In Sports

Bong Rec Area offers an oasis near the big city

If you haven't been there yet, summer is the time to visit the Bong State Recreation Area in Kansasville. This oasis of nature is just 30 minutes from Milwaukee, about nine miles west of Interstate-94 in Kenosha County.

Named after Richard Ira Bong, a World War II ace born in Wisconsin, the Bong Rec Area is the result of a 1950s Air Force base project. When that plan was abandoned (after a mere $29 million in taxes were squandered), the land became a park and school forests. In 1974, 4,500 acres were designated as the state's first recreation area.

This rec area provides facilities and activities not normally found in state parks, such as dog training, hot air ballooning, ATV and dirt bike riding, hang gliding, model rocket launching, falconry, model airplane flying, hunting, trapping and fishing.

Visitors can also hike, swim, ride horses, study nature, snowmobile, cross-country ski, camp and more. There are five big picnic areas in the park, 217 family campsites (53 are electric-equipped) and a 300-foot sand beach.

However, only about 6 percent of Bong's area is developed. The rest is maintained for fish and game conservation and management, including research, study and prairie restoration.

And the prairie lands are what makes Bong so beautiful. Tall grasses and weeds leap to the horizon, where they meet an expansive sky. Hikers in southeastern Wisconsin will be hard-pressed to find a more alluring prairie. And, even better, pets are allowed on the hiking trails (but not on nature trails, the beach or the manicured picnic areas).

Carefully maintained, the hiking (and skiing) paths are approximately 8-foot wide swaths mowed through the prairie. With a fairly even grade, they are easy to navigate. The trails that circle Wolf Lake offer diversions down to the water that offer stunning vistas.

The park is a treasure trove for ornithologists and bird watchers. A list of birds that can be found here is available at the park office. At night, stargazers value the park's pitch darkness. Naturalists will love the trails, guided hikes and programs that are offered year-'round.

There are 13 miles of trails for horseback riding and a 7.1-mile, three loop ATV/dirt bike trail system.

Anglers can fish Northern Pike, Walleye, Largemouth Bass and panfish from Wolf Lake, which has a pier. Boaters may use electric motors but no gas. There is also a small pond near the trailhead parking lot that is stocked with trout. A Wisconsin fishing license and trout stamp are required.

One of the few remnants of the Air Force base that was never completed serves the more daring park users. A 2.5-mile gravel runway serves hang gliders.

Bong Recreation Area is located at 26313 Burlington Road, Kansasville 53139. Enter off Highway 142, one mile west of Highway 75. Call the office at (262) 878-5600. Quiet time is 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Only registered campers are allowed in the park after 11 p.m.

Park admission is $5 per vehicle per day or $20 for an annual sticker for Wisconsin residents. Non residents pay $10 a day or $30 for the year. Campsites range from $10 for residents and $12 for non-residents.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | July 14, 2006 at 10:32 a.m. (report)

L Sczesny said: Glad to see dogs are allowed to enjoy the outdoors with their families, however...where would an avid dog-lover take their dog, a sporting golden retreiver to enjoy water play or just a game of water retrieve? Most inland ponds are contaminated with some sort of pesticide or fertilizer, etc., if they are near farms. Also the collection of algae is very bad for our dog's skin and bacteria could be deadly. Anyone know of a great place? Lake michigan's shores are contaminated for swiimming and restrictions are in place for humans, so I dont want our dog in the water there either, even in the "dogs allowed" area. HELP?? Anyway, we will take advantage of the Bong area this year, it sounds great, did not know so much was available to do there! Also, the article mentioned dog training offered there yet could not get to a link to find info. Thanks & I hope to hear from some of the dog enthusiasts out there.

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OMCreader | July 14, 2006 at 10:32 a.m. (report)

L Sczesny said: Glad to see dogs are allowed to enjoy the outdoors with their families, however...where would an avid dog-lover take their dog, a sporting golden retreiver to enjoy water play or just a game of water retrieve? Most inland ponds are contaminated with some sort of pesticide or fertilizer, etc., if they are near farms. Also the collection of algae is very bad for our dog's skin and bacteria could be deadly. Anyone know of a great place? Lake michigan's shores are contaminated for swiimming and restrictions are in place for humans, so I dont want our dog in the water there either, even in the "dogs allowed" area. HELP?? Anyway, we will take advantage of the Bong area this year, it sounds great, did not know so much was available to do there! Also, the article mentioned dog training offered there yet could not get to a link to find info. Thanks & I hope to hear from some of the dog enthusiasts out there.

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OMCreader | June 22, 2006 at 10:20 p.m. (report)

Jerry Mitchell said: I am looking for an R.V. space with 50 amp. electrical service and prefer a pull thru for a 40' motor home with a towed vehicle. Will need for three - four days in mid July. Is this available at Bongs Rec. area? Please respond.

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