May Flowers in the Park 

Spring at Lakeshore State Park provides plenty of life to be seen!

From early spring ephemerals to flowers which attract busy pollinators, here are three of many species to look for this May at the park:

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

Prairie Smoke

(Geum triflorum) or Old Man’s Whiskers, is a part of the rose family. Found in prairies all across Wisconsin, the flower is known for its “smoky” seeds that reflect the way an old man’s beard would look. These early-blooming flowers can be seen from April to May and are essential to bees rejuvenating after the winter. Bees use a method known as “buzz pollination” to shake the pollen into their abdomen.

Ohio Spiderwort

(Tradescantia ohiensis) is an interesting species because its blooms will perk up in the morning but wilt after noon. These flowers are also important to bees in the spring and will help a hive gather important nutrients before the summer begins. When spiderwort is exposed to poor air conditions, its color will turn from blue to purple.

Ohio Spiderwort
(Tradescantia ohiensis)
Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

Purple Prairie Clover

(Dalea purpurea)  is perfect for attracting a wide variety of pollinators including butterflies and bees. These flowers have the ability to fix nitrogen into the soil by absorbing it from the air. Purple Prairie Clovers are also host plants to the Dog Face Butterfly, among other species of blue butterfly caterpillars. These flowers begin blooming in May and last until late summer.

A listing of plants at the park is available here: 
(hard copies available at park kiosks) 

This time of year the Lakeshore State Park starts to come alive with activity. It’s also when we kick off the Friends’ Annual Membership Drive.

As many of you know, Lakeshore State Park has become a destination for over 480,000 annual visitors. And, as Wisconsin’s only urban state park with stunning views of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee skyline and over two miles of trails, a boat marina, and an ADA accessible fishing pier — Lakeshore State Park offers something for everyone!

Lakeshore State Park is more than just a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the wonderful prairies though; it’s also a vital part of our community. Hosting a variety of educational programs and events, it provides a safe and welcoming space for people of all backgrounds to come together.

The Friends of Lakeshore State Park have supported the park’s programs and maintenance in many ways including:

Free educational programs for children and adults
Maintaining trails, prairies, and infrastructure such as the fishing pier
Hosting community events such as Brunch By the Beach, Monthly Paddles

Your support is essential to the continued success of Lakeshore State Park. Please consider making a membership donation below today!

Park Pal Membership Level

Individual: $25
Family: $50

Prairie Patron Membership Levels

Rock Prairie: $100
Fox Prairie: $250
Kid’s Prairie: $500
Big Prairie: $1,000

Greetings From Friends 

April showers bring May flowers as the saying goes, and on Earth Day, plenty of showers along with some solid precipitation came to the park. Volunteers didn’t let the weather dampen their spirit though as they gathered loads of trash, beautifying the park and preventing litter from entering Lake Michigan. Thanks to volunteers and Milwaukee Riverkeeper  for helping make Milwaukee beautiful!

In anticipation of warmer weather and May flowers, our park DNR staff have been cutting down old vegetation to help identify and remove invasive plants which may otherwise crowd out native ones. Restoration work will continue on the second largest of the park prairies, and we’ll be hosting public planting days June 13-17th. If interested, please let us know by completing our volunteer interest form                   

May Park Events

  • Sat. May 13: Origami Swallows 9:00am-12:00pm
  • Sun. May 14: Mother’s Day Prairie Flower Hike 2:00-3:00pm
  • Wed. May 17: Bubble Hike- 6:00-7:00pm
  • Wed. May 17: Beach Bonfire 7:00-8:30pm
  • Sat. May 20: Bird Hike- 9:30-10:30am
  • Sun. May 21: Lakeshore State Park History Hike 10:00-11:00am
  • Fri. May 26: Urban Critters: The Fox 1:00-3:00pm
  • Sat. May 27: Fishing Clinic 12:00-2:00pm

Dog Walking in the Park

Making the perfect loop with your pooch

Lakeshore State Park is a very accessible nature loop for you and your dog when you want to get some outdoor time close to the city. The park provides many opportunities for sniffing, which not only can calm your dog, but is also an important mental stimulus for them! Park rules require your dog to be leashed at all times, which can be difficult for leash-reactive dogs.  Here are a few tips from a former dog walker:

