Dodge County Attractions
Settled in the early 1800's, Dodge County is a unique blend of natural beauty, a rich agricultural heritage, picturesque communities, historic sites and state-of-the-art industrial technology. Founded in 1836 by Territorial Governor, Henry Dodge, many of the county's communities were settled well before Wisconsin became a state, and most offer historical sites and museums that highlight their long and colorful histories.
The county is best known for its natural attractions, including the Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. Known as the "Little Everglades of the North," Horicon Marsh was formed by a glacial lake and is part of the Ice Age Reserve. Here, visitors will find over 219 species of birds and waterfowl, including magnificent trumpeter swans returning from near extinction and a 100-year absence from the marsh. Other species found in abundance include egrets, herons, cormorants, sandhill cranes, several species of migrating ducks, tundra swans, and Canada Geese by the thousands.
Dodge County's many lakes and streams provide four seasons of outdoor fun, including water skiing, ice fishing, sailing, boating, canoeing, swimming and duck hunting. There are enough trout, walleyes, muskies, northern, bass, catfish, perch, crappies, bluegills and other panfish in the county's waters to keep the anglers coming back for more. Boats, canoes, tackle and bait are available from outfitters throughout the county, and public and private boat ramps provide easy access to great fishing adventure.
The county's many public hunting grounds provide plenty of room and an abundance of deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, pheasants, geese, other fowl and small game to challenge every hunter, from beginner to seasoned veteran.
The county is criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of hiking, bicycling, snowmobiling, ATVing, horseback riding and cross-country ski trails ranging in difficulty from the easy grade of the well-groomed Wild Goose Trail to the marked but ungroomed cross-country trail through the Horicon Marsh. Altogether, Dodge County boasts more than 500 miles of snowmobile trails connecting to corridor trails in Dane, Columbia, Fond du Lac and Washington Counties.
Golfers will find a number of picturesque and challenging courses in Dodge County complete with pro shops, restaurants and 19th hole hospitality. The area also boasts a number of driving ranges, golfing centers and miniature golf courses for family enjoyment. Many area parks also offer tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, picnic sites and shelters, children's playgrounds and restroom facilities.
Casual browsers and serious collectors are sure to enjoy the antiques, collectibles, furniture, linens, vintage clothing, quilts lamps, fine art, art glass, dolls and recent treasures offered by more than 230 dealers in antique and collectibles shops and malls throughout Dodge County, from Watertown to Waupun. Here, too, shoppers will find one of Wisconsin's oldest and largest craft and hobby shops, quilting, sewing and fabric stores, craft outlets and enclosed general merchandise malls.
Outdoors in Waupun, "The City of Sculpture," stand seven heroic bronzes, including James E. Fraser's historic and world-renowned depiction of a weary warrior mounted on his exhausted pony at the "End of the Trail". Throughout the county there are more than 300 historic and architecturally significant structures waiting to be rediscovered; from the nation's first kindergarten building, an 1848 four-story octagonal mansion, 1850's neo-gothic churches, an 1852 Gothic Revival prison, a fanciful 1880 Queen Anne-style park pavilion, and late 19th century Italianate commercial establishments to a 1925 Art Moderne lannon stone gas station complete with turret.
Whether you want to dine in style or eat on the run, there's a Dodge County dining establishment to serve you, including an historic inn, rated one of Wisconsin's ten best by the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel's food critic, family restaurants featuring fresh Dodge County ingredients and home cooking "better than Grandma's", fast food outlets, old-fashioned drive-ins and authentic ethnic restaurants.
Dodge County offers visitors a wide range of lodgings from campsites under the stars to luxurious accommodations in a restored 19th century inn or Victorian Mansion, full-service RV parks, economy motels, resort cottages and country hide-aways.
