Crawford County Attractions
Crawford County is the heart of the Upper Mississippi bluff country with land surrounded by the last glaciers and sculpted by the melt waters. Almost every road in the county has the picturesque beauty of a rustic road, with historic sites, spectacular overlooks, abundant hunting grounds, great fishing spots, endless recreational opportunities, antique, art and craft outlets, campgrounds and lodging accommodations scattered throughout the enchanting countryside.
Fabulous fortunes in fur were made in Crawford County during the 19th century. Hercules Dousman joined with Joseph "King" Rolette, the greatest of the independent fur traders, to start an empire here. In 1843, Dousman built the "house on the mound," a brilliant center of social activity. Rebuilt in the 1870's, the mansion, Villa Louis, retains its Victorian charm and splendor. Many of the original sites, forts, churches, mansions, and 19th Century trading houses, inns and settlers cabins are still in use or have been preserved and are open to the public today.
Nature designed an abundant and beautiful system of rivers and streams in Crawford County. The Kickapoo River, "the crookedest river in Wisconsin" was carved out of softer rock of the valley by glacial run-off waters and snakes its way 100 miles over a linear distance of only 33 miles. It is considered one of the best Class 1 canoe rivers in the Midwest and is one of the most photogenic. The Wisconsin River borders the south edge of Crawford County. It is busiest river in the state, but here it is peaceful, ringed with high bluff escarpments and filled with sand beach islands. The Mississippi River, "father of Waters" makes up the county's west coast. The steep limestone cliffs and crags are interspersed with forested bluffs and goat prairies. The backwaters of this area provide a meandering series of waterways into nature's extravaganza.
Crawford County offers an exciting variety of year 'round recreational opportunities. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful picnic, a challenging hike or scenic bike ride, a river cruise or canoe adventure, a flight over the countryside, or view the huge flocks of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl that gather here during their spring and fall migrations along the Mississippi Flyway. The Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is home to bald eagles, wood ducks, herons, egrets, and cormorants that nest and raise their young in the area. With exceptional populations of deer, turkey, small game and waterfowl, Crawford County offers some of the best hunting in the state. Trout streams are abundant in the wooded hills, while the three major rivers offer bass, catfish, walleye and panfish.
In winter, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy snowmobiling the county's 60 miles of trails, ice fishing and skating on the frozen river backwaters, and cross-country skiing in the valleys and hills.
Crawford County offers boundless retail, lodging and dining opportunities. Shopping here is a fun-filled experience, with everything from an old-fashioned downtown, where family-owned stores spanning generations still showcase their wares, to modern malls that offer a wide selection of goods and services. Here, visitors will find an old-time soda fountain where malts are still served from the tin, and a genuine five-and-dime store where bulk candy can be purchased by the ounce, the pound or hundred-weight. The area is well known for its selection of quality sporting goods as well as the finest in sports wear, men's western and dress wear, women's and children's clothing.
Throughout the county, artisans offer a wealth of handcrafted goods, including quilts, handloomed rugs, religious items, pottery, sculpture, and one-of-a-kind works of art. Area bakeries prepare luscious pastries, pies and ethnic favorites; specialty shops offer foods such as catfish jerky, turtle, cheese curds and hand-dipped ice cream; roadside stands and pick-your-own gardens and orchards offer fresh fruits and vegetables; floral shops and garden centers provide flowers, arrangements and bedding plants; and numerous antique shops and art galleries offer fascinating treasures past and present.
Crawford County's supper clubs, family restaurants, delis, bar and grills, fast food and specialty restaurants offer unlimited dining options, from exotic ethnic preparations served in authentic international settings to rugged frontier fare served in historic inns and taverns or burgers and fries on the run. Area cooks and chefs share their cultural heritage with Crawford County visitors at year 'round food festivals, lutefisk suppers, brat fests, hog roasts, fish fries and the annual June dairy breakfast.
Crawford County lodging opportunities include excellent motels with exciting extras, gracious inns, delightful B & Bs, cozy cabins, modern campgrounds and rustic parks.
In Crawford County, campers can choose from a variety of accommodations; from primitive campsites to RV park resorts. Camp on a beach or island, use a full service private campground or public park. Boat, swim, fish, hunt, bike, walk or just relax ... you can do it all in beautiful Crawford County.
Museums and Historical Sites
Along the Great River Road, State Highway 35, visitors will find:
South of Lynxville
This marker commemorates the passage of the great 19th century log rafts on the Mississippi River.
Prairie du Chien and Marquette-Joliet Historic Markers.
Located in the city park dedicated to the Leonard Cornelius family, these markers give an overview of the area's history since 1673.
Villa Louis Historic Site
521 N. Villa Louis Rd., Prairie du Chien
Operated by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Villa Louis is one of the most complete and authentic Victorian era estates in the country. Also located at this site on St. Feriole Island, are the Fur Trade Warehouse Museum, Brisbois House, the Rolette House, two original log houses, structures related to the early forts constructed here, and three projects under construction: the Dousman House, the Milwaukee Road Depot and a Victorian-Style Park in Lawler Park.
