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Wisconsin State Parks

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USA Parks
Hidden Valleys Region
Governor Dodge State Park
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Governor Dodge State Park © Jean Wollerman
Governor Dodge State Park © Jean Wollerman
Governor Dodge State Park Cox hollow lake © Darren Melton
Sun rise over cox hollow lakeep in November
Governor Dodge State Park © Jean Wollerman
Governor Dodge State Park Lichen Covered Rock Pine Cliff Nature Trail © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Red Rock Formation Cox Hollow Lake Road © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Cox Hollow Lake Beach © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Rock Outcropping Enee Point © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Cox Hollow Lake Beach © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Hills and Clouds © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Rock Outcropping Enee Point © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Cox Hollow Lake Waterfall © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Fishing at Cox Hollow Lake © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Hills and Clouds © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park Spring House © Laurie Maloney
Governor Dodge State Park Rock Outcropping and Clouds Enee Point © Charles E. Miller
Governor Dodge State Park © Laurie Maloney
Governor Dodge State Park © Laurie Maloney
Governor Dodge State Park Stevens Falls © Laurie Maloney
Governor Dodge State Park © Taila Schluter
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4175 Highway 23 N.
Dodgeville, Wisconsin   53533

Phone: 608-935-2315
Reservations: 608-935-2315
Email: park email button icon
Nature of the Area
Nature at Governor Dodge State ParkWildlife

Governor Dodge State Park abounds with wildlife from the tiniest shrews up to the big white-tailed deer. Deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, red and grey fox, beaver, woodchucks, and muskrats are common park inhabitants. More than 150 species of birds have been observed. Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures soar over the park?s steep hills and valleys. In the woods, the rat-a-tat of the elusive pileated woodpecker can be heard for great distances as it searches for grubs in hollow trees.

The open fields and woods edges are great places to observe wildlife, especially in early mornings and late afternoon. As darkness overtakes the park, the howl of a lone coyote or the eerie calls of several barred owls hooting back and forth may break the night silence. While you?re visiting the park, take time to observe and enjoy the diverse wildlife populations in action. The park wildlife perform daily and there?s no charge for this enlightening entertainment.

History of the Area
Shortly after the glaciers retreated to their icy, Canadian home, humans moved into the area that is now Governor Dodge State Park. Just as the park?s scenic hills and valleys provide you refuge from over-crowded cities, they once provided shelter from snow and cold to the area?s first human inhabitants.

More than 8,000 years ago, men and women made winter camps at the base of rock overhangs enjoying the protection of the sandstone walls. As the weather warmed, they moved into more open areas of what is now Wisconsin and Illinois to hunt bison and other game.

Archaeological digs within the park verify the existence of human habitation; stretching all the way from those first "campers" to the Fox, Sauk, and Ho Chunk Indians, to present day campers.


The lack of glaciation played a role in determining the first wave of white people to hit the area. Large seams of lead ore lay near the earth?s surface throughout the region south of the Wisconsin River. Miners from Europe began arriving in the 1820?s. One of the first finds was at Jenkins Branch, which lay in Cox Hollow, just south of the present park boundary.

As more and more miners arrived, conflicts broke out between the Europeans and the Ho Chunks who had originally worked the mines. General Henry Dodge, one of the original white settlers, was instrumental in establishing peace in the area. Dodge was later appointed the first territorial governor of Wisconsin.


The next wave of settlers came to farm the land. The ridges in the driftless area once supported vast, sweeping prairies. Those treeless areas were more easily plowed than surrounding woodlands, and contained rich, black soil?prime land for agriculture.

Hardworking family farmers like the Stephens, Griffiths, and Pengellys filtered into the park area in the mid and late 1800s. Throughout the years, their farmsteads were handed down from one generation to the next, or sold to newly arriving immigrants.

The State Park:

In 1948, Iowa County presented one of these farmsteads?the Henry Larson estate?to the State of Wisconsin. These first 160 acres provided the nucleus for what was to become Governor Dodge State Park. Ten years later an earthen dam was constructed across Mill Creek and Cox Hollow Lake was created. The new park was well on its way to becoming one of Wisconsin?s finest recreation areas.

