Jackson County Attractions
Located in West-Central Wisconsin, Jackson County is the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk Indian Nation and the "Whitetail Deer Capitol of Wisconsin." A land of forested highlands, majestic mounds, pastoral valleys, rushing rivers, placid streams, crystal clear lakes and country charm, Jackson County offers four-season outdoor adventure and relaxation for the entire family.
Almost one-third of Jackson County's total land area is public park and forest land. Crossed and connected by hundreds of miles of trails and old logging roads, the county's parks and forests offer easy to expert mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, ATVing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Trails vary in difficulty from relatively easy riding logging roads to challenging, rugged hill-climbing tracks through spectacular forest scenery.
The county's extensive network of trails also provides easy access to 200,000 acres of public hunting grounds; woodlands, grasslands and water ways that provide habitat for one of the state's largest concentrations of whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, squirrel, wild turkey, ducks and geese. Here, naturalists and wildlife observers will find an abundance of diverse wildlife, including common fur-bearing animals, such as muskrats, beavers, mink and otters. Also in abundance are dozens of species of songbirds and raptors including owls, hawks, and eagles, endangered delicate Karner Blue Butterflies, occasional timber wolves and thousands of migrating waterfowl in spring and fall.
Jackson County has some of the finest canoeing and kayaking rivers and streams in Wisconsin. The Black River is excellent for family canoeing. The river is dotted with sandbars ideal for camping and sunbathing. The county's creeks offer stunning scenery and thrilling rapids to challenge more seasoned canoeists and kayakers. Jackson County's unspoiled lakes, beaches and flowages are ideal for a variety of popular water activities including water skiing, jet skiing, power and pontoon boating, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and scuba diving in the state's deepest inland lake.
Fishing enthusiasts will find feisty brook, brown and rainbow trout lying in wait beneath the tranquil surfaces of Jackson County's miles of gentle trout streams. Muskies, walleye and smallmouth bass lurk deep in the weeds and shallows of the Black River; and the county's lakes and flowages serve up enough pan fish, pike, musky and bass to please the beginner and satisfy the most demanding veteran angler.
Jackson County also boasts two quality golf courses open to the public and an indoor recreation center with a large swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, racket ball courts, walking track and weight room, open to the public year-round.
Shoppers and treasure hunters delight in browsing Jackson County's antique, gift and specialty shops for one-of-a-kind bits of the past, hard-to-find collectibles, hand-made Native American art and craft works, centuries-old jewelry, pioneer implements and household items, and more.
Agriculture is a major contributor to Jackson County's economy. For generations, the Village of Alma Center has been known as Wisconsin's "Strawberry Capital." The county's wetlands region is home to two of the rarest agricultural products in the Midwest - cranberries and sphagnum moss. The county's forest lands produce pulpwood, lumber, firewood and Christmas trees.
Jackson County's supper clubs, bistros, cafes and family restaurants serve everything from fast foods and quick snacks to leisurely lunches and elegant starlit riverside dinners. Many menus feature fresh-picked locally grown fruits and vegetables including berry pies and desserts served with locally produced cheeses and dairy toppings.
At day's end, Jackson County visitors enjoy choosing from a wide range of lodging accommodations, from primitive overnight sandbar camping, walk-in park and forest campsites, full service campgrounds and RV parks, housekeeping cottages to vacation homes, bed and breakfast inns, camping cabins, motels and hotels with the works - mini-suites, indoor swimming pools, whirlpools, saunas, restaurants, valet and room service.
Although Jackson County is only 50 miles from La Crosse and Eau Claire, 132 miles from Minneapolis and Madison, 190 miles from Milwaukee and 264 miles from Chicago - Jackson County feels like an outdoor paradise any time of the year!
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Parks and Nature Centers
Wazee Lake Recreation Area
The Wazee Lake Recreation Area, Jackson County's largest and newest park, offers year 'round recreation including hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking, skating, fishing, swimming and snowmobiling. A network of trails winding through this 3,000 acre former iron mining site offers a panoramic view of the county's eastern landscape.