The island also hosts re-enactments of the War of 1812, a Fur Trade Rendezvous, the Carriage Classic and special programs about the Dousman family during the season. Tours of Villa Louis, conducted by period costumed guides, are provided daily beginning at 9:00 am; last tour begins at 3:45 pm, May 1 through October 31.
Prairie du Chien Museum at Ft. Crawford
717 So. Beaumont Rd., Prairie du Chien
The Prairie Du Chien Museum was formerly the Fort Crawford Medical Museum, a medical building constructed in the 1830's and is where Dr. William Beaumont did ground-breaking research on human digestion. Today it houses artifacts and displays of early Prairie du Chien history, fort building and operations, and 19th century military medical developments. An historic marker commemorating Dr. Beaumont's work and achievements is also located at this site. The museum is open daily 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, May 1 through October 31.
Beaumont Road Sites
Beaumont Rd., Prairie du Chien
Beaumont Road has historic sites and buildings along its entire length, including: Wyalusing Academy, formerly St. Mary's Academy built by John Lawler for the School Sisters of Notre Dame; The Fort Crawford Military Cemetery, fronted by the Jefferson Davis Marker, the only marker dedicated to the Confederate President north of the Mason-Dixon line; the 0. E. Satter Building, a former hospital noted for its mineral bath treatments; the Rock Carriage House of Zachary Taylor; the W.H.C. Folsom House, west of the Beaumont Rd./Blackhawk Ave. intersection; the 1876 Crawford County Courthouse, dungeon and genealogical resource center, on the site of the first Wisconsin courthouse and territorial prison of i835; St. Gabriel Catholic Church, the oldest church in Wisconsin, built of cut limestone by Fr. Mazzuchelli, and the tomb of Fr. Galtier, the founder of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Prairie du Chien
Historic Sites and Buildings
Throughout the city of Prairie du Chien, visitors will find additional historic sites and buildings, including: The ancient French Town Cemetery where Joseph "King" Rolette and many French voyageurs are buried; the Calvary Cemetery, site of the Dousman family plot; the Francois Vertefuille House, located in the old French Town area that has the last remaining log house constructed in the French Canadian style; Evergreen Cemetery, where prominent pioneers were laid to rest; the Old Rock School, built for the students of the lower town; and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the oldest wooden structures in the city, built more than 125 years ago.
Black River Road (State Hwy. 27)
Historic Sites and Buildings
Along State Hwy. 27 - Black River Road. visitors will find:
St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church built by early Boehemian settlers; Utica Lutheran Church, built 125 years ago by Norwegian settlers, located between Mt. Sterling and Fairview; and the Black Hawk Trail Marker at Rising Sun, one of a series of markers across the southwestern counties marking the pursuit of Black Hawk and the massacre south of Victory.
Kickapoo River Valley (State Hwy. 131)
Museums and Historic Sites
Traveling along State Highway 131 through the Kickapoo River Valley, in Soldiers Grove, visitors will find a Black Hawk Trail Marker, a marker honoring James Davidson, 21st Governor of the State of Wisconsin, and, in Beauford T. Anderson Memorial Park, a marker honoring the only Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, and those from five surrounding states. In Gays Mills, the Orchard Marker describes the origin of the most concentrated orchard area in the Midwest, and a number of original log buildings are on site at the Log Cabin Heritage Park.
Lower Wisconsin River Valley (State Hwy. 60)
Museums and Historic Sites
Century Hall, a restored theater and future community center in Wauzeka, also houses the Lower Wisconsin River Genealogical and Historical Research Center and Kickapoo Indian Caverns, once used as a hunting shelter by prehistoric Indians. On the site is the largest cavern open to the public in Wisconsin. Today this cavern houses a museum exhibiting artifacts collected on the site. Just west of the caverns is Indian Mound Wayside, a recent archeological dig of an ancient Indian campsite.
Parks and Nature Centers
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
Mississippi River, Onalaska
With more than three million people annually who come to fish, boat, hike, birdwatch, hunt, sightsee or just relax, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is one of the country's largest and most visited refuges! Established in 1924, the 200,000-acre, 260-mile-long Upper Mississippi refuge features more than 265 bird species, 57 species of mammals, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 100 species of fish. No wonder this refuge is a nature-lovers wonderland! Special attractions along the La Crosse county shore of the river include boat and canoe rentals, the Long Lake and Goose Island canoe trails, with observation points at major pull-offs denoted by interpretive refuge signs. Displays of refuge wildlife are found at the US Fish and Wildlife Service visitors center, located at 555 Lester Ave. in Onalaska. Open Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Wyalusing State Park
Bagley, Grant County
Just across the Wisconsin River from Bridgeport ten miles south of Prairie du Chien on the Great River Road, State Hwy.35, Wyalusing State Park has beautiful full-service campgrounds, boat launching facilities, hiking and nature trails.
Points of Interest
Lock & Dam #9
Mississippi River, South of Lynxville
This dam creates the largest pool behind the widest expanse of dam on the Upper Mississippi. Visitors will find a viewing deck to watch boats and barges lock through, along with a taped history of the dam and its operation.