Complete Guide to Natural Bridge State Park
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Natural Bridge State Park is a 530-acre state park that features the largest natural arc (bridge) in Wisconsin. The park derives its name from a large sandstone bridge (or arch) that attracts numerous visitors every year.
There is also a 60-acre scientific reserve here, a rock shelter, and other beautiful natural landscapes and attractions to make your visit worthwhile. Natural Bridge is a day-use park. Camping is not allowed here yet.
There are many other attractions you can explore during your visit in a day. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to enjoy everything Natural Bridge State Park has to offer.
History of the Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge State Park is located in what is called the Driftless Zone in South-central Wisconsin and on the edge of the Baraboo Ranges. The driftless area is an area that was never covered by ice during the ice age.
It is characterized by a very diverse natural landscape ranging from deep valleys, steep hills and cliffs, vast flat grasslands (prairies), and deeply wooded forest areas. The park lies in a region that was once the ancestral lands of Native Americans, specifically the Sauk Community.
Early European settlers who came to this region as prospectors settled close to the park. The land where the park stands was once farmland owned by the Raddatz family. The Raddatz family was part of the early European settlers who had arrived in the US from Germany in 1880).
They built several structures on the land, including a stone smokehouse in 1900- which can still be found on the property today. Later, the park would change hands and become a state park and natural area in 1973. It had been open to the public before then as people came to marvel at the natural bridge and unique rock formations.
The Bridge (arch) and Rock Shelter at Natural Bridge State Park
Undoubtedly, this is the most important feature in the park. The park is named after this natural phenomenon. The apex of the arch is about 35 feet from the ground and the opening is large enough to accommodate a group of people (at 25 feet height and 15 feet width). The base of the bridge is supported by a solid rock structure that measures 60 feet in width and over 30 feet deep.
In 1957, a renowned archaeologist, Warren Wittry, is said to have excavated the rock shelter in a bid to unearth the secrets they thought lay hidden underneath. They found traces and evidence of human occupation dating back to 9000 and 8000 BC.
The evidence showed that the rock shelter must have been used as a dwelling place for the early inhabitants of the land (probably the Native Americans). This makes the rock shelter one of the oldest recorded shelters in the state of Wisconsin. Today, tourists visit this place every day and you will come across names carved on the rock by other visitors to commemorate the occasion.
Natural Bridge State Park Camping
Camping lovers may be disappointed that the park does not offer this recreation option. However, if you would love to explore the location further, you may consider spending more time in any of the campgrounds near the park. Some of the popular ones include:
Camping Near Natural Bridge State Park
Here are a few campgrounds in the area:
This campground is conveniently located near both Natural Bridge and Devil’s Lake State parks. There is a lot of activities happening here including swimming, fishing, hiking, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the Baraboo River. Both tent camping and RV camping are available.
The RV sites are large enough to accommodate large rigs. Apart from primitive camping options, water, electricity, and dump stations are available to every other camping option here.
Green Valley Campground
This is a small campground that offers both family and group camping options. It is a very quiet campground, ideal for people who seek serene getaways. You will be camping very close to Downtown Baraboo and the Devil’s Lake State Park. Pets are allowed, and you can spend a grand time at the small beach here, enjoying the peaceful and quiet environment.
Baraboo Hills Campground
This is perhaps the best campground in the Baraboo area. It is certainly the largest, with shaded full hookup and secluded RV sites, yurts, cabins, and tent camping options.
Their cabins are luxurious cabins, complete with bathrooms and kitchenettes for people who love cooking for themselves. There is a common swimming pool for all guests in the campground.
Some of the best attractions you can visit while camping here include the Ho-Chunk Casino (The largest casino in the State), Wisconsin Dells, Devils Lake, Mirror Lake, Circus world, and the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue Center.
Natural Bridge State Park Activities
Although camping is not allowed inside the park, you can still have a great time with your family taking a scenic hike among the diverse landscape here. Hunting is also another activity you can do inside the park. Here are some of the fun activities you can do in Natural Bridge Park;
Hiking At Natural Bridge State Park
There are two main hiking trails in this park. The predominant one is the Natural Bridge and Whitetail loop – a 1.5-mile loop that takes you to the bridge and the springhouse. The park is usually quiet and people who enjoy solitude will enjoy taking a hike along this trail.
The terrain is fairly moderate and welcoming – even to novice hikers. You will be walking on a narrow, meandering path and passing through a series of meadows (that contain all kinds of wildflowers) under a canopy of tall hardwood trees. Spend a little more time at the bridge to enjoy the natural wonder before continuing with your journey.
The Natural Bridge and Rock Shelter trail is another short and lightly trafficked trail that starts near North Freedom, Wisconsin. It is a moderate trail that is ideal for birdwatchers and people seeking to enjoy the lush landscape in the forest. The trail is not marked, but it is easy to follow.
