Wisconsin is well known for its abundance of outdoor recreation and sports. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) along with many businesses and organizations go to great lengths to make sure that activities from kayaking and sailing to enjoying the sand dunes of Lake Michigan are accessible to everyone regardless of ability or mobility. More than just ramps and elevators, travelers can find a variety of adaptive equipment, accessible parks and helpful programs to make sure everyone can enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors with ease and freedom.
ACCESSIBLE STATE AND NATIONAL PARK AREAS
Kayaking, camping and enjoying the beach is no problem thanks to the Wisconsin DNR’s Open the Outdoors program, which offers adaptive equipment to experience the state’s natural beauty, no matter the mobility level. Adaptive kayaks with adjustable outriggers and a raised back with side supports are available at Buckhorn, Council Grounds, Devil’s Lake, Mirror Lake and Perrot State Parks and provide extra stability in the water.
For those who would prefer to stay on land, but still enjoy shoreline views, the DNR rents beach wheelchairs. The thick rubber wheels of the pushable beach wheelchairs make it easy to move on sand so trekkers can even navigate sand dunes! These can be found at the park offices or concessions of Big Bay, Buckhorn, Harrington Beach, Kohler-Andrae and Whitefish Dunes State Parks.
Find a true camping experience at a number of accessible cabins located in a few of Wisconsin’s state parks. Choose from a more rustic style traditional cabin, or fully equipped cabin with lower counters, wheel-in bathrooms and showers, adjustable beds and more.
For a unique and interactive outdoor experience, check out Fern Trail in Door County’s Newport State Park. The trail is completely accessible, with the goal of guiding visitors through the forest with interpretative, engaging panels. The panels include audio interpretation, illustrations, guided imagery and tactile elements. For those with a visual loss, or others just looking for an even more interactive experience, check out a “Discovery Pen” at the park visitor center. Touch the pen to the panel and instantly hear audio of birds, narration of the panels, as well as an explanation of the imagery and tactile elements on each panel.
At Wisconsin’s pristine Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wilderness Inquiry’s Little Sand Bay Base Camp provides adaptive equipment for a kayaking or canoeing excursion on Lake Superior. Wilderness Inquiry’s guides are fully trained to provide inclusive adventures for people with a range of disabilities including providing additional support to families that need help in order to share an outdoor experience. What’s more, the base camp has permanent platform tents, hot showers and composting toilets, as well as wide paths that are wheelchair accessible.
Ahoy mateys! Would-be sailors can enjoy Lake Michigan regardless of ability at SailAnyWay in Sturgeon Bay, which offers excursions for people with disabilities that would typically prevent them from sailing a single-handed sailboat. On Tuesday nights this summer, reserve a private sailing outing with the staff of SailAnyWay who will take you out on the lake and teach the basics of sailing. The special sailboats have special lifts used for ease of boat entry, as well as other equipment to make sailing accessible. Once you become a pro, you can join the SailAnyWay team that travels to Ontario Canada for the Mobility Cup international regatta for sailors with disabilities.
The North American Squirrel Association (NASA) helps create outdoor opportunities such as golfing, bicycling, fishing and hunting for those who are physically challenged. Regain the freedom of the open road by riding a specially built recumbent bicycle or play a round of golf using a uniquely custom-built motorized cart. NASA organizes frequent trips and events for various sports. Golfers won’t want to miss the adaptive golf scramble at Fox Hollow Golf Course in Barre Mills on Aug. 10.
If you have a true desire to reel in some fun, then connect with a Wisconsin chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries, Inc. This non-profit organization offers fishing programs and excursions for people with disabilities, outfits them with equipment and takes them out on the water. Since it first started in 1986 in Hayward, the organization now has 28 chapters in 14 states. Anglers, clear your calendar for events in July, August and September at the Madison, Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and St Croix Valley chapters. Can’t make it to an event? Fishing Has No Boundaries, Inc. also provides information on adaptive equipment and where to get it throughout the country.
We can’t talk about accessible sports without mentioning Challenge the Outdoors, Inc. This Green Bay area non-profit is dedicated to serving the recreational needs and desires of the physically challenged sportsperson. Like hunting? Challenge the Outdoors offers deer, goose, turkey, pheasant, and clay pigeon hunting excursions in the fall. If fishing is more your style, check out one of the many fishing tournaments this summer. In addition to sporting events, the organization offers other social events like going to baseball games, a yearly picnic, boat outings and more.
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