Kohler-Andrae offers camping, lake access, dunes
SHEBOYGAN -- Kohler-Andrae State Park is nestled between the Black River and Lake Michigan, 50 miles north of Milwaukee in Sheboygan county. With lakeside camping all year long, Kohler-Andrae offers many opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of southeastern Wisconsin, including hiking, biking, swimming and, during the winter months, skiing and snowshoeing.
The spectacular beach, perhaps most often used during summer for swimming in clear, if sometimes a little weedy, water, can also be a winter attraction for its cascading ice sheets.
I spent most of my time on a recent visit exploring the dunes along the miles of beach in the park. Many human and animal-made paths crisscross the grasses covering the dunes, which separate the tall pines from the wide beach.
After enjoying a walk along the beach one night, a nearly full moon aided my way back through the pines to my wooded campsite, where I made food over the campfire ring and scarfed it down, happy and tired.
There is a wide variety among the park's 137 campsites, including 52 with electric hookups, some moderately to heavily wooded, others that are more open to get the occasional bug-clearing breeze and an accessible site with toilet and shower for campers with physical disabilities.
Kohler-Andrae is actually two adjacent state parks, John Michael Kohler and Terry Andrae State Parks. Both areas, while seen as distinct, are operated as one unit by the Wisconsin DNR. The campsites are located in Andrae, while Kohler State Park is predominately a nature preserve with hiking and skiing trails.
Terry Andrae State Park was formed in 1928 with the donation of 122 acres of property by Elsbeth Andrae a year earlier. Andrae, the widow of Milwaukee businessman Theodore Andrae, had paid for the initial re-forestation of the sandy property and offered the land to the state after her husband's death.
In 1966, plumbing manufacturer the Kohler Company offered the state another 280 acres immediately to the north of the Terry Andrae park boundary to honor company founder John Michael Kohler. Another 600 acres purchased by the State of Wisconsin brings the total area of Kohler-Andrae to 1,000 acres.
Camping at Andrae includes a family campground which in the summer has showers, flush toilets, laundry, two group campgrounds (for up to 50 people with tents) and a tepee for rent.
The non-profit group Friends of Kohler-Andrae, established in 1987, built the handicap accessible site and paths, offers a couple candlelight ski events during the winter, lining the trails with tiki torches, and helps with events and upkeep of the nature walk trail.
Sanderling Nature Center, open May to October, is staffed by volunteers who offer a variety of displays and events.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. all year, and most areas require a vehicle permit to enter. Camping has an extra fee. The camp sites fill up after July 4 and reservations are highly recommended.
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