Since the park is not staffed, the trail remains unattended for the better part of the year. Overgrown grass and muddy sections may be off-putting to some people when walking on this trail. However, if you are not concerned about getting a little muddy, you will certainly enjoy the wonderful surroundings and the serenity of the park as you take your hike here.
The trails are self-guided as the park is usually unattended. During the winter season, you are welcome to visit the park to snowshoe, ski, or take a relaxing hike. Take caution at this time because the trails are not maintained or groomed for winter sporting activities. The best time to visit here for a hike is from April to October.
Hunting and trapping are allowed inside the park. However, you will need a license and you should adhere to the hunting times as this is not an all-year-round activity.
Gun and archery hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park from November 15 to December 15. Springtime gun and archery hunting begins on April 1 and ends on May 3. Trapping is also restricted to particular areas in the park.
For instance, trapping is prohibited in closed areas and within 100 yards of any publicly used area. All hunting and trapping activities inside the park are regulated by the Wisconsin State parks hunting and trapping guide.
Hunting and trapping Map in Natural Bridge State Park
Here is a map of the hunting and trapping areas within the Natural bridge state park. And then click here to see Wisconsin State Parks hunting and trapping rules and regulations.
Natural Bridge State Park and Dogs
Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles.
Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds, trails, roads, and outlying areas of the parks. They must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times, if they are not under control at all times, they can be seized and subject to local laws on stray animals.
ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t microchipped. If you do lose your pet you can contact the Sauk County Humane Society at (608) 356-2520.
Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations.
Other animals like deer, chipmunks, squirrels, gray wolves, skunks, fishers, elk, and porcupines can be found there.
Pets are not allowed in the following places:
- Picnic areas and picnic shelters
- Main Beach
- Marked Nature Trails
No Pets are allowed on the ski trails when they are snow-covered.
Of course, if your dog is a service animal, those rules do not apply.
Attractions Near Natural Bridge State Park
There are other many attractions close to the Natural bridge state park that may be exciting to you and your family. Here are some of the notable ones:
Circus World Museum
There are a lot of fun and exciting events happening here at any given time of the year. This is home to juggling shows, crown shows, animal shows, costume displays, live music, theatrical performances, and much more.
There are shops and restaurants on-site as well, and the ground is paved and leveled to allow easy wheelchair access. You do not need advance registration or booking when visiting this spot.
International Crane Foundation
This location is said to be the only spot on earth where you can see all the crane species of the world (15 species in total) in one place. You are welcome to walk on their well-kept nature trails, mingle with the beautiful birds and enjoy taking memorable photos.
The mission of this 300-acre property is to ensure the survival and continuity of cranes across the globe. You are likely to find these birds roaming freely here, enjoying the sanctuary and protection they receive within the boundaries of the park.
The Aldo Leopold Shack
Aldo was a famous conservationist, philosopher, outdoor enthusiast, and writer. He was a big advocate of the preservation of the wildlife ecology and wilderness in the US.
The Leopold Shack and Farm was recognized as a National Historic Landmark because of the efforts Aldo made to restore the farm from a dilapidated space into productive farmland. When you visit here, you will learn more about the massive effort that went into transforming the land, including planting over 40,000 trees.
Mid-Continent Railway Museum
This is another location that will take you down US history. This is a living museum and operating railroad that gives you a glimpse into the kind of life people lived during the ‘Golden Age of Railroading’ in the US.
There are numerous interesting artifacts and exhibits to help you recreate this adventure. You will find displays of restored trains, rail equipment, and a wealth of information about how the people lived and traveled after the discovery of the railroad.
They recreate this by using an operational railroad (complete with vintage equipment) to showcase movement up from the Civil War days until after World War II.
River Sands Region
This is a region named for the sandy rivers that flow through here. It is a small community of friendly and hospitable people who are always ready to welcome visitors with a smile.
You can visit the town to enjoy a local delicacy or take a long hike to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes. Beer lovers should head to the Stevens Point Brewery for locally made craft beer. Hiking, fishing, boating, and other outdoor leisure activities are also available in this region.
Restaurants Near Natural Bridge State Park
There are several restaurants near the park, in the surrounding towns, and each restaurant offers a unique dining experience. Here are some of the best restaurants near Natural Bridge State Park, Wisconsin.
The Schellter Bar and Grill
Location: E7428 Cty Hwy C, North Freedom, WI 53951-9757
Cuisine Style: American
This is a clean and inviting restaurant. They serve local cuisines and fast food. It is a typical local bar with friendly owners offering country hospitality. Burgers and chips are their signature dishes.
Now and then (especially on Wednesdays) they cook pizza with different choices made available to the customers. There is generous outdoor seating that can be a great place to stay during the warmers seasons.