Choose a well-fitting collar or harness

Harnesses can be a comfortable option for your dog, but if your dog pulls a lot it can be hard to walk them with a traditional harness. A front-clip harness can help direct your dog better, or you can try a collar that constricts evenly around your dog’s neck. This could be a Martingale collar or a prong collar. These are safer than regular collars because they evenly distribute the pressure around the dog’s neck, rather than all the force concentrated on the windpipe. Choke collars like these can be especially helpful to give corrections to a dog that can get aggressive or pull too much on leash. They also make it less likely that your dog will slip their collar and get free!

Bring treats

You can bring treats in a baggie, fanny pack, or clip-on training pouch. Many trainers recommend associating any time you give a treat to your dog with a word like “yes!” to create a dopamine pathway between that word and food. So, even if you don’t have a treat on you, saying “yes!” when your dog does what you ask will give them a little dopamine kick. 

Practice walking in a low-stimulus area before coming to the park

Going on a walk is one of the most exciting parts of the day for your dog, so bringing them to a place bustling with other dogs; bikers, walkers, runners, and wildlife can be really distracting. Set your dog up for success by practicing walking with them in a low-stimulus area. When your dog looks back at you without your prompting, give them a treat. This associates that behavior on a walk with getting good things. 

Practice commands like “heel” or “leave it”

You can start to associate your dog walking near you with a command like “heel” so that you can have them walk calmly next to you. To do this, hold a treat by your side and when they reach for the treat, say “heel.” Repetitions of this will associate walking by your side = treat. If you have a reactive dog, the command “leave it” is a good one to have in your arsenal. You can teach this by saying “leave it” when you see something distracting, such as a biker, a runner, or another dog. When your dog looks back at you, give them a lot of treats for making the right decision. 

Pick up dog poop

Dog poop doesn’t add nutrients to the environment like the poop of our native wildlife does. It can also spread disease, and it detracts from the appearance of the park for other visitors. You can tie bags to your leash. Or, when you buy dog-poop bag rolls in bulk, they often give you a free dispenser that can attach to your leash. Be a friend to the park and pick up after your dog.                                                                           

Volunteer Interest Form

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Interested in helping out?

We’d love to hear from you!

When you think about helping out Lakeshore State Park, what do you picture? Do you want to work inside at your desk or outside in nature? Parts of the year or year-round? Using your experience or learning new skills?

Whatever your answer, you’re in luck. When you volunteer with the Friends of Lakeshore State Park, all those options are all available.

Just ask Matt Baudhuin, a volunteer with the Friends who has discovered firsthand how many opportunities there are. What started out as an interest in the environment has become a valuable learning experience for Matt, one he hopes to turn into a career.

Matt, 25, had been working an assistant land steward at the Urban Ecology Center, a seasonal job that nurtured his interest in the natural world. When he became acquainted with the Friends through his activities at local environmental organizations, he mentioned he wanted to learn about grant-writing. A few months later, the phone rang.

Today, Matt is on the Friends’ grant-writing committee, helping collect the data and details that are essential for applications that, if successful, will fund environmental efforts at LSP, among other activities. He works side-by-side with people who have lots of experience to share, and he’s learning the ropes as he goes.

Lakeshore State Park is the premier location for ecology downtown. The amount of programs that we’re offering is growing, the amount of park areas that we’re rehabilitating is growing, and the number of people that we’re reaching is growing.

Matt Baudhuin

“I really enjoy writing grants, and it’s a great way to impact the environment in a different way than being out in the field,” says Matt.

Matt also pitches in with other volunteer efforts, such as clean-up days and food truck events. He encourages people to think about how they’d like to help or what they’d like to learn, then indicate those interests on the Friends’ volunteer interest form. Current needs include park greeters, caretakers to tend the restored prairies, citizen scientists, special events helpers and more. Help is needed with board membership and on committees as well.

