Project Updates

Capital campaign begins for new educational/interpretive center at Devil’s Lake State Park

A campaign to raise $18 million to build a multi-use educational/interpretive center at Devil’s Lake State Park has begun, aiming to enrich visitors’ experience at Wisconsin’s largest and most-visited state park.

Programming, Site Selection, and Concept Design Report

This final report provides a solid basis for this project to continue into the next phases of design and through construction. The Site Selection and Programming Phase provides the framework to develop a basis of understanding for the building and the site. 

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Request for Proposals: Fundraising Consultant for a Capital Campaign

The FRIENDS organization is requesting submissions from fundraising consultants interested in managing a capital campaign to raise money to develop a new educational and interpretative center at Devil’s Lake State Park.

Please click here to download the full request for proposal.

Site Plan Concepts

Below are site plan concepts for each of the design alternatives: Monolith, Talus, and Terminal Moraine.

Monolith Site Concept

Talus Site Concept 

Terminal Moraine Site Concept

Site Selection

The four considered sites: North Shore, Prospect Point, Roznos Meadow, and South Shore were analyzed using Choosing By Advantages, an objective decision making process, to determine the best location for the proposed Interpretive Education Center.  Initially 11 factors were established for evaluating the sites.  The sites were then evaluated based on attributes assigned to each factor.  A designation of ‘Good’, ‘Better’, ‘Best’ was used to compare the sites for each factor relative to each other. 

For example, for the first listed factor, Buildability of Site; Roznos Meadow is ‘Best’ because of low potential impact to visitors during construction and ample construction space.  The North Shore is ‘Better’ for this factor because there is good potential access to the site for construction, however visitor impact would be higher than at Roznos Meadow.  The South Shore is ‘Good’ for this factor due to difficult access for construction and similar visitor impact to the North Shore.  Finally, Prospect Point has no advantage in this factor due to limited room for construction activities.  The determination for each factor can be seen in the matrix below.

After each factor was analyzed the results were summarized, the North Shore is the preferred site because it has the most advantages. 

It is the ‘Best’ site in the following factors:

Connection to Recreation Resources/Opportunities

Ease of Visitor Access

Financial Impact

Opportunities for Sustainability

Physical Impact to Natural Resources


Additionally, it is the ‘Better’ site in three other factors:

Buildability of Site

Potential Educational Opportunities

Universal Access


While the North Shore offers no advantage in the Enjoyment During Peak Season factor, this did not outweigh all the above listed advantages.

The South Shore does several things similar to the North Shore, however, the advantages do not outweigh the advantages of the North Shore.

Prospect Point is the only alternative which offers universal access to the bluff and offers the best potential for educational opportunity.  However, due to the remoteness of the site, need for utilities, and the potential physical impact to the natural resources, Prospect Point is not preferred.

Roznos Meadow does have some advantages, mainly its ability to disperse the crowds from the North and South shores, so it was worth considering. However, the other sites offered more advantages.

A potential location on the North Shore was identified on the East side of the railroad in proximity to the existing restroom building. This was based on visitor flow, arrival sequence, and available open space which offered minimal disruption to Natural and Cultural Resources.  The design team investigated three potential building locations within the identified area.


Concept Designs

The goal of the project is to provide an amenity to park visitors by replacing the existing inadequate education space in The Nature Center in addition to meeting the basic needs of visitors in a year-round facility.  The proposed center will house Interpretive and Education space which includes exhibits, research library, classroom, and flexible multipurpose space; Administration spaces for staff and partners; Food Service spaces including a café and catering kitchen; Retail spaces including a gift shop for educational material; and other support spaces including restrooms.

The design team facilitated brainstorming exercises with the Devil’s Lake Affiliate Team to generate themes to guide the conceptual design of the new Interpretive Education Center.  Discussions continually returned to the awe and wonder of the unique geology of Devil’s Lake.  From the Native American tales of “Sacred Lake”, to the European American tourism, through today as a recreation jewel in the Wisconsin State Park system, the unique geology and landscape of Devil’s Lake State Park has captured visitors in a spiritual way.  Each design concept draws on the unique spiritual qualities of Devil’s Lake State Park.

All three design options propose eliminating the south most parking lot located along the railroad track providing more recreation space with lake frontage. By reconfiguring and expanding the existing parking lots to the north of the building site, parking currently located in the south lot would be replaced.

Concept designs do not represent actual design, finishes, or chosen aesthetics.  Designs represent concept of space and overarching architectural ideas.  Elements will be chosen in the future as the design is developed.

