“Will that cool sandbar still be at the lake like last year? Do you think the racoons will visit our campsite again? Can we make smores by the fire like last year?” These are just a few of the questions my seven-year-old peppered me with as we drove to Kohler-Andrae State Park, which is just two miles south of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And the answer was “YES” to all three questions, although I kept my salty language about last year’s marauding raccoons to myself as we drove.
There’s a lot more to Kohler-Andrae than a great sandbar that provides the chance for water roughhousing, curious racoons, and the opportunity to make smores over a crackling fire. I’ve camped at this beautiful state park for the last three summers, and here are eight of my favorite things:
1. There are 125 camp sites to choose from—all within about a 10-minute walk to Lake Michigan. Click here for a campsite map.
2. A wealth of hiking trails through sand dunes, wetlands, river marsh, and pine and hardwood forest. I suggest the Creeping Juniper Nature Trail Loop; Kohler Dunes Cordwalk; Ancient Shores Trail; and Black River Marsh Boardwalk, although there are other trails, too. Trails range from 0.25 miles to 2.5 miles.
3. The Sanderling Nature Center, which features live animals; nature films; a small gift shop; interpretive exhibits; presentations by naturalists, geologists, and other scientists; and a domed viewing area where you can survey the lakeshore. A perfect destination when your kids get bored of making smores and sandcastles. The Sanderling Nature Center is open daily from May 1 through October 31 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
4. Wildlife in abundance. During your stay, you might see white-tailed deer, red fox, muskrats, coyotes, frogs, toads, snapping turtles, chipmunks, and many other animals. More than 150 bird species live in (e.g., ducks, gulls, woodland warblers, bald eagles, vireos, sparrows, sandhill cranes, and herons) or migrate through Kohler-Andrae. Click here to see a list of commonly-seen birds. In addition, the park’s website reports that “more than 400 known plant species are found in the park, including more than 50 different tree species.”
5. Great opportunities for biking on some trails and on the park’s main roads.
6. Good starwatching.
7. At only two hours from Chicago, Kohler-Andrae is the perfect destination for first-time campers and those seeking a short weekend camping trip.
8. Close proximity to Sheboygan, which has a pleasant marina, an up-and-coming downtown, a riverfront boardwalk (check out the Duke of Devon for tasty beer and food), and other attractions. While at the lakefront, be sure to visit the wreck of the Lottie Cooper, a three-masted schooner that sunk in 1894, but was salvaged in 1992 and is now on display at Harbor Center Marina.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Reservations are accepted April through October. You can reserve a campsite online or by calling 888/947-2757. I strongly suggest reserving your site a few months ahead of time because the park fills up quickly in warm weather.
- As in most state parks, the campsites are relatively close together. So, if you get the wrong neighbors, it can be hard to enjoy the solitude of nature. Tip: Before you go, spend some time reviewing the campsite map to determine which site best fits your needs. Park staff can also provide advice over the phone, and, when you visit the registration office, a three-ringed binder is available that provides details on all 125 sites (should you choose not to reserve a site in advance). My favorite camping spots are located in the far south end of the park (sites 204 to 230). Also, a strategically-placed clothesline and/or a screen tent can create an extra level of privacy at your site.
- Don’t expect a wide beach—high water-levels and beachfront erosion have reduced the size of the beaches at Kohler-Andrae. There is certainly plenty of beach and dunes to make your visit enjoyable, but if you’re expecting wide, flat sandy beaches, you should head north to Deland Park in Sheboygan.
- Amenities available at Kohler-Andrae include firewood for sale, showers, modern bathrooms, and a picnic area that offers a playground, volleyball court, and baseball diamond.
Copyright Andrew Morkes, 2017 (text/photos)
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