The Boulder Solution

The Boulder Solution

High, fast water a couple of years ago caused some erosion problems along the stream just under the road up to Devil’s Lake State Park’s Northern Lights & Ice Age Campgrounds. The solution came just this last week with truckloads of boulders. If you’ve visited the park in the last week or so, you may have noticed the new rocks. When I posted a couple of pictures on social media it became clear that some folks thought this was a pretty heavy-handed and well, ugly solution. What do you think?

Erosion Mitigation

Erosion Mitigation

Well, I that had me wondering if this was indeed the only solution. With what little I know about erosion and hydrology, I have learned that this sort of erosion was caused by the water of the stream undercutting the hill bottom up, not water pouring down from the top. If that is the case, maybe boulders could be placed at the bottom along the stream, but the earth restored above?  I also started wondering how invasive brush that eventually will fill grow through every gap in the stones would be managed. It’s important to note that you can’t simply spray along a stream bed.

With a bit of research I was able to see there that actually are many restorative erosion control methods available that don’t involve simply dumping boulders down the bank. One great solution may have been a product such as GREENAX® a reinforced erosion control and revegetation mesh, may have done the trick. Other solutions from terracing & sediment traps to water permeable polymers may have been called for.  A quick search of the web turns up a variety of companies that specialize in exactly the sort of slope stabilization needed here.

Boulders as Erosion Mitigation

Another View

Some folks commented that the state parks these days simply don’t have any money to fix things properly. That’s certainly a valid consideration. Volunteers are counted on more than ever to get work done within the parks. On the other hand, my feeling is that as a tourism attraction, fixing things properly and aesthetically need to be a priority. It’s that old, “Spend Money To Make Money” adage. We can’t just “slap on some paint” any time there’s an issue. Besides, there are other stakeholders including the local friends group that may be able to help fund more costly repairs in the park.

We spend a lot of time bragging that Devil’s Lake State Park is Wisconsin’s “Premiere” State Park. We should probably come at every problem with that viewpoint. Maintenance & repairs can’t be ugly. If they were, we would have no need for body shops. We’d just fix our dented & scratched cars with a can of Krylon™!  (Oh wait, I may have done that before!)

***Obligatory Disclaimer:  This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


  1. Beth Sluys

    In April, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress held hearings and the opportunity for the public to vote on 88 issues. One of the issues was the reinstatement of state dollars to the state parks. This issue made it through as a resounding yes. 3690 (yes votes) to 509 (no votes). This being a small victory in the process to restoring state funding to state parks. Now the process lies in the hands of the various committees that eventually report to the Natural Resources Board who then pass on recommendations to our General Assembly. What I can say is that if you want the park maintenance and safety to be managed in a realistic manner, please send a note, an email or make a phone call to your state legislators that you hate what is happening in the state parks and that funding needs to be restored. Heck, send a note to the Governor! Thank you all.

  2. Gregory W Sacra

    “We spend a lot of time bragging that Devil’s Lake State Park is Wisconsin’s “Premiere” State Park. We should probably come at every problem with that viewpoint.”


  3. Joe salemi

    Yes. But I don’t see how this is entirely a result of de-funding the Parks. I see this as a disregard for the environment and best practices. this seems to be a problem of oversight and planning.
    In addition, this appears to be a quarry product termed “river rock” which is not even common in the unique DLSP AND Baraboo range geology.

    1. Joe salemi

      My mistake. A closer look at the picture reveals that the rock appears to be local dispite it’s mistaken placement.

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