You’ll be supporting a precious community asset as you work. “Lakeshore State Park is the premier location for ecology downtown,” says Matt. “The amount of programs that we’re offering is growing, the amount of park areas that we’re rehabilitating is growing, and the number of people that we’re reaching is growing.”

The people make it rewarding, too, says Matt. “I love working with the Friends of Lakeshore State Park. I’ve learned a lot and the people are amazing.” 

Learn more about volunteering at the only urban state park in Wisconsin by contacting the Friends of Lakeshore State Park at or sign up below.

Volunteer Interest Form

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Volunteer Opportunities
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Greetings From Friends

It was a brisk, sunny Groundhog Day at Lakeshore State Park, but that didn’t keep some adventurous hikers away. DNR Park Educator Leah Anderson led the way along with nature photographer Eddee Daniel. To see more and read more about that beautiful day at the park, please go to Eddee’s blog: A Wealth of Nature.

Lately though, the weather has been warming which means Lakeshore State Park animals are beginning to stir! The elusive Lakeshore fox was spotted on a warmer February day so be sure to look for signs of life at the rocky area in the northern half of the park. While spotting a fox is a combination of luck and persistence, early morning sightings are most typical.

The waterfowl which have stayed in the park all winter are becoming more active as well. Male Common Golden Eye will soon be bobbing in the water and calling for a mate. The Red Breasted Merganser also participates in a flashy mating ritual. Males will race each other around the lagoon to impress a female with their speed, hoping to draw a potential mate’s attention. Stop for a short while at the lagoon and see what a spectacle these birds make!

                                                   (Fossil hunting on Groundhog Day – photo by Eddee Daniel)

Nature Puts on a Show Even When It’s Cold

At this time of year, you might think there’s not much to see at Lakeshore State Park. You won’t find the abundance of greenery and the flurry of bird activity that are typical during warmer months. But look more closely, and you might be surprised. We talked to Park Manager Elaine Zautke, who clued us in about the wildlife you can observe during the next three chilly months.


Waterfowl and ice

The Great Lakes rarely freeze, so the abundance of open water creates a food supply for birds that feed on aquatic life. Winter waterfowl like to hang around where there’s less ice coverage, such as the marina area and along the shoreline. They might also be looking for seeds that still remain on the plant life. Some species you night spot include Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Red-breasted Mergansers, among others. It’s entertaining to watch waterfowl dive into the water and emerge in another spot. The lagoon is the place to spot many species of diving ducks, especially Long-tailed Ducks and scoter species.

Unless it’s frozen over, the lagoon is also a great place to watch for fish – bluegills, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown trout, bass, northern pike and more. And depending on the conditions, this is a great time to spot interesting ice shapes. Freezing conditions can create fascinating frozen formations on the lake and the shoreline, and when they break off they can be fun to watch. Elaine says early mornings are especially good times to check.


Migration activity and more

Even though spring technically arrives this month, we all know that it can still feel like winter. Waterfowl and fish will still be around, of course, and as the temperatures gradually creep up other natural inhabitants will become active. Watch for animals as they start to come out of hibernation. Foxes often hunt or nest in dens along the shore, and a coyote or two has been spotted in the area. March through June is also the peak of spring migration season, when you can spot bird species that are passing through. Watch for unique shorebird species like the American Avocet and Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits in addition to the more common Willets.


The prairie starts to wake up

Bird lovers can continue enjoying the spring migration season during this time, animals will become more active (watch for woodchucks nibbling grass along the shoreline), and the fish will still be fun to watch. This is also when you can start spotting one of Elaine’s favorite plants: Prairie Smoke, one of the earliest bloomers on the prairie. It develops pink, feather-like seed heads that give the delicate impression of smoke. It has a short blooming period, so don’t wait too long to catch it.

Tips for nature observers

The quiet early-morning hours can be a great time to see animal activity, Elaine suggests. Binoculars are always a good idea, as well as a book or app that helps you identify plants, birds, and other wildlife. So don’t rush your cold-weather visits to Lakeshore State Park. By slowing down and watching, there’s a lot of wildlife to see. “Nature is doing something interesting every month of the year,” says Elaine.

(photo by Jim Edluhber)