Wisconsin’s Interesting Towns --- There are plenty of them

As I travel about the state, I come across what I find to be interesting towns. Perhaps not the most well-known, but fun to visit nonetheless. Here are the ones I’ve photographed thus far, with many more to come.

Maiden Rock, hmm … intriguing, and coming alive. Maiden Rock is on the shore of the Mississippi River. It was once a logging and mill town and commercial center. Today it is quite small, aging, with only a few businesses. It is on the Great River Trail in southwest Pierce County. The historic 400 ft. Maiden Rock Bluff is nearby, just a few miles to the south. The town has faced numerous setbacks: fires, floods, and runaway truck crashes. It has only a few businesses, and many homes are old. But there is something about this town I found intriguing and comforting. It is emerging, a rising star, a jewel in the rough, yet remains very much a Wisconsin town. September 1, 2018.

Watertown - absorbing, fascinating. I visited Watertown, frankly, for no compelling reason. I had heard it was about equidistant from Milwaukee and Madison, but I had no interest in visiting either on this trip. Once I started investigating the city, I found what looked like a great B&B close to town, and I was interested in getting the rest B&Bs so frequently offer. Once I got to town, the B&B did not disappoint, I was surprised by a few things I saw, and I found plenty to do in a day-long car tour and another day up at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 minutes drive to the north. All in all, time well spent. When I got home and started to research the city. I found out a great deal about its history and some of its facilities. I found I need to go back and take in many of its historic structures which I missed in the historic downtown area, each of which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Watertown is much more than a city half-way between Madison and Milwaukee. Fascinating. May 4, 2018.

Big Falls-Little Falls, Whatsis? It was a very nice day in July 2017 so I decided to goof off and ride around. I didn't have any plan. After driving around aimlessly I came to the Village of Big Falls in northwestern Waupaca County. I would later learn there is a place called Little Falls just about a mile to the southeast. Big Falls is a very small community. Signs say 61, census said 57. Little Falls is really just a place name. It belongs to the Town of Wyoming. I would later learn there is a place called Little Falls just about a mile to the southeast. Little Falls is really just a place name. It belongs to the Town of Wyoming. There is something marvelous about visiting such small villages and towns. They are usually out in a rural area, the people are almost always wonderful, and on this day I simply had a good time. January 26, 2018.

Pigeon Falls, small, delightful, real. Pigeon Falls is a village in Trempealeau County with a population of about 400. Pigeon Creek meets the Trempealeau River here, and goes over a bit of a falls which now is the result of a small dam. Now, you are not visiting Milwaukee when you come to Pigeon Falls. This is a small town to be sure. It is on the eastern side the Western Upland Geographic Province of the state. I have to tell you that I had a great time here. It was mid-May, a beautiful day, and I met some locals fishing who were absolutely delightful people. Whet my lips from hunger in the local meat market, and wandered around to get the full flavor of small town Wisconsin. July 29, 2017.

Hudson, the Spirit of the St. Croix. I was out in the northwestern part of the state and followed the St. Croix River from its source all the way to Prescott, where it meets the Mighty Mississippi River. Part of that trip brought me into the town of Hudson, seen by its people as the "Spirit of the St. Croix, and the Western Gateway to Wisconsin. It is the westernmost city in Wisconsin. It surely is a delightful town, on the St. Croix River, and about 16 miles due east of St. Paul, Minnesota. May 20, 2017.

Prescott, St. Croix meets the Mighty Mississippi. Prescott in Pierce County is at the confluence of the St. Croix River and Mississippi River. It is one of the oldest towns on the Mississippi, dating back to 1839. travelwisconsin.com says, "You can clearly see the line where the blue waters of the St. Croix join the dun-colored Mississippi." Prescott, population about 4,000, is officially a part of the Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area, with many residents of Prescott commuting to Minneapolis or Saint Paul for employment or education. That said, it is a quaint town with its own Wisconsin personality. May 9, 2017x
Stockholm, a new generation brings a town back to life. I was exploring the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River between St. Paul, Minnesota and La Crosse, Wisconsin to the south. I came across a fabulous little village called Stockholm. It is on Lake Pepin, which is a naturally occurring lake formed by a backup of water due to sediments from the Chippewa River just a tad downstream. Stockholm truly is a village tucked along the shores of the Mississippi. And what a delightful surprise it was. This town is a "must visit." February 19, 2017.

