GOVERNOR DODGE STATE PARK
Nature at Governor Dodge State ParkWildlife
Governor Dodge State Park abounds with wildlife from the tiniest shrews up to the big white-tailed deer. Deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, red and grey fox, beaver, woodchucks, and muskrats are common park inhabitants. More than 150 species of birds have been observed. Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures soar over the park?s steep hills and valleys. In the woods, the rat-a-tat of the elusive pileated woodpecker can be heard for great distances as it searches for grubs in hollow trees.
The open fields and woods edges are great places to observe wildlife, especially in early mornings and late afternoon. As darkness overtakes the park, the howl of a lone coyote or the eerie calls of several barred owls hooting back and forth may break the night silence. While you?re visiting the park, take time to observe and enjoy the diverse wildlife populations in action. The park wildlife perform daily and there?s no charge for this enlightening entertainment.
Shortly after the glaciers retreated to their icy, Canadian home, humans moved into the area that is now Governor Dodge State Park. Just as the park?s scenic hills and valleys provide you refuge from over-crowded cities, they once provided shelter from snow and cold to the area?s first human inhabitants.
More than 8,000 years ago, men and women made winter camps at the base of rock overhangs enjoying the protection of the sandstone walls. As the weather warmed, they moved into more open areas of what is now Wisconsin and Illinois to hunt bison and other game.
Archaeological digs within the park verify the existence of human habitation; stretching all the way from those first "campers" to the Fox, Sauk, and Ho Chunk Indians, to present day campers.
The lack of glaciation played a role in determining the first wave of white people to hit the area. Large seams of lead ore lay near the earth?s surface throughout the region south of the Wisconsin River. Miners from Europe began arriving in the 1820?s. One of the first finds was at Jenkins Branch, which lay in Cox Hollow, just south of the present park boundary.
As more and more miners arrived, conflicts broke out between the Europeans and the Ho Chunks who had originally worked the mines. General Henry Dodge, one of the original white settlers, was instrumental in establishing peace in the area. Dodge was later appointed the first territorial governor of Wisconsin.
The next wave of settlers came to farm the land. The ridges in the driftless area once supported vast, sweeping prairies. Those treeless areas were more easily plowed than surrounding woodlands, and contained rich, black soil?prime land for agriculture.
Hardworking family farmers like the Stephens, Griffiths, and Pengellys filtered into the park area in the mid and late 1800s. Throughout the years, their farmsteads were handed down from one generation to the next, or sold to newly arriving immigrants.
The State Park:
In 1948, Iowa County presented one of these farmsteads?the Henry Larson estate?to the State of Wisconsin. These first 160 acres provided the nucleus for what was to become Governor Dodge State Park. Ten years later an earthen dam was constructed across Mill Creek and Cox Hollow Lake was created. The new park was well on its way to becoming one of Wisconsin?s finest recreation areas.
As years passed, the state purchased neighboring farms to add to this sprawling giant. Governor Dodge now contains 5,270 acres.
A second earthen dam was built in 1966, forming Twin Valley Lake. Beaches, campgrounds, bathhouses, trails, shelters, and other facilities have been constructed throughout the years to add to your park enjoyment.
Gone now are the buffalo hunters and their spears. Gone are the lead miners and their picks. Gone are the farmers and their plows. But the land that they changed remains.Traces of these men and women remain in the stone arrowheads, crumbling rock foundations, and rusted barbed wire that are still found throughout the park?traces that every year become harder to find as the land struggles to restore itself to the wild, natural area it once was.
Governor Dodge has 269 campsites that each accommodate a family or six people. Electrical hookups are available at 80 sites. Fees are $10 per night for Wisconsin residents and $12 per night for nonresidents. Electricity is $5 a night extra. There's a $2 per night discount for Sunday through Thursday nights and off-season times. A vehicle admission sticker is required for each vehicle. All campers must register at the park office before occupying their sites.
Campsite reservations for May through October may be made on the ReserveAmerica Internet Site (exit DNR) or by calling the toll-free number (888) WI PARKS ((888) 947-2757). There is a fee for this service.
There are eight campsites that can accommodate groups of 15 to 100 persons per site. Only tents are allowed. Each group site has a large tent area, picnic tables, a large fire ring, and a set of pit toilets. Drinking water is provided at group road intersections.
The group rate is $40 per night for 1 to 20 persons. Each additional 10 (or part thereof) is an additional $20 per night. Groups must register at the park office before occupying their sites.
To reserve a group site, call center (888) WI PARKS (888) 947-2757). Fee waivers for nonprofit groups serving people with disabilities and discounts for nonprofit Wisconsin youth organizations are available only through the call center, or customer service number, (800) 372-3607, not the web site.
There are six backpack campsites in the Hickory Ridge group camp area. All require about a half mile hike from the parking lot. Water and pit toilets are near the parking lot. Advance reservations (exit DNR) are recommended.
The park has 11 regular campsites for horse campers. Fees are $10 per night for Wisconsin residents and $12 per night for nonresidents. No electricity is available. There's a $2 per night discount for Sunday through Thursday nights and off-season times. Vehicle admission stickers and trail passes are required. Reservations are recommended. The horse campground and horse trails are open May 1 to November 15.
Two small group sites are also available in the horse campground on a first come, first served basis. Contact the park office for more information.
Tether poles are provided at each campsite. Please bring your own tethering ropes, as none are available at the park. Please contact the park office for information about the use of fencing or other types o restraining devices.
Camping facilities and services:
Limited foodstuffs and camping supplies are available at the Cox Hollow Beach concession stand from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Other needs can be supplied year round by businesses in Dodgeville, three miles south of the park. Firewood is sold in the Twin Valley and Cox Hollow campgrounds daily in June through August and on weekends in May, September, and October.
There are showers in the Twin Valley and Cox Hollow rest room buildings. Both campgrounds have trailer dumping stations.
There are two laundromats in Dodgeville.
Please help us recycle your park generated waste! Recycling centers and refuse containers are located at the park office, Cox Hollow beach concession, and the two family campgrounds.
Swimming beaches are located on both lakes. Bathhouses are found near both beaches. The beaches are open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. No lifeguards are on duty.
Boats and canoes may be rented daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day at the Cox Hollow Beach concession stand. Rentals are also available during the spring and fall. There are launching ramps on both Cox Hollow and Twin Valley Lakes. Electric motors only are permitted on both lakes. Boat mooring is permitted May 1 through October 31 at designated areas only.