Located in Devil’s Lake State Park is a state park located in the Baraboo Range in eastern Sauk County, just south of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Devil’s Lake State Park is the largest state park in Wisconsin. It lies on the western edge of the last ice-sheet deposited during the Wisconsin glaciation and is known for its 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs along the 360-acre Devil’s Lake, which was created by a glacier depositing terminal moraines that plugged the north and south ends of the gap in the bluffs during the last ice age approximately 12,000 years ago. The sand at the bottom of Devil’s Lake is thought to be deposited by glaciers.
Parfrey’s Glen, Wisconsin’s first state natural area, is managed by the Devil’s Lake State Park and located just east of the park.
The area where the park now stands was first settled by pioneers in the mid-1800s. By the start of the 20th century, the area had become a popular vacation destination for wealthy families from Chicago and Madison. The first hotel was established in 1866, 50 years before the park was founded.
The park was founded in 1911. It was home to five resorts, two of which were perched on the west bluff. No trace of any of these hotels remains. There were also many private residences in the west and south shores of the lake, only four of which remain. At various times the lakeshore hosted water slides, lodges, and golf courses. The clubhouse of one course sat on the current location of the park’s nature center. By the 1940s, the hotels were all closed, and the park was retreating to its former natural self.
In 1974, the National Park Service declared the Southern portion of the Baraboo Hills a National Natural Landmark. The Nature Conservancy also designated it as one of the Last Great Places; it is one of only 77 of these places in the world.
Loess covers most of the hills and forms the parent material of a brown silt loam soil. The lake is surrounded by a mixed conifer-deciduous forest and the Baraboo Hills are also home to one of the largest contiguous hardwood forests in the Midwest.
North Glacial Moraine is well covered by the north shore developments. The parking lots, concession building and the picnic shelter all sit atop the moraine. This moraine forms the northern border of Devil’s Lake. The moraine is approximately 80 feet.
Southeast Glacial Moraine is located between the East Bluff-South Face and the South Bluff. The Group Camp is located atop the moraine. It is best seen from the Roznos Meadow parking area along State Route 113. The moraine is approximately 130 feet (40 m) thick.
Due to the long geological history of Devil’s Lake and the Baraboo Range, the area has been used in geological research for years. The lake itself is rectangular in shape and is a little over a mile long from north to south and a half mile from east to west. It has many cliffs, unique rock formations and a variety of animal and plant species. One of the most notable features of the park is the presence of large talus slopes on three sides of the lake.
The exhibits at the park’s nature center focus on the geology and natural history of the area. Public nature programs are offered in the summer, as well as evening programs on Saturday nights in the Northern Lights Amphitheater. The nature center also has many historical photographs that come from as far back as the 1800s. They also have many displays of examples of the flora and fauna that can be found throughout the park.