has electrical hook-ups and is available for any camper from November through March. During the rest of the year, this site is held for people with disabilities.
Most sites are reservable. Campsites 34-37 and A5-A6 are first come, first-served. Though not required, the campsites fill on most summer weekends, so reservations are recommended. Reservations are available for group, family and backpack campsites by calling a toll-free reservation number 1-888-WI-PARKS or visiting the web site (exit DNR).
This centralized reservation system provides "one stop shopping" for any reservable site in the Wisconsin Park System. Campers may make site-specific reservations, reservations for multiple dates and/or multiple properties, and will receive immediate confirmation of their selections. A credit card is required for Internet reservations. The call center accepts a personal check if it is more than 21 days before you will camp or a cashier's check or money order if it is more than 10 days. Your reservation will be unconfirmed until your check or money order arrives. If the check or money order does not arrive within seven days, your reservation will be canceled.Campsite re-registration policy
If you want to stay longer than you originally planned, you can reregister for your campsite during park office hours up to the day (3 p.m.) before the expiration of the camping permit, providing no one else has reserved the site. The longest you can stay is 21 days.Group camping
Three group tent camping sites (B1, B2 and B3) on the park's east side have room for 120 people to camp. Water and vault toilets are available at the site, but no electricity. RV's and pop-up units must park on the gravel in the parking area.
A short trail leads to the Wisconsin River portion of the flowage. There, campers have access to aquatic activities such as boating, canoeing, fishing, and swimming (not a designated beach area).
The group camp area has a volleyball court and a horseshoe pit. Horseshoes and volleyballs can be checked out at the park office free of charge.
The marked 300-foot swim area has an all-sand bottom. No lifeguards are on duty at the beach. Swim at your own risk and be sure children are supervised at all times.
The canoe launch is located on the peninsula's east side in a quiet slough that leads to the main part of the flowage. Canoeists should remain near shore to avoid rough water when the wind is blowing. Canoes can be rented at the park office. A concession agreement between the Friends of Buckhorn State Park and Country Cruisin' Canoe Rentals provides this.
A self-guided 10-stop canoe interpretive trail will help you learn about Buckhorn's wetlands.