Wisconsin’s outside recreation business is booming thanks, partially, to Satan’s Lake


Visitors stroll along North Shore Beach at Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo.


Winter is here and many are indoors, cozying up by the fire with a cup of hot coffee. But outside is a place where Wisconsinites thrive no matter the season, according to a new report.

Governor Tony Evers, along with Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary-designate Anne Sayers and Director of the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation, Mary Monroe Brown, recently announced that annual data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Wisconsin’s outdoor -Recreation industry made a record contribution of $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021.

Evers said in a statement, “From hunting and fishing to boating and paddling to snowboarding and skiing, outdoor recreation is part of who we are as a people and as a state.” He continued, “It improves our quality of life, attracts.” Attracts visitors from around the world, supports tens of thousands, and serves as an important economic engine for communities across Wisconsin.”

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Baraboo is one such community. With Devil’s Lake State Park on the doorstep, the area has experienced positive economic impact with its variety of outdoor recreation opportunities.

Devil’s Lake State Park remains one of Wisconsin’s most popular parks. Its dramatic cliffs and eponymous lake are well-visited. With its proximity to many of the state’s larger metropolitan areas, visitor numbers remain high.

Recent figures show that as of September 2022, Devil’s Lake State Park has had 1,838,898 2022 visitors so far. In 2021, 2,680,928 visitors came for the year. In 2020 there were a total of 2,146,333.

Devil’s Lake State Park Superintendent Jim Carter noted that these numbers represent a degree of anomaly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numbers fell with COVID-related closures and camping restrictions.

Additionally, Carter said in April 2021, “The property began using a different form of technology for detecting the presence of vehicles coming into the park. This technology does not track visitors who park outside the park and go inside.”

Headcount for the park’s permanent staff has nearly doubled since 2020, from 6 in 2020 to 11 in 2022. These numbers do not reflect contract staff or law enforcement staff.

In another older report titled “Economic Impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System: Connections to Gateway Communities” issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Parks and Recreation and UW-Madison Extension Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Devil’s Lake State Park is part of the Southern Gateways region. The region includes Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, Richland, Rock and Sauk counties. There are thirteen state parks in this region, including Devil’s Lake.

In 2009, total regional employment was 678,258 jobs, generating approximately $39.4 billion in total personal income. Non-local visitors to the Wisconsin Park System accounted for 2,533 of those jobs and generated over $220 million in wages, which are focused on key employment sectors of the region’s economy, including state and local government, food and beverage operations, real estate operations, Wholesale companies, insurance carriers and medical offices.

Non-local visitors spent $41,157,619 on lodging, including camping, in the Southern Gateways region in 2013. A total of $35,772,679 was spent by non-local visitors at restaurants and bars and $11,623,399 was spent by non-local visitors on entertainment.

“We have long understood this inseparable link between outdoor recreation and tourism,” secretary-elect Anne Sayers said in the Evers office’s recent statement. “Outdoor recreation is a marketable reason people visit Wisconsin.”

Devil’s Lake offers many recreational opportunities, from biking to boating, rock climbing to fishing, hunting to hiking. All of this helps the local community. The latest data proves it.