Danielle St. Louis
Nelson Dewey State Park
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Over the course of the summer, I’d become very familiar with Wisconsin highways leading to the northern, northwestern, and eastern parts of the state, so when we got the car loaded up to go to Nelson Dewey State Park, I was excited to head west and have a change of scenery. Previously, I’d only taken US-151/US-18 west as far as Dodgeville, but this adventure was going to take us almost all the way to Iowa.
There’s that saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” but in our case, it’s about both. One of my personal goals since moving back to Wisconsin has been to become more familiar with my home state, so I try to be just as engaged in the getting there as I am once we’re there, wherever there may be. On this occasion as the miles flew by, I took mental notes, “Oh, so that’s where Platteville is. . . oh! This is where Potosi is!” And when we turned onto the Great River Road, I played connect the dots between this segment and those we’d traveled north of here earlier in the summer.
Maybe a little too distracted by the journey, I ended up driving right past the entrance to Nelson Dewey State Park. A tiny A-frame office marks the entrance, and unlike other parks, there’s no drive-up window. We parked and went into the office to check-in for our campsite and pick up a few maps. We took the only road in the park up to the family campground, found our site, and set up our tents.
It was starting to get dark, and we needed to get wood for our campfire. The park attendant said there was a self-service wood shed in the campground, so we got in the car and drove around the campground in search of the woodshed. After completing a few laps, we still hadn’t found the woodshed, so we asked a camper on his way to the bathroom for directions. He seemed confused by our inability to find the shed – it’s right behind the campsite host’s site after all. But you know, in the dense darkness typical of heavily wooded areas, it was almost impossible to see a brown, unmarked, wooden, woodshed. When we finally found the entrance, we felt a tad silly but mostly vindicated. They really could have marked it more conspicuously for those campers trying to find it in the dark.
The next morning when Lucky woke me up for his 6:30 am breakfast and morning constitution, we decided to explore the Mound Point Trail, which was accessible right around the corner from our campsite. On our way, we managed to sneak a peak at the closest of the walk-in campsites, and I was struck green with envy. What a view! Once Lucky had done his business, we returned to camp to report back to Angela what we’d seen, and then armed with coffee, we three set out for a nice morning hike.
Nelson Dewey has around two miles of hiking trails, none of which are particularly strenuous, so we took a very leisurely approach to exploring the trails—doing a little here and a little there, in no rush and happy to enjoy the views. The Mound Point Trail from the campgrounds to where it meets the Woodbine Nature Trail had a distinct cadence. Up, down, small footbridge. Up, down, small footbridge. We laughed about the repetitive ups and downs, feeling as if we may have been walking the track of an old rollercoaster. The Prairie Trail was also pleasantly surprising and offered some of the best views in the park. Overall, Nelson Dewey is a pretty tiny park, but it offers huge views and is a great spot for a relaxing weekend away.
Want more information about hiking with your dog at Nelson Dewey State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
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