Option 1 – Monolith

Inspired by the many Quartzite formations throughout the park such as Balance Rock, Elephant Rock, and Devil’s Doorway, Monolith rises out of the surrounding landscape with a singular spiritual space at the center.  The building spaces are organized across three volumes or bays.  Clad in Baraboo Quartzite, the two-story central volume has an inward focus with all public spaces organized around the hearth.  Views to the Lake and Bluffs are revealed to the visitor as they move beyond the hearth to the south.  The east and west volumes are clad in dark wood with a stone base to relate to the existing buildings on the North Shore.  The building is served to the east by a multi-use service path.  The outdoor spaces, which include an outdoor classroom, nature play, and amphitheater, are located off that path.

Option 2 – Terminal Moraine

Drawing on the glacial ridges which damned the lake, Terminal Moraine connects to the surrounding landscape using the formation of the Lake and Bluffs to inform the building form.  Similar to Monolith, the building spaces are arranged in three volumes or bays.  The east volume aligns with the adjacent east bluff and the west volume is oriented to the north shore, opening the central bay towards the lake.  The sloping roofs of the outer volumes reference the bluffs and offer views to the landscape based on their orientations.  Upon entry, visitors are greeted with a framed view of the Lake which pulls visitors through the building towards the exterior deck, where views are expanded to include the lake and bluffs.  The material palette incorporates Baraboo Quartzite and wood relating to the existing buildings of the North Shore with Quartzite piers referencing piers at the Chateau Building.  The building is served to the west by a multi-use service path.  Allowing the outdoor spaces, which include an outdoor classroom, nature play, and amphitheater, on the east side of the building direct access to the building and landscape.

Option 3 – Talus

Blurring the line between indoor and outdoor space, Talus creates a physical connection to the landscape of Devil’s Lake State Park.  Inspired by the edges, shade/shadow, and solid/void characteristics of the talus slope; the building program is broken down into a collection of five distinct volumes.  Oriented to surrounding site features, the volumes are connected by interior and exterior circulation allowing visitors to intimately engage with the talus geology while simultaneously enjoying views to the lake and bluffs.  Like the experience of the exploring the talus slope, visitors are pulled through the building as they discover the next space and view.  Nestled into the toe of the talus slope, the buildings are clad in Baraboo Quartzite and dark wood, referencing the existing buildings of the North Shore.  Outdoor spaces are incorporated within the building volumes to accentuate indoor and outdoor relationships and to utilize the talus landscape as amphitheater seating or outdoor classroom furniture. 

Site Selection Process

Through a series of meetings between the Devil’s Lake Affiliate Team (FRIENDS, DLCC, WDNR) and the GWWO Design Team, a total of eight potential site locations were identified.

Each site was visited by the Design Team and then documented and discussed. Of the eight sites, the Affiliate Team and Design Team all agreed that four sites should be included in the site selection Choosing By Advantages (CBA) Process. The other four sites were dismissed because they did not have advantages over the considered sites.

The four sites included in the CBA process are: North Shore, Prospect Point, Roznos Meadow, and South Shore. The four dismissed sites are: Steinke Basin, East Bluff, Ski Hi/South Shore, North Entry Site.

Site 1: North Shore

The North Shore is the mostly heavily populated area of Devil’s Lake State Park. It is located immediately after the entrance to the Park on North Shore Road. A hub of activity, site functions such as: lake recreation, visitor center, administration headquarters, the existing nature center, and camp grounds are all located here or nearby. The North Shore also contains many cultural resources, include effigy mounds and historic buildings. The area within the North Shore identified as a potential building site for the proposed Interpretive/Educational Center is in the southeast corner of the North Shore, adjacent to the railway and the boat launch at the foot of the East Bluff.

Site 3: Roznos Meadow

Roznos Meadow is located on the eastern edge of the park boundary adjacent to Highway 113 and South Lake Drive. A wide open space, Rosnos Meadow provides a panoramic view of the surrounding prairie landscape and the terminal moraine in the distance, however, it does not offer views of the major natural and visual resources of Devil’s Lake State Park: the lake and bluffs.

Site 2: Prospect Point

Prospect Point is located on the western bluff of the lake. Immersed in the natural environment, the site offers panoramic views of the lake, both North Shore and South Shore day use areas, terminal moraine and the eastern bluff. The site is served by the West Bluff Trail and a fire rescue road. However, there is no public access road, parking, or existing utility infrastructure associated with this site.

