As the name states, Brunet Island State Park includes an entire island and offers some of the best water access to a campsite that I’ve seen! You can literally paddle your kayaks up to your campsite. This is a GREAT park for family biking. There is a wild shoulder, the trails are mostly shared with hiking and biking, and there is access to a much longer trail. There is also a large beach to enjoy the calm water. This wonderful park deserves a visit! Don’t miss out on Lake Wissota State Park either, it is only 30 minutes away. If you love Wisconsin State Parks, check out the list of parks I’ve written about so far.
These campsites at Brunet Island have some of the best water access around! The North Campground is a loop around a small inlet and the sites are on two small peninsulas. It is entirely possible to roll out of your tent and climb into your kayak. The water is often only a boat length away from the tent sites and there are 45 sites in the campground! Many sites have spaces where you can moor your kayaks. I have two small children and would worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on them at all times but for those who can swim this campsite is a gem! The sites are close together without a lot of privacy between sites. There are two vault toilets and no electricity on the North campground
If you prefer electricity, flush toilets, and showers in closer proximity then check out the south campground. It is quite close to the north campground but has these extra amenities. This campground is also fairly open. It is right across from the beach area. It is on Brunet Island but the water is a bit farther away. There are 24 sites in the South Campground.
Boating, paddling, and fishing
Brunet Island State Park is in fact on an island and water opportunities are quite literally, everywhere. The park is over 1,300 acres though most of the developed part of the park is on the 169 acre island. A road runs over the bridge onto the island. The boat launch is near the entrance road. It has a large parking area and a paved launch which includes a dock. The park website does note that water flow fluctuates and you need to keep a close eye out for rocks, especially on the southern end of the island.
If you are camping in the north campground and don’t have your own canoe or kayak, the Wisconsin DNR site reports that there are local vendors available for kayak and canoe rental and to call the park office for more information. This is a great place to paddle as it is mostly fat water and forgiving. If you are camping on the south campground there is a boat mooring area near the pet run area to the west of the campground.
There are plenty of places to fish on the island. Try the accessible fishing pier near the North Campground or the fishing pier near the south end. There is a picnic table and fishing area towards the start of the Jean Brunet Nature Trail. If you need some equipment there is a Tackle Loaner Program were you can get the essentials for free at the park office. I recommend calling ahead to make sure they have what you need. Fish in the area include northern pike, walleye, small mouth bass, catfish, crappie, muskie, and more.
The Beach and Playground
This Park has a pretty long beach area. The kids loved swimming there but my feet couldn’t handle the rocky bottom without water shoes on. Its calm without current. There are buoys and ropes to help mark the swimming area but of course no life guards. Unfortunately pets are not allowed in the beach or picnic areas. There is a large grassy hill overlooking the beach. There is a bathroom with flush toilets between the beach and the beach parking area as well as some picnic tablets. The playground is quite close as well and has two small play structures.
Brunet Island is a great place for bicyclists. The park road is wide and one way so there is a large biking shoulder. Most of the trails are bike friendly including the pine trail, spruce trail, and timber trail. They are fairly smooth but not wide enough to ride side by side. You can take the access trail leading to the Old Abe State Trail from the park into the small town of Cornell where you can grab some food, a drink, or hit up a playground. See below in the Nearby Activities and Food section for my recommendations.
If you are looking for longer distances, there is a one mile trail for bikers and hikers from Brunet Island State park to the Old Abe State Trail. Then the state trail goes all the way to Lake Wissota State Park. It’s around 20 miles between the parks by bike. The trail itself actually goes well past Lake Wissota State Park to Eau Claire (which has a really bike friendly downtown vibe) and even as far as Menomonie.
Most of the trails on the island itself are fairly flat and shared between biking and hiking. That includes the spruce trail, the pine trail, and the timber trail. There is also the 0.6 mile nature trail called the Jean Brunet Nature Trail on the North end of the island. If you want a longer hike you can leave the island, but remain in the park, and hike the Nordic trail. This is not open to bikers. If you do the both the long and short loop it’s over 4 miles.
Dogs at Brunet Island
Dogs are welcome at the park and campsites. They are not allowed at the beach or playground areas.
The small town of Cornell is just over a mile away. You can certainly drive but there is also a nice bike/walking trail. Dylans Dairy was well worth the stop. I could see the lady making my sandwich fresh and it was delicious. They also have coffee, cheese curds, ice cream, and local wine. Sam’s Place and Diner isn’t much farther away and has a wide selection of all American food. I didn’t get a chance to try Moonridge Brewery but it is on my list! I love a good craft brew and their website encourages you to bring the whole family. They describe a laid back atmosphere and serve pizza and grub in addition to beer. If you don’t mind a tavern atmosphere try Huddle Up Pub, it’s right down town.
Right on the corner of Park Road and Bridge Street, less than a mile from the park is Mill Yard Park. There is a pretty large playground. There is also a baseball diamond and a skate park. The large pulpwood stacker is from the logging days. If you are looking for more activities check out my post on Lake Wissota State Park, it is closer to Chippewa Falls which is bigger and has more local activities. You can also check out the town of Eau Claire which has a ton of cool stuff!
If you’re looking for a campsite with close proximity to water, Brunet Island can’t be beat! It is also the perfect campground for safe biking in the park. Easy access to the Old Abe State Trail also makes it a great choice for more ambitious cyclists. There is a great beach area and playground for the kids. Most of the hikes are short and fun but there is also the 4 mile loop if you want to stretch your legs a bit more. The town of Cornell is small but very close and has some real gems in it. I know you’ll enjoy your time at this great park!