At the heart of the park is Wazee (Ho-Chunk for 'Tall Pine") Lake, the deepest and one of the clearest lakes in the state; an increasingly popular destination for scuba divers seeking deep water exploration thrills. The lake's crystal clear waters offer spectacular visibility and exceptional views of the various species of fish, underwater forests and mining artifacts lying deep beneath the surface. The Wazee area has 15 primitive campsites and toilets.
Jackson County Forest
The 118,000 acre County Forest provides year 'round recreational opportunities. Its diverse wildlife population includes one of the state's largest whitetail deer populations, upland game birds, wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, fox, and coyote. Its landscape includes wooded hills and rocky outcroppings, sparkling streams flowing through lushly vegetated valleys, fishfilled lakes and ponds. An extensive trail system winds its way through the forest providing ATV and motorcycle riders, hikers and snowmobilers spectacular views of the surrounding beauty. The forest also offers a wide range of camping experiences, from primitive pack-in sites to full service RV sites.
Black River State Forest
The 67,000 acre Black River State Forest is a multi-purpose recreational, wildlife and timber management facility. The forest provides three family campgrounds, an indoor group camp, horse campground, two beaches and six picnic areas. The forest provides miles of designated trails for ATV'S, snowmobiles, horse riders, hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers. Back to top
Special Things to do
Jackson County offers many different camping experiences, sure to suit every taste. Both the Jackson County Forest and the Black River State Forest provide public campsites.
On beautiful Lake Arbutus, Jackson County offers two campgrounds; East and West Arbutus. Both provide electric sites, showers, flush toilets and boat access to the lake. East Arbutus has a large sand beach and swimming area. Merlin Lambert and Spaulding Pond Parks, located in the Jackson County Forest, are favored by campers who prefer unadorned, natural surroundings. Crawford Hills Campground offers camping to ATV and motorcycle enthusiasts. This park also serves as a major trailhead for access to county and state trail systems. Users are allowed to operate their machines in the park to gain access to this network of trails.
The Black River State Forest offers three campgrounds: East Fork on the East Fork of the Black River, Pigeon Creek located on Pigeon Creek Flowage, and Castle Mound near Black River Falls. Castle Mound has electric sites, but all three are wrapped with unspoiled natural beauty. Pigeon Creek has a sand beach on Pigeon Creek Flowage.
Robinson Beach, an eleven acre clear water pond near Millston, is a popular Black River swimming area with a unique white, sandy beach. Additional community campgrounds may be found in Merillan and Hixton. A favorite of highway travelers, Gile Memorial Park on Oakwood Lake, has twenty electrical sites and a scenic waterfall.
Jackson County enjoys some of the best and most diverse streams and rivers in the state. With few rapids, the smooth flowing Black River is excellent for family canoeing. The river is dotted with sand bars, perfect for camping and sun bathing breaks. Served by convenient access points from Hatfield to the Mississippi River, Black River canoe trips can range from two-hour to five-day excursions. Jackson County's creeks offer more challenging experiences for seasoned whitewater veterans. Halls Creek, Morrison Creek, the East Fork of the Black River and Robinson Creek provide thrilling rapids and stunning scenery. Canoe rentals are available at North Bend and Black River Falls.
Power Boating/Water Skiing
Water skiing, jet skiing, pontoon boat and power boat cruising are the most popular activities on Lake Arbutus and the upper Black River flowage. Along the beautiful unspoiled shoreline of the upper Black River flowage, eagles soar and whitetail deer meander to the waters' edge.
Jackson County's rivers, lakes, flowages, ponds and streams offer year 'round fishing excitement. On the Black River, musky, walleye and smallmouth bass furnish the action. Both Lake Arbutus and the upper Black River Falls flowage provide plentiful catches winter and summer. Private cranberry flowages located throughout Jackson County also provide great fishing. Merlin Lambert County Park provides boat access to flowages that hold large numbers of pan fish, northern pike, muskies and bass. The county's numerous, gently flowing trout streams yield creels full of feisty brook, brown and rainbow trout.