As years passed, the state purchased neighboring farms to add to this sprawling giant. Governor Dodge now contains 5,270 acres.

A second earthen dam was built in 1966, forming Twin Valley Lake. Beaches, campgrounds, bathhouses, trails, shelters, and other facilities have been constructed throughout the years to add to your park enjoyment.

Gone now are the buffalo hunters and their spears. Gone are the lead miners and their picks. Gone are the farmers and their plows. But the land that they changed remains.Traces of these men and women remain in the stone arrowheads, crumbling rock foundations, and rusted barbed wire that are still found throughout the park?traces that every year become harder to find as the land struggles to restore itself to the wild, natural area it once was.
A Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker is required on all motor vehicles stopping in state parks, forests and recreation areas, please visit the VEHICLE ADMISSION STICKERS web page.
 Hiking Trailyes
 Swimming Beachyes
BoatingLaunch Rampsyes
 Electric Sitesyes
Governor Dodge has 269 campsites that each accommodate a family or six people. Electrical hookups are available at 80 sites. Fees are $10 per night for Wisconsin residents and $12 per night for nonresidents. Electricity is $5 a night extra. There's a $2 per night discount for Sunday through Thursday nights and off-season times. A vehicle admission sticker is required for each vehicle. All campers must register at the park office before occupying their sites.

Campsite reservations for May through October may be made on the ReserveAmerica Internet Site (exit DNR) or by calling the toll-free number (888) WI PARKS ((888) 947-2757). There is a fee for this service.

Group Campsites

There are eight campsites that can accommodate groups of 15 to 100 persons per site. Only tents are allowed. Each group site has a large tent area, picnic tables, a large fire ring, and a set of pit toilets. Drinking water is provided at group road intersections.

The group rate is $40 per night for 1 to 20 persons. Each additional 10 (or part thereof) is an additional $20 per night. Groups must register at the park office before occupying their sites.

To reserve a group site, call center (888) WI PARKS (888) 947-2757). Fee waivers for nonprofit groups serving people with disabilities and discounts for nonprofit Wisconsin youth organizations are available only through the call center, or customer service number, (800) 372-3607, not the web site.

Backpack Campsites:

There are six backpack campsites in the Hickory Ridge group camp area. All require about a half mile hike from the parking lot. Water and pit toilets are near the parking lot. Advance reservations (exit DNR) are recommended.

Horse Campsites:

The park has 11 regular campsites for horse campers. Fees are $10 per night for Wisconsin residents and $12 per night for nonresidents. No electricity is available. There's a $2 per night discount for Sunday through Thursday nights and off-season times. Vehicle admission stickers and trail passes are required. Reservations are recommended. The horse campground and horse trails are open May 1 to November 15.

Two small group sites are also available in the horse campground on a first come, first served basis. Contact the park office for more information.

Tether poles are provided at each campsite. Please bring your own tethering ropes, as none are available at the park. Please contact the park office for information about the use of fencing or other types o restraining devices.

Camping facilities and services:

Limited foodstuffs and camping supplies are available at the Cox Hollow Beach concession stand from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Other needs can be supplied year round by businesses in Dodgeville, three miles south of the park. Firewood is sold in the Twin Valley and Cox Hollow campgrounds daily in June through August and on weekends in May, September, and October.

There are showers in the Twin Valley and Cox Hollow rest room buildings. Both campgrounds have trailer dumping stations.

There are two laundromats in Dodgeville.

