On the northeast corner of Lake Winnebago, the largest lake in Wisconsin, you will find High Cliff State Park. High Cliff is just what the name says, it’s located on a cliff along Lake Winnebago and gives a great view of the northern portion of the lake. It offers a campground, hiking trails, a recreation park, viewing tower, beach, and marina.
One of my favorite pass times at High Cliff is going down to the marina and watching people off-load and load their boats. I’m not much of a bragger but I used to be pretty good at backing up trailers and loading and unloading my boat. Next to the marina is a beach but there wouldn’t be any way someone in a wheelchair or scooter would be able to get to that. It’s located on the bottom of a steep hill and only someone skilled with crutches would be able to handle it.
There are also hiking trails which a wheelchair user could use if they are a little more skilled and have a proper wheelchair. The trails are a mix of gravel surface and dirt/grass. One of the trails also goes over an area of granite near an old quarry that is quite rough, even for me on my scooter, and has a steep hill. With a wheelchair, I would recommend going along with someone just in case there is a challenge you aren’t able to overcome, especially if the ground is soft from rain. I traveled on the gravel and dirt/grass trails with my scooter without any problems on a warm spring day which wasn’t the driest but I never worried about sinking in with my wider scooter tires. A wheelchair may have hand more of a challenge in spots on the dirt/grass path.
High Cliff also has a viewing tower, where you can see most of Lake Winnebago as well as Appleton and other cities along the lake. Getting to the top of it is the challenge. Unless you are able to use crutches or have some ability to walk, you won’t get up the 8 groups of steps to the top. I haven’t been up this tower myself but I’ve been up others similar which I was able to just crawl up, but that’s quite a challenge in itself and I’m pretty strong and get around that way on my own a lot. Getting to the tower won’t be a problem though.
Nearby, I enjoy playing disk golf at some area disk golf courses, going to minor league baseball games, and going to College Ave. to people watch. Unlike a lot of other downtown areas that I’ve been to, Appleton’s downtown is completely accessible. One place you really need to stop is the Chubby Seagull just outside of the park. It’s a great place to get a burger, pizza or on those really hot days, a great ice cream cone. It’s a small place but is accessible.
I’ve camped at High Cliff many times over the past ten years. I like it for many reasons. It’s only a couple hours away from where I live, just far enough to not be able to just go home to grab something I forgot, but not too far that one of my camping partners doesn’t get too bored on the drive there. It’s pretty close to a metropolitan area that offers pretty much anything you might want for entertainment. Most importantly, and the reason for this site, it’s relatively accessible for disabled individuals.
First off, the main driveway is entirely paved and relatively flat (some short slight hills) to be able to roam around the campground easily and visit with other campers. You’ll never know what kind of wildlife you might see. There are plenty of squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and even possibly a deer. The only ones you have to watch out for are the raccoons. Myself and my fellow camping partners have had our run-ins with the bandits. One time, they came out to steal our sandwiches off the picnic table 20 feet away from us while our backs were turned setting up the camper. They got them all except one, must not have liked the mustard.
There is a steep road going to and from the campground on the top of the cliff. In no way, shape or form, should anyone with a wheelchair or even a scooter try to attempt it. If you go, you will see bikers going up and down the hill but they are only skilled ones. Most can’t make it up the cliff without stopping temporarily and going down, I’m not sure how they have any brakes left on their brakes.
When I go, I will usually try to reserve the handicap camping site for a couple of reasons. It has electric power (about half of the campground has this) but it’s also close to the restrooms (directly across the driveway). The location makes it easy for myself and my friends to know how busy the showers are.
Having electric power is important for me because I use an electric scooter to get around which needs to be plugged in after a long day of roaming around and exploring. Sometimes we also use a pull-behind camper, which can be nice with using the lights but not completely necessary for my uses. The electric hook-up also allows us to use an electric griddle for cooking should we decide to.
As I mentioned before, about half of the sites have electric hook-up and aren’t much different from the handicap site other than the proximity to the restrooms. The majority of the sites have a stable gravel surface that most self-sufficient wheelchair users shouldn’t have too much trouble, unless there was a lot of rain.
The main restroom/shower area has a handicap stall, which is quite adequate for anyone with a scooter or wheelchair. However, the same building offers a separate individual restroom with a private shower that is only available to disabled individuals who need it. The main office of the park has keys to access the private restroom if you ask. You may have to share it with someone else that a disability but it’s much better than the challenge of the regular showers, especially when you can’t stand on your own. It’s more convenient if you need help from another for showering or anything else.
The handicap restroom/shower has a small wall separating the toilet and sink from the shower area, but the shower area is roll-in and offers a bench to sit on and a shower head that is somewhat moveable. If you are someone that needs to lie down or needs a little more area to get dressed, I suggest having something along with you to lie on. I use a yoga mat. It’s easily cleaned and water runs off and makes that cold cement floor a little more bearable.
High Cliff also offers a disabled cabin for those that need a little more help. The cabin has the following amenities:
- Wheelchair accessible.
- The maximum number of people the cabin holds is six (or parents, children and not more than two guests). Additional tents or camping trailers and RVs are not permitted.
- For cooking there is a kitchen with low counter, stove, microwave and refrigerator.
- Cabins have two hospital beds with lift, a full-size sofa sleeper and two cots.
- Cabins have a bathroom with wheel-in shower, bench and shower commode chair.
- For electricity there are several outlets and lighting in the cabin.
- An attached screen porch.