Lodi, the "peaceful valley" in south central Wisconsin. The village is located in the heart of scenic southwestern Wisconsin, Columbia County. The town is part of he Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, just 20 minutes north of Madison. It is about four miles southeast of Lake Wisconsin, formed by the Wisconsin River. The town boasts a Historic District, two Historic residential neighborhoods and is widely known as home to Susie the Duck, a mascot for Lodi since 1948. January 25, 2017

Osceola, enchanting small town on the St. Croix. Osceola is located on the the Croix National Scenic Riverway with a collection of well-preserved buildings dating from the 1880s. It sits on the border with Minnesota and is about 40 miles northeast of Minneapolis. There is a Cascade Falls empties the Osceola Creek into a deep gorge carved out by the St. Croix River, was the reason for the founding of the village, and frankly the reason I stopped to visit. December 19, 2016

Lancaster, "City of the Dome". The City of Lancaster is located in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. It is known as the "City of the Dome" for the beautiful Grant County Courthouse in the center of downtown. I was enamored by how the city has preserved its old architecture. It is the county seat of the picturesque Grant County in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Nelson Dewey, the first governor of Wisconsin, is buried in the city. Visitors have recommended you enjoy an interesting walking tour of 31 different historical highlights on or near the Grant County Courthouse Square. November 27, 2016

Potosi, a brewery town working its way up. Potosi's story is a great one, an American one. Potosi is a small town of about 700 people off Hwy 61, and just a few miles north of the Mississippi River, near the Great River Road. TravelWisconsin says, "The tiny town of Potosi completed a major renovation of its local brewery that today houses the National Brewery Museum and the National Brewery Transportation Museum. If you like Breweriana, you’ll be amazed. The museum is also home to an interpretive center for the nearby Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway that follows the route of the Mississippi River. Potosi is also the location of one of the oldest lead mines in the state." The town also prides itself as the state's "Catfish Capital!" And there's plenty more of which to be proud. October 1, 2016

Mineral Point, an "architectural gem" in the hills. Mineral Point is the third largest city in Wisconsin, about 2,500 people at the 2010 census. It is the third oldest city in Wisconsin. Mineral Point was settled in 1827, becoming a lead and zinc mining center during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the city's historical character has made it a regional tourist destination. The Mineral Point Chamber of Commerce describes the town this way: "Mineral Point, an architectural gem in the hills of southwest Wisconsin, is often described as magical. Historic buildings, working artists, locally owned shops and restaurants, relaxing places to stay and lots of friendly folks … just part of what makes this a special place." I must say I agree. August 22, 2016.

Boulder Junction— You know you're in the Northwoods. Boulder Junction is a town way up north, in the state's Northwoods in Vilas County. The area encompasses the basin of the Trout and Manitowish Rivers, which flow eventually into the Flambeau River. Much of the town is covered by the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The town prides itself in being the Musky Capital of the world. It's a favorite area for tourists and sportsmen, a great getaway spot, any time of the year. February 29, 2016

Green Lake, reconnect with the good life. Green Lake is a town of about 1,100 residents located on the north side of Big Green Lake. It offers a small town lifestyle with lots to do. Th lake itself is a 7920 acre lake with a maximum depth of 236 ft. and a mean depth of 104 ft. making it the deepest lake landlocked lake in Wisconsin. It is used year round for all manner of sporting and leisure activities. The lake has 27 miles of shoreline. November 26, 2015