Please help us recycle your park generated waste! Recycling centers and refuse containers are located at the park office, Cox Hollow beach concession, and the two family campgrounds.
Swimming beaches are located on both lakes. Bathhouses are found near both beaches. The beaches are open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. No lifeguards are on duty.
Boats and canoes may be rented daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day at the Cox Hollow Beach concession stand. Rentals are also available during the spring and fall. There are launching ramps on both Cox Hollow and Twin Valley Lakes. Electric motors only are permitted on both lakes. Boat mooring is permitted May 1 through October 31 at designated areas only.
Anglers can enjoy fishing in two lakes, Cox Hollow and Twin Valley. Species include largemouth bass, bluegill, northern pike, and trout. A valid Wisconsin fishing license is required for those 16 or older. The park also offers accessible piers and boat rentals during the summer season. Ice fishing is popular when conditions permit on frozen lake surfaces.

Governor Dodge State Park is

There are eight designated picnic areas. Picnic shelters are available at Enee Point, the amphitheater, Twin Valley picnic area, and Cox Hollow and Twin Valley beaches. Contact the park office for shelter reservation information.

The "carry in-carry out" program is in effect at the Twin Valley beach, all shelters, wayside picnic areas, and boat landings. No garbage or recycling bins are provided in these areas. Please bring a bag to carry out your garbage and recyclables.

Thanks for helping out by carrying out what you carried in!
Be mindful when considering bicycling options, as the terrain can be challenging and weather conditions may affect trail accessibility. The park offers a 15-mile mixed-use Tumbled Rock Trail suitable for mountain biking enthusiasts; it's important to share the path courteously with hikers and horseback riders.

For those seeking a less rugged experience, Military Ridge State Trail is nearby but requires a state trail pass. It's crucial to check your equipment before embarking on these trails-ensure brakes are functioning properly due to steep grades in some areas.

Always wear appropriate safety gear like helmets while riding, especially since emergency services might not be immediately accessible in remote sections of the trails. Stay hydrated and informed about local wildlife encounters which could pose risks if unprepared or unaware.

Lastly, respect posted signs indicating closed paths or conservation efforts that temporarily restrict access for preservation purposes-it's essential for maintaining ecological balance within natural environments such as this one.
Gold Mine Hike-Bike-Ski Trail: This 2.5-mile loop trail meanders through a variety of woods and meadows without encountering the steeper grades that other trails have. The trailhead is about .4 mile west of the Twin Valley Campground entrance. This trail is designed primarily for beginner and intermediate skiers. (Ski time: 45 minutes)

Horse Trail (Interior Loop): This 6.7-mile trail connects the horse camp and horse day use areas. It also provides access to the 15.3-mile horse/snowmobile exterior loop. This trail allows horse riders the option of making several shorter loops from the campground or day use area. Horse trails are open May 1 to November 15 unless posted otherwise.

Horse-Snowmobile Trail (Exterior Loop): This 15.3-mile loop trail winds its way through some of the most scenic and remote areas of this 5,270-acre park. The trail is maintained for horse riders, snowmobilers, and hikers. At the southeast corner of the park, there is a snowmobile access trail that connects with the 39-mile Military Ridge snowmobile trail. (Snowmobile time: 1.5 hours; horse time 3.5 hours)

Lakeview Hike-Ski Trail: This 1.25-mile loop trail begins at the Cox Hollow beach picnic area. The trail is wooded and offers a few hills, a secluded valley, and a nice view of Cox Hollow Lake. This trail is designed for less experienced skiers who may wish to walk down the first grade and start skiing on the opposite side of the first bridge. (Ski/hike time: 30 minutes)

Lost Canyon Hike-Ski Trail: This is an 8.1-mile loop trail that starts at the Cox Hollow beach picnic area. The trail is rated "advanced" due to several steep grades and trail length. It is mostly wooded and passes through the scenic Lost Canyon, Stephens Falls, and Twin Valley Lake areas. (Ski time: 3 hours)

Meadow Valley Hike-Bike-Ski Trail: This is a 6.8-mile loop trail that begins at the Cox Hollow beach picnic area. The trail is rated more difficult than the Mill Creek Trail due to its length and steeper down grades. The trail follows along the ridge of the Lost Canyon and passes through open meadows and wooded ridges. (Ski time: 2.5 hours)

