“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 (text/photos) Andrew Morkes
2022 UPDATE: Looking for some great nature destinations in Chicagoland? If so, I just published Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit. It features amazing destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Click on the title to learn more. The book has 306 pages and 210+ photos and is only $18.99. Click here to learn more and purchase the book.
ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.
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