Sturgeon Bay, something for everybody. "Sturgeon Bay, Historic Harbor City." Sturgeon Bay is about 9,000 strong with lots of things to see and do, from downtown to the waterfront, sitting close to Green Bay with a ship canal connecting Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay to Lake Michigan. Native Americans liked the area because of its proximity to these waterways. Once host to massive forests of pine and attendant sawmills, it would become a place where all travel was by boats and steamboats, the latter plying their goods between Chicago and Green Bay. Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay dates back to the late 19th century and continues to the present. It is a town steeped in ships, past and present, a mariner's town, a sailor's delight, a maritime city. November 1, 2015

Wausau, the strategic center of the state. Wausau, thriving in the northwoodsWausau is located in the heart of Wisconsin, roughly equidistant from Green Bay, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, and with just a couple more hours Chicago. Granite Peak offers terrific skiing, the Wisconsin River is of itself a wonderful recreational area, and for the very adventurous, is in one section partly turned into a great white water rafting area. And curling has become a huge sport. The city has blended preservation of the old and building of the new. In addition, the city boasts a terrific medical center that is growing and services much of the north country, along with a business center that serves as a hub for north-central and northern Wisconsin. The city also features first class arts and museums. August 15, 2015

Hayward, "distinctively different." Hayward is in Sawyer County up in the northwest, surrounded by many wonderful lakes up in the north country. It is a favorite spot for vacationers and second-home owners because of its location in the Northwoods, and the abundance of things to do. Great for sports and fishing, lots of trails, and hop skip and jump up to Lake Superior. Logging began here in the 1850s and people flocked here from the Northeast and Europe. The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame is located in Hayward. August 9, 2015

Nelsonville - The walls might say ugly, but there is a connection and love of the people. Nelsonville is just north of Amherst in eastern Portage County. I was searching for the Tomorrow River, which my kayak guide book said was lots of fun to paddle on because it was so narrow. This is a very small town, in the 2010 census numbering a population of 155. I really enjoyed my short stay in the town. July 15, 2015

Strolling through Abbotsford, packed with businesses. I take Hwy 29 west out of Wausau quite a bit and always pass by the exit for Abbotsford. One day, in late May, I decided to exit and take a look around to see what’s there. I left Abbotsford thinking, “Wow, they have packed a lot of business, industry and transportation in a fairly small space in this town!” Indeed the town’s motto is, “A small city doing business in a big way.” December 10, 2011.

“Algoma State of mind.” I have to confess right up front that I stole the title for this article from a record on You Tube, “Algoma State of Mind,” by The Crispy Brothers featuring DJ Swagz. That title struck me as right on the mark --- I’ve been to the town a few times and love it. It is a state of mind. There is something about this town that touched my spirit. January 27, 2013

Ashland's Mural Walk. Ashland, Wisconsin's Chamber of Commerce has boasted that it is known as "Lake Superior's Hometown." This is a deserving reflection of pride, and underscores why the towns people have embraced a Murals project so much. These murals create civic pride and are essential to any thriving metropolitan area. Commenting on urban murals in general, Jane Golden, director, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has said, "It's like they're the autobiography of this city. They have the power to move the soul." October 27, 2007

Berlin, delightful, splendid architecture, terrific history. Berlin is a delightful place to visit. Located along the Fox River in Green Lake County, it used to be a center for French fur traders and was long considered a fur and leather capital. It also hosted the first cranberry operations in the state. I was taken by the architecture of much of the town and homes. March 18, 2014.

Briggsville, a neat place to visit. Driving around one day, I ended up in Briggsville in southwest Marquette County, north of Portage in Columbia County. This was a neat place. Briggsville is located in the Central Plains Geographic Province and is on the eastern side of Mason Lake, a lake which crosses to the west into Adams County. It was Sunday, May 24, 2009, people have the day off, and they're out with their families sunbathing and fishing. This is Wisconsin living at its best, families out, walking around, sitting around, and in some cases fishing around. Those two young girls walking to the left both have fishing poles, so this must be a town-wide pastime. November 6, 2009

Brokaw, once a "company town," now just a neat little village hosting Wausau Paper. The town of Brokaw, Marathon County, Wisconsin is just a few miles upstream the Wisconsin River from Wausau. In the 2000 census its population was listed at 107. Many people likely drive right through Brokaw without giving it much attention, though the Wausau Paper Mill is huge and cannot be missed. As happens so often, once we started digging into Brokaw we learned some neat history about the state. A man named Norman Brokaw was born in Michigan, and graduated from Kalamazoo college and Three Rivers Law School there. He practiced law for about a year and decided to get involved in one of his favorite industries, making paper. May 10, 2010.

