Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest: A Family Adventure In The Woods And On The Waters Awaits You

governor earl peshtigo river state park kayak rentals

A very reasonable drive from Green Bay or the Fox Cities, The Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest is a great location to plan your next family day trip or camping adventure! This 12,400-acre forest encompasses some of the most beautiful segments of the Peshtigo River in Oconto and Marinette counties. A favorite destination of paddlers, anglers, and hikers alike, the Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest is a breathtaking destination for you and your family to enjoy in every season. 

Come along with us as we send you on an adventurous family day trip headed toward this natural sanctuary with a few fun stops along the way!

NEW Zoo Green Bay
African Penguin at the NEW Zoo


As you travel north along Interstate 41 just north of Green Bay, you’ll pass right by Suamico, and a stop at the NEW Zoo and Adventure Park is an absolute must! 

Open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily, the NEW Zoo is a family favorite destination in Northeastern Wisconsin. A variety of animals will greet you at the zoo, including African lions, moose, penguins, deer, snow leopards, and many, many more! This is also the home of the one-of-a-kind opportunity to feed a giraffe! 

Just be sure to reference the zoo’s website for updates regarding COVID19 guidelines before you stop. 

Other favorite attractions within the zoo include

  •  the zoo train
  • the children’s petting zoo
  • the gift shop 

While the zoo does not allow you to bring in your lunch, you can visit their very own Mayan Restaurant for a selection of grill favorites to enjoy while visiting. 

The NEW Zoo is also home to an Adventure Park where you can try a number of exhilarating activities such as zip lines, rock climbing, ropes course, and more! 

Another spot to check out is the area adjacent to the parking lot where you can enjoy hiking trails, wildlife viewing, and a playground right here on the NEW Zoo grounds. You can also enjoy a picnic lunch here and re-enter the zoo!

Once you’re done exploring the NEW Zoo and Adventure Park, get back onto Interstate 41 and then head further north on Highway 141 toward Crivitz and the Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest for more adventure.

Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest

The Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest is a natural haven that encompasses 9,200 acres of forest land, 3,200 acres of water, and 25 miles of the Peshtigo River! The State Forest offers a number of opportunities to get active and enjoy both land and water adventures. Check out all of these ways to get out into nature here:

  • Spring Rapids Trail (5 mi) – Offers an abundance of breathtaking views, some steep climbs, and varied-length loops of hiking trail for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Peshtigo River Area. This trail is groomed for skiing in the winter. 
  • Seymour Rapids Trail (3 mi) – Another trail that offers beautiful scenery, some steep ascents, and is open to winter hiking and snowshoeing. For more details on trails visit the State Forest map.
  • Mountain biking – Available on all of the volunteer-maintained hunting trails throughout the park. Watch out for horseback riders as these trails are shared.
  • Boating – there are 16 boat landings for public use throughout the Forest. Visitors are also permitted to picnic on the many islands encompassed here. The river and flowages are home to several dams, so always use caution. 
  • Canoeing and Kayaking – The Peshtigo River offers some of the best and most challenging paddling opportunities in Wisconsin! The State Forest also provides a handful of remote campsites that are only accessible via boat. For more specifics and boating details visit the State Forest’s website.
  • Wildlife – This area is home to an abundance of wildlife including bald eagles, black bears, sandhill cranes, great blue herons, and many more! As always, use caution when viewing wildlife. 

Camping Opportunities

If you and the family are looking for an overnight adventure, both the State Forest and Governor Thompson State Park offer camping sites. The family campground located along the shoreline of Old Veterans Lake within the State Forest is more basic, with only 16 sites and a vault toilet. If you choose to camp here, you’ll need to head over to Governor Thompson (about a 5-minute drive) to check-in, purchase firewood or ice, and to use the shower facility. Nestled along the lake’s shoreline, the sites at Governor Earl offer an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy the lake in the relative peace and quiet of nature. For an even more adventurous experience, you can also access several remote boat-in campsites throughout the Forest. Check out the State Forest campground map for more planning details.

Another great camping option is one of the 100 modern sites available at Governor Thompson State Park. These sites come with a variety of shade and sun options along with other amenities, such as accessible sites, electric hookups, and a relatively new shower facility. Have little ones? The shower facility here is truly an oasis for a camping family. The bathrooms have changing tables, and they also offer individual shower/toilet rooms so you can care for your little ones in relative ease and privacy. Check out the campground map here as well to help you plan your camping adventure.

Read More: Sensory Considerations for a Successful Family Camping Trip

Governor Thompson State Park

Speaking of the amazing shower facilities at Governor Thompson State Park, you’ll definitely want to stay and play here while you are in the Crivitz area. The State Park is just a stone’s throw down the road from the Old Veteran’s Lake campground and offers even more exploration of the beautiful Peshtigo River, the Caldron Falls Flowage, and surrounding scenic woods. This park has much to offer as a side trip from the State Forest adventures for your family. 

First off, you’ll want to check out the beautiful swimming beach on Woods Lake. The lake has fresh sand, a nearby vault toilet with changing rooms, a picnic area with a grill, and it’s also a great spot to launch your kayak or canoe. Nearby, you’ll also find a clean and cozy shelter complete with a wood-burning stove or fireplace if you find yourself visiting the park during the colder months. 

The park has one main road that leads you along many hiking paths to further explore the beautiful woods in this area. If you are hiking with little ones who may tire more quickly, we suggest either Pine View Trail or Otter Trail, both about 1.0 miles in length. Check out the park map for more details and hiking opportunities.

Nearby Stops for Delicious Food and Ice Cream

Looking for a bite to eat or an ice cream treat? You have to check out The Big Dipper Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop. Located along County Road X, just down the road from the State Forest, this cafe offers both indoor and picturesque outdoor patio picnic seating. Enjoy one of their delicious charcoal grilled burgers or a scoop of countless hard or soft-serve ice cream flavors in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding woods! The service is quick, the food is hot, and you’re sure to find an ice cream flavor to please everyone here. The shop also serves as a local spot to buy souvenirs and home décor.

Staying the night and looking for a hearty dinner out? We’ve got you covered! You’ll definitely want to stop by Rene’s Dining Room, also along County Highway X, for a bonafide Wisconsin supper club experience. Home of a tantalizing surf and turf walleye and tenderloin dinner and a genuine Wisconsin-favorite old-fashioned for the parents that won’t disappoint, this enchanting supper club is also exceptionally family-friendly. It offers a spacious and airy dining room with ample seating for groups of any size. After a visit to Rene’s, we guarantee you will walk away feeling full of both delicious foods and that down-to-earth, small-town Wisconsin charm that is sure to lighten your heart.

Whatever side trips you decide to add to your itinerary, we assure you that a road trip to the awe-inspiring beauty of the Governor Earl Peshtigo State Forest will be just the nature oasis your family is looking for! 

Do you have other tried and true ideas for exploring the Crivitz area and the surrounding waters and woods? Please, share them with us, so together we can all enjoy a better adventure!

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