With approximately 200,000 acres of public land populated by one of the largest concentrations of whitetail deer in the state, Jackson County is rightfully known as the "Deer Capital of Wisconsin." The Jackson County Forest and the Black River State Forest provide a perfect habitat for deer, ruffed grouse, squirrel and wild turkey. Forest trails and logging roads provide easy access for woodland hunters. Dike 17 and the Black River bottoms provide excellent waterfowl hunting for ducks and geese. County and state campgrounds are open for fall camping and many commercial and private facilities are available as well.
Jackson County's public lands offer one of the largest networks of ATV/Motorcycle trails in the state. The Jackson County Forest and Black River State Forest provide 96 miles of trail that connect the communities of Black River Falls, Millston, Hatfield, Pray and City Point. An additional 35 mile motorcycle-only trail is located near Millston and Saddle Mound. The County Forestry and Parks Department offers an ATV/Motorcycle campground located in Crawford Hills, off State Highway 54. Trails are open from May 15 to October 15 and from December 15 to March 15.
In the Black River State Forest, off-road bikers will find 34 miles of designated mountain bike trails winding through scenic pine and oak forests with terrain that challenges bikers at every level. Trailheads are located at the Castle Rock and Pigeon Creek campgrounds and at the Smrekar and Wildcat cross-country ski trail parking lots. The Wazee Recreation Area currently provides a nine-mile trail that follows the county's abandoned iron mine sites and provides breathtaking views of eastern Jackson County. In addition to designated mountain bike trails, the Black River State Forest and Jackson County Forest together have several hundred miles of forest and old logging roads that are open to mountain bike travel for a one-of-a-kind off road experience.
Jackson County offers two quality golf courses which are open to the public. Skyline Golf Club in Black River Falls is laid out over acres of undulating, wooded hills. The course consists of two distinctly different nine hole layouts. The "original" nine is a rolling open course with small greens that demand precise approach shots. The "new" back nine meanders along a rippling creek through mature white pine forest and features large, challenging greens. Near the village of North Bend, the Riverbend Golf Course offers nine holes laid out along the scenic Black River.
The Black River State Forest provides 35 miles of horse trails through rustic pine and oak forest. The trailhead, near the East Fork Campground, is located in a twelve site campground developed specifically for horse riders.
With nearly 350 miles of groomed trails that connect to more than 500 miles of trail in surrounding counties connecting with every trail in the state, when the snow falls, snowmobilers head for Jackson County. The county's snowmobile trails offer the unique experience of riding through two very different types of terrain. On the west side of the county, the trails wind through forest and agricultural land. In the Coulee country of western Jackson County, the rolling landscape becomes quite steep in places, adding challenges to the thrill of the trail. In eastern Jackson County, the trails meander through heavily wooded areas on gentler, more level grades. Whatever the path, the scenery is excellent and the trails are well groomed.
The Black River Forest has 25 miles of the finest cross-country ski trails in Wisconsin. The trails are groomed for skaters and traditional skiers and provide a variety of skill levels, from beginner to expert. Forested, hilly terrain offering splendid scenic views is combined with stretches of level plain. Jackson County's Wazee Recreational Area also provides 11 miles of cross-country ski trail just east of Black River Falls. The trails give skiers a beautiful view of Lake Wazee and are groomed weekly for skating and traditional skiing.
Jackson County visitors have many ways to enjoy the county's scenic beauty. There are auto tours, motorcycle, bicycle and snowmobile trails, and over 50 miles of state and county hiking trails. The Wazee Trail winds for 62 miles on excellent blacktop roads through eastern Jackson County. Along this scenic forested road visitors will find many species of trees, wildflowers, birds, and animals, some of which are found only in this unique ecosystem.
Hiking to the observation tower in the Dike 17 waterfowl area, visitors will encounter deer, wild turkey, eagles, sandhill cranes, geese, ducks and other wildlife. On Castle Mound Road visitors will drive by Wazee Park, the site of the former Jackson County Iron Mine, now being reclaimed and restored to a pristine wildlife area. In September and October, eastern Jackson County's oak forests form a brilliant tapestry of orange, red and gold colors.
North Settlement Road has been designated a Rustic Road. This 12.3 mile paved road travels through the Black River State Forest and follows a portion of the Wazee Trail. The Rustic Road system was created by legislation in 1973 to preserve what remains of Wisconsin's scenic, lightly traveled country roads.