Site 4: South Shore

The South Shore has similar recreation uses as the North Shore and is the second most visited area in Devil’s Lake State Park. The South Shore is most heavily used during the summer months, since utilities and buildings on the South Shore are not winterized. The site is accessed from South Lake Drive, which connects to Highway 113 to the east. Potential building sites were identified south of the existing playground and parking areas. Views to the lake and bluffs from the building would be obscured by existing buildings and recreation activities.

Site 5: Steinke Basin

Steinke Basin, site of a former glacial lake, is located on the south side of County Road DL in the northeast portion of the Park. Adjacent to the Johnson Moraine Loop and Steinke Basin Loop trails as well as the Ice Age Trail, the site has an existing unpaved parking area and trail head. Largely surrounded by wetlands, there would be insufficient developable area at Steinke Basin to accommodate the facility, site development, vehicle circulation and parking needs.

Ski Hi Road/ S. Shore Road

This site is located at the intersection of Ski Hi Road and South Shore Road on the western side of the park. The site was identified as a potential opportunity due to its easy vehicular access, large developable area and potential to disperse visitation during the peak use times for the North Shore and South Shore. However, the site lacks a visual connection to the lake and bluffs, which are the primary assets of the park, and there is no utility infrastructure at this location.

East Bluff

The East Bluff site is located on the east side of the lake just north of the South Shore area. The site is adjacent to the East Bluff Trails and Balanced Rock and Devil’s Doorway rock formations. Currently the site is only accessed via trail and a steep, narrow service drive. Expanded vehicle circulation and parking lot development would be challenging due to the steep terrain. The greatest impediment to developing this site is that it is within the East Bluff State Natural Area, which restricts development and vehicular access.

North Entry Site

This site is located immediately west of the main park entrance near Park Road and Wood Park Road. This site was one of the preferred sites identified in the 1982 Master Plan, combining Ice Age interpretation with park administration The 1982 plan described a much smaller facility, which limited educational interpretation to an Ice Age focus. Given the more extensive program preferred for the new center; incorporating nature center exhibits and programming, outdoor recreation exhibits, gift shop and café, class rooms, outdoor gathering spaces, etc., the developable space at this location appears insufficient for the desired facility. The existing road layout and traffic patterns are not conducive to accommodating the additional circulation and parking necessary for the facility.

Evaluation of Potential Sites

The Choosing by Advantages (CBA) process was used to guide the site selection process. The CBA process is a decision making process which is used to compare multiple variables. The process identifies a series of factors and their attributes to objectively compare the site alternatives in order to determine the most advantageous site. The following factors were identified by the Design Team based on input from the Project Affiliate Team. These factors are listed in alphabetical order and their associated attributes were used to evaluate the potential sites.

Buildability of Site Ease of Construction (Laydown Area, Access)
Impact to Visitors During Construction
Soil Type (Impact to Foundations and Septic)
Connections to Recreational Resources/Opportunities Access to Camping
Access to Ice Age Trail
Access to Railroad (Potential for Future Excursions)
Access to Trails
Access to Water Activities
Potential Access to Great Sauk State Trail (Rail Trail)
Enjoyment During Peak Season Alternative Destination
Dispersing Crowds During Peak Season
Financial Impact Maintenance – Effect During Winter/Off-Season
Operations – Effect on Staffing
Rental Opportunities – Space
Rental Opportunities – Setting
Flexibility Potential for Flexible Use of Site for Staging of Groups
Potential for Future Expansion
Gateway to Other State Parks Virtual Gateway
Potential “Free-Zone” Access
Opportunities for Sustainability Energy and Atmosphere
Indoor Environmental Quality
Location and Transportation
Material and Resources
Sustainable Sites
Water Efficiency
Physical Impacts to Natural Resources Vehicle Circulation and Parking Area
Need for New Utility Infrastructure
Development Footprint Encroachment on Natural Resources
Visitor Impacts to Natural Resources
Potential Educational Opportunities Ability to Interpret the Devil’s Lake Story Throughout History
Ability to Interpret Natural Environment
Proximity to Cultural Resource
Proximity to Natural Features
Views to the Primary Resources (Lake and Bluffs)
Universal Access Providing Universal Access to Bluffs
Providing Universal Access to Lake
Providing Universal Access to Other Park Features and Destinations
Visitor Experience – Ease of Access Access During Winter/Off-Season
Adjacent to Major Road
Availability of Parking
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