That snazzy little town, Cambridge, Wisconsin. I had spent some time in the Ft. Atkinson area in Jefferson County and was sort of heading back to Wausau on Hwy 12. I arrived at a super neat town, Cambridge. Even though I was running behind schedule, I simply had to park the car and walk around a little bit. It's a snazzy place and I commend the people of the town for what they have done to it. Main Street is classic Wisconsin --- historic and preserved. July 19, 2010.

That quaint little town, Delafield, Wisconsin. We stayed in Delafield on our first visit to the Waukesha County. Historic Delafield was established in 1837. Much of it looks newly built, but in the historic tradition, with a Williamsburg style downtown. It is truly a charming place to visit, lots of shops, restaurants, and places for outdoor activities. My guess is that much of the renovation and new building here occurred in the 1990s. These photos will show you around the downtown area, starting with the Delafield Hotel, where we stayed, first class in our book. If you like relaxation and first-rate shopping and browsing, this is the pace for you. June 23, 2012

De Pere, Wisconsin, a neat college and river town. I had never approached Green Bay from the south, so when I rolled into De Pere, just miles south of Green Bay, frankly I was shocked, pleasantly so. Three highlights stuck with me: its location on the Fox River just before it empties into Green Bay; St. Norbert’s College, a magnificent campus; and the historic district, with its wonderful old homes. We’ll walk through each. November 23, 2012

Elkhart Lake, one each buzzing’ town. The town of Elkhart Lake, Sheboygan County, boasts that it is “a legendary getaway.” I had received some ads by e-mail about the Osthoff Lake Resort in the town. I did some research, we needed to get away, so off we went. The town and the Osthoff are buzzing’ places, with lots of activities always underway somewhere nearby. While at the Osthoff, they had a triathlon, in nearly 90 degree weather. Incredible. Elkhart Lake is in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Osthoff claims to be “elegant, yet comfortable.” It sure is big and beautifully sited on Elkhart Lake. The town is as fantastic. July 1, 2012

Fond du Lac, at the foot of Lake Winnebago. Fond du Lac is French for “booth or foot of the lake.” The lake is Lake Winnebago. The city sits at the southern end of it. Winnebago is the largest lake entirely in Wisconsin and one of the largest inland lakes in the US. It is 30 by 10 miles. Two things struck me when I drove through. First, the wonderful old buildings that the city is working to preserve, many along Main Street. I am a huge fan of that. Second, Lakeside Park. The city looks like a great place to stop and explore in more detail. July 17, 2012

Galesville, quite the historic town preserved. Galesville is located about 20 miles north of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the Coulee Region of the Mississippi Valley, in Trempealeau County near the Mississippi River. The city sits in the Western Uplands Geographic Province, among rolling hills, towering cliffs, forests and spring-fed streams. Downtown, Ridge Avenue and the Gale College Historic Districts are all on the National Register of Historic Places. The townspeople have worked very hard to preserve this town, and it is uplifting to visit. April 7, 2012

Genesee, in the Kettle moraine, once a boom town. Genesee Township is located near the center of Waukesha County (between Waukesha & Ottawa) in the beautiful “Kettle Moraine” area of southeast Wisconsin. The entire area was formed 10,000 years ago by the glaciers. Genesee Depot was settled predominantly by the English, Irish & Welsh and became a thriving settlement when the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad laid tracks through the area in 1851. It became a thriving agricultural service center. The town to this day retains its old charm. June 27, 2012

Manitowish Waters, quiet, peaceful, soft and subdued. The Chamber of Commerce for Manitowish Waters says it is the ideal spot to “get away from it all.” Manitowish Waters is up in western Vilas County deep in the Northwoods, not far from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Chamber goes on to say, “Manitowish Waters is known for its quiet, less stressful surroundings perfect for a family vacation, reunion, romantic getaway, hunting or fishing excursion, or leisure day trip.”

