Open the Outdoors
Many state properties host adaptive equipment for outdoor recreation. The DNR adaptive equipment fleet includes adaptive kayaks, beach wheelchairs, beach access mats and cross-county sit skis. We’re working on adding more equipment to our inventory in fall 2023.
New Outdoor Wheelchair Program
The DNR is excited to announce a new Outdoor Wheelchair program. Outdoor wheelchair options include both motorized and non-motorized devices. The department currently has some of each type. These specially designed chairs allow users of all abilities to recreate within state parks and forests in new ways, providing universal access to trails and programs.
The DNR currently has two all-terrain track chairs available for use, one at Peninsula State Park and one at Point Beach State Forest. An additional motorized outdoor wheelchair will become available later this fall. There is also a non-motorized all-terrain wheelchair at Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit. The chairs in this new outdoor wheelchair program will be available for reservations at no cost, which can be made by either contacting the property office or through the property friends group, depending on location.
Motorized Outdoor Wheelchairs
The all-terrain outdoor wheelchairs at Peninsula State Park and Point Beach State Forest feature tracks that can handle rough, rocky and unstable surfaces (even snow) so everyone can explore Wisconsin's beautiful outdoors. At Peninsula, the wheelchair can be reserved through the Friends of Peninsula State Park and is free to use. At Point Beach, the wheelchair can be reserved by calling the property office and is free to use.
One more motorized outdoor wheelchair will be added to the adaptive equipment fleet this fall, so please check back for updates.
Non-motorized Outdoor Wheelchairs
The DNR is excited to host a new GRIT Freedom Chair, a manual all-terrain wheelchair. The GRIT Freedom Chair is a lever-driven wheelchair with rugged mountain bike wheels, a big, sturdy front wheel that doesn’t get stuck and optional trail handles, allowing you to choose your own adventure.
Instead of grabbing onto the wheels directly, push the levers forward to propel yourself. To brake, pull them backward all the way until they touch the tires. There is a part that comes out perpendicularly from the lever, such that when you pull the levers backward beyond a certain angle, it engages with the tire and stops it. The brakes are also used for turning; braking one wheel rotates the chair in that direction.
The DNR’s first GRIT Freedom Chair is free to use and can be requested for checkout from the park office this fall. The GRIT chair is currently hosted at Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake, and can be reserved by calling the property office.
- ADAPTIVE KAYAKS
Individuals of all abilities, including those with mobility impairments, now have a unique way to experience the outdoors. Adaptive kayaks feature several adaptive devices that help paddlers of all abilities get started on their adventure. These kayaks are available for use through the park’s canoe/kayak concessionaire, and typical rental fees apply. It is recommended to call the park before your visit to make sure it's available. The DNR is also adding universal kayak launches to some properties, and the first location is Merrick State Park.
Some of the kayaks available are tandem models with two seats (one standard seat and one adaptive seat) and can be used individually or with a partner.
Adaptive kayaks are currently hosted at these properties:
- Buckhorn State Park
- Copper Falls State Park (tandem model)
- Council Grounds State Park
- Devil's Lake State Park
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit/Ottawa Lake (tandem model)
- Lake Kegonsa State Park (tandem model)
- Lake Wissota State Park (tandem model)
- Merrick State Park
- Perrot State Park
- Yellowstone Lake State Park (tandem model)
These adapted kayaks are available for everyone and are a great option for new paddlers and people with a wide range of disabilities, including people who need a more stable kayak for balance issues, ailments due to aging, etc. Whether you were a paddler before a disability or have never had an opportunity to get out on the water in a kayak due to physical limitations, you should get to one of these state parks to try it.
The adaptive kayaks feature outriggers near the back of the kayak (adjustable to four different widths depending on the user's level of function), providing incredible water stability (although they can still tip, so use caution). A raised back with side supports also offers the user a comfortable and secure seat while paddling. Not only is this adjustable but parts of the seat can be removed altogether for individuals with greater upper-body function. The adaptive kayak paddle is equipped with hand braces that make paddling easier for individuals with limited grip.
Many of the department's kayaks also have a corresponding kayak chariot, which is a wheeled device that holds the adaptive kayaks. The chariot allows transfers on a flat, level surface (like a parking lot) by positioning the cockpit rim at wheelchair height. With the paddler(s) in the kayak, the rig can be rolled into the water and floated off of the chariot, making most water entry points (like boat ramps) more accessible.
- BEACH WHEELCHAIRS
Many Wisconsin state parks provide beach access for people with mobility disabilities by use of beach wheelchairs or beach access mats.
Several parks have specialized beach wheelchairs with large inflatable tires that allow for easy maneuvering on sand and entry into the water. Others feature accessible beach access mats that provide a stable surface for walking and the use of mobility devices. Beach wheelchairs can be checked out at no cost from the park office.
The properties below feature universal beach access.
- Big Bay State Park has a beach wheelchair.
- Buckhorn State Park has a beach wheelchair.
- Copper Falls State Park has a paved accessible trail along the water's edge at the Loon Lake beach.
- Devil's Lake State Park has a beach wheelchair and a beach access mat.
- Harrington Beach State Park has a beach wheelchair.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake has a beach wheelchair.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit has a beach wheelchair.
- Kohler-Andrae State Park has both a beach trail and two beach wheelchairs, one for general use and the other available at the accessible cabin.
- Newport Beach State Park has a beach wheelchair.
- Point Beach State Forest has a beach wheelchair.
- Richard Bong State Recreation Area has a beach access mat.
- Whitefish Dunes State Park has a beach wheelchair (limited beach access due to construction). Beach access conditions can fluctuate due to weather and water levels, so make sure to check with the Park for more information.
- CROSS-COUNTRY SIT SKIS
The Wisconsin DNR is committed to providing universal access opportunities for all Wisconsinites, even in winter. Our cross-country sit skis are a fantastic opportunity for people of all abilities to get out into the peace and solitude of winter. The sit skis are available for free use at the locations listed below. All of the locations below have flat groomed trails that allow for easier maneuverability.
Several Wisconsin state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas offer a variety of options for people with disabilities to enjoy the wintry outdoors.