Bucket runner-up: Devil’s Lake

Memorial Day weekend is finally here. It seems so long ago that I made our camping reservations at Devil’s Lake State Park. But, in the world of Wisconsin State Park camping, three months is just a quarter of the time you need to plan in advance.

Now, Devil’s Lake is not technically on my Bucket List, which originally included just one camping destination: Governor Dodge State Park. But, as I found out, three months out is laughable for Memorial Day weekend at GDSP. Any weekend at GDSP, really. Way back in February, I was able to secure a spot there in August. I can’t say this enough: if you want to camp at a Wisconsin State Park, reserve early!

I was lucky to get a spot at DLSP this weekend. There were only non-electric sites left, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I’m packing lots of batteries.

Coleman Max 13′ x 9′ Family Tent

We are taking our 2-year-old son and my mom. Last year, after about a month’s worth of research, we settled on the Coleman Max 13′ x 9′ Family Tent so we could take Nana camping with us.

Because last year I waited until April to reserve a spot, we didn’t go camping on Memorial Day weekend and just set up the tent in the back yard.

Our new Coleman Max only made it as far                             as the back yard last year.

Of course, I couldn’t get the tent back in the original bag (why do they make them so small?), so I split it up between two bags. I have notes all over to remind myself to bring both bags!




Schedules and lists
We’ve got a lot to do and see on our trip, and to make sure we get it all in, I made a schedule. Yes, I am one of those vacationers. I also have a list. I keep a generic camping list of the basics on my computer that I update for each trip. Here’s our DLSP list:


  • camera/charger
  • tent (2 bags!)
  • 2 sleeping bags, pillows
  • 2 air mattresses, sheets, air mattress pump
  • coolers (hard and soft)
  • radio/batteries
  • Coleman lantern, flashlights
  • mallet
  • Coleman 8-pc. enamel cooking set (8-cup coffee pot, 3.5-quart stockpot with lid, 9.5-inch fry pan, 2-quart saucepan, long-handled spoon, fork and slotted spatula
  • 2 small plastic basins, small dish soap, dish rag/towel
  • stick matches
  • garbage bags
  • tablecloths
  • Bounce sheets (this because of an e-mail that’s been forwarded since 2003, that claims, among many other things, that Bounce sheets repel ants, mosquitos and bees; it’s worth a shot and packs easily)
  • whisk broom, Clorox wipes, garbage bags
  • first aid (bandaids, antiseptic)
  • clothes line
  • mat for entrance to tent
  • games: cribbage, cards, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Farkle (from Wisconsin company Patch!)
  • paper, pens


  • water (bottles, jugs with spigot)
  • paper goods: plates, bowls, napkins, toilet paper, paper towels (all to be burned in the fire)
  • utensils
  • plastic food bags
  • fire-pit grate, charcoal
  • foil
  • potatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli
  • fruit
  • burgers/buns
  • hot dogs/buns
  • ground turkey
  • tortilla shells
  • baked beans, refried beans, corn
  • chips, crackers
  • for s’mores
  • cheese soup, broccoli soup (frozen)
  • eggs
  • cheese (slices, shredded, sticks)
  • yoghurt, granola bars, Cheerios, goldfish
  • wine/beer
  • ketchup, mustard, relish, butter, salt and pepper, olive oil
  • can opener, corkscrew


  • shampoo, soap, towels
  • toothbrushes/paste
  • allergy medicine, Ibuprofin
  • sunscreen, Solarcaine (because I will burn eat least once), bug spray

For the little guy

  • little blue seat for picnic table
  • pack-n-play
  • stroller
  • sheet/blankets
  • sleepers/pajamas (warm- and cool-weather), long pants, long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirt, socks, rain boots/jacket
  • toys, coloring books, crayons
  • diapers, wipes, swimmers
  • PFD (personal flotation device)
  • sand toys
  • Brewers hat
  • t-ball set, soccer ball, football, kites

A hatchet also comes in very handy when camping, but that’s not something I want to be carrying around, or even owning. Bringing a grill grate is a tip I picked up on a recent Wisconsin Trails photo shoot. We spent the day at Kohler-Andrae State Park getting shots for the huge camping section in the July/August 2012 issue of Wisconsin Trails (check out our new website!). Our photographer Jerry set up a grill in the fire pit so we could cook faster (with charcoal) and didn’t have to put any of the food on the crud-coated grate that is welded to the fire pit ring. See behind-the-scenes shots from our Kohler-Andrae photo shoot at the bottom of this post.

With all the stuff we have to take this weekend, you’d think we have a van or a camper. Nope, just a Prius and VW Golf. We could probably use a pull-along trailer, but it hasn’t come to that yet. It’s a bummer that we need a State Park sticker for each car, but luckily, my mom gets a senior discount ($10 for unlimited State Parks visits in a year). Ours will cost $12.50, half the regular $25 annual fee because we already have a sticker for our other car.

While we’re there, we’ll spend most of our time exploring the park and will probably rent a rowboat one day ($10 to $12/hour). I’d also like to stop at Parfrey’s Glen, located four miles east of DLSP. I was here about ten years ago, and hear that the area, including the walkways and stairways have been damaged in flooding in recent years, but I’d like to see how far we can get with the stroller.

Devil’s Lake is about four miles from downtown Baraboo, so we’ll head there one afternoon. One sure stop: Circus World Museum (admission doubles during “performance season” – AKA, non-winter months – to $14.95, $12.95 for seniors, free for History Lovers members), open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., May 19-Sept. 3. No times are listed on the site, but it should be easy to catch “skilled acrobats, horses, jugglers, dogs, clowns, aerialists and elephants in 10 shows daily.”

Also on the agenda: Baraboo Farmers Market, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday

Still holding out for Devil’s Lake this weekend? There are about two dozen sites available in the area. Find up-to-date last-minute listings.

Now you tell me: What’s on your camping list? If you’ve been to Devil’s Lake, what are your recommendations for young kids? What is the one thing we should be sure not to miss this weekend?

Wisconsin Trails photo shoot at Kohler-Andrae State Park:

Setting up camp at Kohler-Andrae

Bring your own grate for shrimp on the barbie

Franks and beans! Good to shoot, good to eat.

This entry was posted in Camping, Devil's Lake State Park, Governor Dodge State Park, Outdoors, State Park, Travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bucket runner-up: Devil’s Lake

  1. Pat Dinges says:

    ticks are very thick this year make sure you protect everyone from them. and stay on designated trails

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks for the tips, Pat. I’m looking forward to the beauty of Devil’s Lake, but know we’ll have to be careful.. especially given the recent tragedy there.

  2. Pingback: Bucket runner-up: Devil's Lake | Wisconsin Bucket List | Camping Tips

  3. Pingback: Rookie mistakes at Devil’s Lake | Wisconsin Bucket List

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