Parks and Nature Centers
World famous for its annual geese migrations, the marsh also provides annual habitat for over 219 species of birds and waterfowl, including giant Canada geese, a separate subspecies that nest in Wisconsin, egrets, cormorants, sandhill cranes, eagles, osprey, herons, hawks, grossbeaks, rails, and yellow-headed blackbirds. Here, too, fortunate viewers may spot the most recent inhabitants -- magnificent trumpeter swans, returning from near extinction and a 100-year absence from the marsh.
Seasonal migrations bring more -- peregrine falcons, ducks, tundra swans, warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, plovers and sandpipers. In winter, marsh visitors may spot snowy owls, short-eared owls, bald eagles, snow buntings and a variety of finches as well as overwintering Canada geese, red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, and horned larks.
An extinct glacial lake, the Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. Known as the "Little Everglades of the North", the marsh is a unit of the Ice Age Reserve and one of only fifteen U.S. sites designated as "Wetland of International Importance". Stretching 13 ½ miles from Horicon north to East Waupun, and five miles wide, the 32,000-acre marsh consists mostly of open water and cattail marsh. The southern one-third, about 11,000 acres, is owned and managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This section is designated the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area. The northern two-thirds, an additional 21,000 acres, is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service and is known as the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.
The marsh can be viewed from the Horicon Marsh Parkway that encircles the entire wetland area. To view its inhabitants at their natural, close-up best, you can hike, snowshoe, cycle or cross-country ski, canoe or boat the marsh on a self-guided tour or take a guided interpretive cruise.
Dodge County Wildlife Areas
Horicon Ledge Park
County Hwy. TW between Horicon and Mayville
Ledge Park runs along the Niagara Escarpment, a natural rock ledge which divides the park into upper and lower areas and provides a breathtaking overlook of the Horicon Marsh and the surrounding countryside. The upper portion is heavily wooded and offers expansive picnicking areas, group shelter, hiking trails, campsites, a shower/restroom building, dump station and the Fort Ledge Playground. The lower portion also offers a group shelter, picnic areas, hiking trails and a playground. A total of 46 campsites are operated at the park.
Beaver Dam Lake
Located on the west central shore of 6500-acre Beaver Dam Lake, Derge park is ideally suited for group picnics, family reunions and other events for larger groups, and, an ideal location for hunters and anglers looking for easy access to Beaver Dam Lake. Park features include a boat ramp, fishing, enclosed group shelter, playground, picnic areas, electric campsites, firewood, showers and dump station. The park can be reached by following Business Hwy. 151 or Hwy. 73 to County Hwy. G, then to Hwy. CP to the lake. The park is open year round for day use activities and from May 1 through November 1 for camping.
Cty. Hwy. TT, East of Columbus
Astico Park is located on a peninsula along the historic Danville Millpond on a bend of the Crawfish River in southwestern Dodge County. The park features river's edge and upland campsites, a Castle-themed Playground, a restroom/shower facility, a dump station, picnic areas and shelters, shoreline and wooded hiking trails, large open play fields to accommodate group activities and an expansive river shoreline which provides good canoeing and fishing opportunities in a scenic setting. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the park. The historic bridges connect the main park west of the river to parkland and trails on the east side of the river. A total of 69 campsites are operated at the park.
Wild Goose State Trail
Juneau - Fond du Lac
The Wild Goose State Trail (WGST), Wisconsin’s first “cooperative” State trail, is a 34 mile multi-use recreation trail located in Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties on an abandoned Chicago and Northwestern railroad corridor. In Dodge County, the trail covers 20 miles from Hwy 60 to Hwy 49. The trail corridor is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, while Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties develop, maintain and operate the trail in their respective counties. The trail is available for non-motorized trail uses such as biking, hiking, jogging, cross country skiing, etc. year round. Snowmobiling and ATV use are permitted in winter when trail conditions are deemed acceptable. A separate 14 mile natural surface trail tread parallels the limestone trail for horseback riding.