Tower Rock Farmstead Bakery
Location: S9010 Denzer Rd, Prairie du Sac, WI 53578-9652
Cuisine Style: Bakery
If you are ever in Prairie du Sac, pop into the quaint bakery shop for fresh, delicious baked treats. They bake all kinds of stuff, including theme-based cookies, bread, and cakes.
They also sell pre-mixed flour and grains to make baking back at home easier. They use natural whole-grain flour when baking their products. All the grain is grown organically on their farm, which has been in the family for over a century. They then mill the grain into flour and use the flour to bake various delicacies.
Aunt Ozie’s Cafe
Location: 200 Main St, Loganville, WI 53943-9674
Cuisine Style: American
Aunt Ozie’s cafe is set up in a beautiful location inside a historical 100-year-old building. You will be served with a great outlook into American history as you enjoy tasty local cuisines.
They have decorated their walls with trinkets and antiquities that have a long history to indulge you as you wait for your meal to be ready. The service is good and the ambiance is welcoming.
Location: 1920 Prairie St, Prairie du Sac, WI 53578-1146
Cuisine Style: American, Bar
If you love mixing good food, craft beer, good conversations, and good music, this is the place to stop by during your visit to Natural Bridge State Park. It is a nice bar in a little town, offering you both country and urban settings at the same time.
The food is mainly local cuisine, and you may have to wait a bit as they prepare it for you. Craft beer lovers will enjoy visiting this bar because they have a large collection of locally brewed craft beers and local wines. Where you are here, try their classic burger, roasted chicken, or steaks.
Pape’s Fair Valley Inn
Location: E9708 State Road 60, Sauk City, WI 53583-9615
Cuisine Style: American, Bar
This is another great place to enjoy a drink and meal while in Sauk Country. Broiled fish is their classic dish. Make sure you carry cash as they do not accept credit cards. The ambiance is very warm here and the service is very good.
Hotels Near Natural Bridge State Park
If you seek a more luxurious setting and accommodation near Natural Bridge State Park, here are some of the best hotels you can visit for your indulgence.
Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells
Location: S3214 County Road BD, Baraboo, WI 53913
Distance from Natural Bridge State Park: 14.9 miles
This is the largest casino in Wisconsin but it also offers accommodation, drinks, and food. They have a lot of different types of entertainment events going on almost all the time, especially over the weekends. Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin is part of the Ho-Chunk hotel chain.
If you are feeling lucky, you can try your luck at the decks. You can also book tickets to an entertaining comedy night show or simply enjoy a drink at the expansive pub on the property. All their rooms are luxurious and equipped with modern amenities.
Inn at Wawanisse Resort
Location: E13609 Tower Road Baraboo, Wisconsin (WI) 53913
Distance from Natural Bridge State Park: 15.5 miles
This is a luxury villa on a 42-acre secluded property just 20 miles from Wisconsin Dells’ town center. It is located on top of the Baraboo Bluffs in Wisconsin. They specialize in offering honeymoon packages and other romantic adventures.
From their location, you can access Devils state park easily (2 miles away), and this offers you numerous outdoor recreation options including birding, snowshoeing, and hiking. All the rooms are luxurious, with amazing views and a cool, quaint setting.
Schoepp’s Cottonwood Resort
Location: N586 Schoepp Rd Sauk City, WI 53583
Distance from Natural Bridge State Park: 15 miles
This is a beer and sports bar on Crystal Lake. Their location is excellent for people who love water sports and related activities. It is a small, family-owned establishment that will offer you the country ‘feel’ as you enjoy a cold beer. It is a good place to visit for people who want a laid-back atmosphere.
Valley Springs Farm Bed and Breakfast
Location: E4681 County Road S. Reedsburg, WI 53959
Distance from Natural Bridge State Park: 11.6 miles
If you love the peace and quiet of the countryside, this is the perfect place to visit. The farmhouse was set up in such a way that the only noise you will hear will be birds chirping excitedly in the trees. Everything smells and tastes fresh here. The food here is sourced directly from the farm where everything is grown organically.
There are three types of rooms here, and each one is luxurious with access to modern amenities, including free Wi-Fi. They have large, open spaces your kids can roam freely and enjoy biking, hiking, or other kinds of outdoor activities.
Spring Green Motel
Location: E5296B Hwy 14 | Spring Green, Wisconsin
Distance from Natural Bridge State Park: 13 miles
This hotel is very unique because it is designed tastefully but in a very subtle and simple way. The grounds have been designed for entertainment purposes, and with swings and slides for your kids, everyone will be at home in this establishment. There are other numerous attractions to explore during your visit as well. They usually post these on their website or on location.
Places To Stay Nearby
Directions to Natural Bridge State Park
On County Highway C in Sauk County turn west from the village of Leland and drive for about 0.75 miles to get to the park’s entrance.