Mill Creek Hike-Bike-Ski Trail: This is a 3.3-mile loop trail that begins at the Cox Hollow beach picnic area. The trail winds through meadows and wooded valleys. The trail provides spectacular views of both Cox Hollow and Twin Valley lakes. You will encounter several steep grades, but the majority of the trail is quite level. This trail also provides biking and hiking access to the Military Ridge State Trail. (Ski time: 1 hour)

Pine Cliff Nature Trail: This is a wooded 2-mile self-guided loop trail which begins and ends at the Enee Point picnic area. Nature labels interpret area history, wildlife, vegetation, and ecology. While hiking the trail, you will encounter several steps, steep grades, and rocky surfaces. Hikers will enjoy the scenic views above Cox Hollow Lake and the hike along the lake shore. Note: Pets are prohibited on this trail. (Hike time: 45 minutes - 1 hour)

Stephens Falls Hiking Trail: This is a half-mile scenic trail with rock outcroppings, lush ferns, and a beautiful waterfall. You may reach this trail from the Lost Canyon Trail or the Park Road. There is a scenic overlook above the falls. Steps will be encountered to gain access to the falls below.

White Oak Hiking Trail: This is a 4.5-mile wooded trail that begins at the Cox Hollow Lake beach picnic area. At the south end of Cox Hollow Lake, the White Oak Trails joins the Pine Cliff Nature Trail. The nature trail leads hikers to the Enee Point picnic area. At Enee Point, hikers will have to walk one more mile along Cox Hollow Road to return to the starting point at Cox Hollow beach. The trail meanders around the lake and provides scenic overlooks of the lake and valleys below. While hiking this trail, you will encounter steps, several steep rocky grades, and rocky surfaces. (Hiking time: 2-2.5 hours)
Nature Programs
Would you like to learn more about the animals, plants, geology, ecology, and natural history of Governor Dodge? If so, you are invited to take part in the park naturalist programs.

The naturalist leads guided hikes and presents evening nature programs at the park amphitheater. Examples of summer hikes include animal sights and sounds, explorer cave trip, children?s fossil hunt, edible plants, summer wildflowers, explorer canoe trip, bird hikes, star gazing, and beaver pond ecology. Please check the park office or bulletin boards for the weekly naturalist schedule.

Governor Dodge also offers the Wisconsin State Parks Junior Ranger and Wisconsin Explorer programs for children in grades K-6. Parents and children may pick up their activity books at the park office.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
June 27 Gypsy moth caterpillars by Ashley
park review stars; one to five This park is infested with the invasive European gypsy moths. The caterpillars were falling from the trees onto us and our stuff. There was no warnings anywhere or anything that talked about the destructive moth caterpillars. Check your stuff to help stop the spread before leavjng.
May 29 by April
park review stars; one to five We just happened to drive into this park over the weekend and of all places the falls and the creek and ferns and all that went with it was absolutely my favorite park in Wisconsin so far.The Spring house reminded me of the spring on our family farm and yes I drank from it .. I felt like I was home and a child again ready to have a adventure. We climbed we laughed it was poring rain that day but we continued on and loved every minute of it . I wish my grandparents farm had been willed to the state because that is what this place reminded me of. Thank you!!!
September 12 our favorite WI State Park by Dave & Penny
park review stars; one to five Our fist time to Gov Dodge, great site, clean bathrooms, then the trails...Great. Would love to know more about the Stephans Family and their homestead
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Area Accommodations (over 20 miles away)
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You will feel right at home when you reach Carroll County, our corner of beautiful Northwest Illinois. The magnificent Mississippi River and outdoor spaces will refresh your spirit and touch our soul.
60.5 miles from park*
Nearby Hotels

Take US Highway 18 to Dodgeville, which is about 48 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin. Then go north on State Highway 23. The park entrance is on your right about 3 miles north of Highway 18. You also can take the scenic Highway 23 south from Spring Green or north from Mineral Point to reach the park.

By foot or bicycle, you can get to Governor Dodge by way of the Military Ridge State Trail. There's a surfaced access trail from the Military Ridge to the park just east of County Highway Z.

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Wisconsin State Parks