What We Do


Newport Wilderness Society is the friends group of Newport State Park, Wisconsin’s first wilderness park. Established in 1985, NWS works with park management and staff to help preserve Newport as a minimum-development wilderness park; to encourage study and preservation of wilderness ecosystems within the park; and to help support projects and interpretive programs which highlight the unique natural beauty of Newport.

We are a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization.

Ongoing Financial and Volunteer Support

  • We provide important annual funding for the Park Naturalist salary and for park educational programs.
  • Volunteers guide interpretive nature hikes and programs on topics such as the natural history of park trees, wildflowers, mushrooms, birds, and butterflies; the night sky; and on the human history of this area.
  • We host special events such as Candlelight Ski (February); Perseid Meteor Shower viewing (August); and Newport Wilderness Days (Labor Day weekend).
  • Volunteers coordinate clean-up/work days in the spring and fall. Volunteers groom ski trails in the winter.
  • NWS helps purchase essential equipment for the park and its visitors: snowmobile and trail grooming equipment; UTV for trail maintenance work; telescopes; binoculars; office computer; and display fixtures.
  • We help develop and finance the informational kiosks in the park.
  • We finance continuing education opportunities for the Park Naturalist.
  • We help manage the inventory and sales of merchandise at the Visitors Center.
  • We develop and purchase park brochures, trail guides, and informational booklets.

Current Infrastructure Projects

2021-2023 | Construction of an 1,800′ elevated boardwalk through a seasonally-flooded section of the Fern Trail.

The 1.2-mile Fern Trail loop is designated as a wheelchair-accessible trail. Unfortunately, snow melt and wet spring weather has historically limited access to a significant section of the trail for all users well into June. Over 70 NWS volunteers helped construct an 1,800′ elevated boardwalk through this section, beginning with the deconstruction of the original ground-level boardwalk sections in 2021.

More details and photos of this project are here.

Gerry Swanson on the flooded Fern Trail, April 2020; photo courtesy Micky Swanson

Past Infrastructure Projects

2021 | Renovation of the history kiosk near Newport Beach. See this photo-essay of the transformation of the Newport history kiosk which took place over spring, summer, and fall of 2021. Funding and volunteer hours provided by NWS, with the assistance of a grant from Friends of Wisconsin State Parks.

Newly renovated history kiosk, October 2021; photo by Deb Ford

2019 | Repair of the Hotz gate on Europe Bay Road. The masonry portion of the work was completed by a local artist, Steve Shumway. NWS volunteers replaced the wood section of gate and repaired the counterweight.

Newly-repaired Hotz Gate on Europe Bay Road; photo by Gerry Swanson

2018 | Dark Sky supportive infrastructure. NWS raised funds for the installation of the Dark Sky kiosk, a 10″ diameter telescope and other night-sky viewing supplies, and volunteers installed 4 telescope pads in the viewing area near Lot 3.

Dark Sky kiosk
Micky & Gerry Swanson; Beth Bartoli (Park Naturalist); Greg Wilde; Wiley Krapf
Installing telescope pads in the Dark Sky viewing area

2005-2008 | Public Entrance Visitor Station and Nature Center. NWS raised the funds for the construction and outfitting of the nature interpretive center (Hotz Wilderness Room); the Park Naturalist’s office; and a resource library, integral components of the new Public Entrance Visitors Station.