New Glarus, a "Little Switzerland" in southern Wisconsin. I am not usually a fan of "theme cities," but I am a fan of this one, New Glarus, Wisconsin. Settled in the mid-19th century by 108 Swiss immigrants from canton Glarus, Switzerland, these pioneers built their town to where it is a fun and relaxing place to visit, a town that brings back great memories of my many visits to Switzerland. Perhaps what I like the most are the many small businesses here hosted in old buildings that have retained their magnificent historic character. I'll give you a tour of the town and focus your attention on some of these businesses. October 3, 2008

Oconomowoc, on Lac la Belle. Oconomowoc, in Waukesha County, is roughly half-way between Milwaukee and Madison, near I-94. It was incorporated in 1865 and rapidly became a haven for tourists from Chicago and Milwaukee. At one time it was known as the “Newport of the West.” The citizens have done much to preserve her beauty and legacy. It is nestled between four wonderful lakes, Lac la Belle, on which it sits, Fowler Lake right next to it, a small lake, Lake Oconomowoc just a tad to the southeast, and Lake Okauchee just a tad to the east. Actually, the town is in the midst of quite a few lakes here in southeastern Wisconsin. July 5, 2012

Sheboygan, “Spirit on the lake.” You can’t call Sheboygan a town. It’s a city, about 50,000 strong, located on Lake Michigan, about 55 miles north of Milwaukee, and 65 miles south of Green Bay. The city boasts, “Our beaches are brighter. Our fish are bigger. Our golf is better. Our food is the best! And it’s fun to say our name. Try it…go ahead…She-boy-gan. How do you Sheboygan? We surf, kite surf, wind surf, sail, kayak, jet ski, boat, fish, bike, hike, climb, race, golf, eat, drink, dance, relax, spa, enjoy. And we fry brats! We are the Bratwurst Capital of the World, after all.” December 2, 2012

Sheboygan, “Ready to welcome you since 1837.” Sheboygan Falls is inland, west of Sheboygan, “The Spirit on the Lake,” on he Sheboygan River. The River rises in eastern Fond du Lac County, and runs through Sheboygan, Calumet and Manitwoc Counties before returning to Sheboygan County and flowing to Lake Michigan. The town sees itself as a “Wisconsin Main Street” community, dedicated to the preservation of its historic structures. That is what caught my attention when I visited. Some 40 buildings have been rehabilitated and restored to the original late 1800s architecture. I photographed some of them. February 25, 2013

Shullsburg, Wisconsin’s third oldest community. The City of Shullsburg, Lafayette County, dates as Wisconsin’s third oldest community, settled in 1827 largely by Irish prospectors. The community has done a lot to preserve its heritage. It is located in the far southwest of the state, very close to the Illinois border.

The Water Street business district is now a National Historic Landmark, the result of careful restoration. While visiting, I thought I had stepped back in time, in a very uplifting way. The city hosts the Badger Mine & Museum, as it was part of a major lead mining effort in the region. April 17, 2013.

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Soldiers Grove, an American's kind of town. This is a town of about 700, rolling landscapes of unglaciated hills, situated along the "mighty" Kickapoo River and Baker Creek. It is also the site of a magnificent Veterans Memorial and a park honoring Medal of Honor recipient Beauford T. "Andy" Anderson, who nearly single-handedly took down 25 enemy soldiers on Kakazu Ridge, Okinawa, and saved his company's flank through good old fashioned GI ingenuity and the help of a fellow comrade, Hans Kaufmann, who fed him their improvised "ammo." Celebrating Andy's achievements one year caused one local poet's wife to weep and him to swallow hard. America at it's very best in Soldiers Grove. March 8, 2006