Harnischfeger Park, the largest and newest Dodge County Park at 132 acres, is located along the Rock River in the Town of Lebanon. This former private park boasts a wide variety of facilities to provide park visitors with a multitude of recreational opportunities in a scenic setting. The clubhouse and two open pavilions are popular places to hold family reunions, company picnics, graduation parties and weddings. Camping is available with nine individual sites and a group site. Active and passive recreation abound with a few miles of hiking including an 800’ boardwalk, horseback riding and cross-country skiing trails, fishing areas, mini-golf course, disc golf course, volleyball courts, basketball court, horseshoe pits, baseball field, playgrounds and a canoe launch with canoe, kayak and pedal boats rentals available. The park is open year round with limited access to some facilities in winter depending on conditions. The park hosts the annual WinterFest in February and FallFest in October to raise funds for park improvements.
Nitschke Mounds Park
Nitschke Mounds Park is a 54 acre property with woods, fields and a pond with flowing springs located between the cities of Beaver Dam and Horicon adjacent to the Wild Goose State Trail on Hwy E. The property is home to about 46 effigy mounds believed to have been constructed between 800 AD - 1100 AD by the Late Woodland Effigy Mound Culture. The park hosts an annual professional archeological excavation that encourages public involvement along side archeologists as they search for more clues to the mound builders culture. The park consists of a network of hiking trails with interpretive signage and a shelter for educational programming.
Wildlife, varied scenery, and a level surface provide easy and enjoyable biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. ATV's are also permitted on designated sections in Dodge County at designated times, and horseback riding is permitted on a separate equestrian trail section available at the southern trailhead at State Hwy. 60, at the Northern Trailhead on Rolling Meadows Drive in Fond du Lac, and numerous points in between. Picnic areas and campgrounds are also available in parks and nature centers along and near the trail. Shuttle transportation services are also available at the trailheads and the Horicon Trail Junction.
Museums and Historic Sites
Hollenstein Wagon & Carriage Factory
Museum and Home
German Street, Mayville
Visitors to the 1878 Hollenstein Wagon and Carriage Factory will find six original wagons and a carriage manufactured here, along with historical items and photographs of Mayville's past. Also featured is a home constructed in 1876 and furnished in period style with a millinery display, clothing and toy collections; a fire house with artifacts of Mayville's Fire Department; memorabilia from Mayville's churches; and depictions of an early barber shop and the Brunke Cigar Factory.
Mayville Limestone School Museum
North Main & Buchanan Streets, Mayville
Housed in a magnificent 1857-1877 Greek Revival building listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Mayville Limestone School Museum presents glimpses of the past displayed in ten rooms and galleries, including a furnished and restored 19th Century classroom, the Edgar G. Mueller Photo Gallery, Hugo Fenske Wild Game Room, Elsmer Pieper's Boy Scout Memorabilia, the Charles Henderson Collection of Indian Relics, the Dick Ruedebusch Jazz Exhibit, the Cap Blohm Art Gallery, Ted Bachhuber's African Collection, and the "When Iron Was King" History Room. Open May-October on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, or by appointment. Call Don Bauer, 920-387-2593, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dodge County Historical Society Museum
105 Park Ave., Beaver Dam
The Dodge County Historical Society Museum is located in a Richardson Romanesque building, towered and turreted, built of sandstone and limestone in 1890 to hold the Williams Free Library. The exhibits housed within are as impressive as the museum's exterior, including the first new car delivered to Beaver Dam in 1902, Indian artifacts, railroad memorabilia, a fine doll collection, and local history exhibits, railroad memorabilia, a fine doll collection, and local history exhibits. Open year-round from 1 pm - 4 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.
Satterlee Clark House
322 Winter St., Horicon
Learn about Horicon's history through the exhibits housed in the Intalianate Satterlee Clark House, built in 1863, featuring restored rooms and displays.
John Hustis House
134 N. Ridge St., Hustisford
Built in 1851 for the founder of the village of Hustisford, this Greek Revival home museum displays artifacts from the Hustis family and exhibits focusing on the early development of the community.
Juneau Homestead and John Scheifer Home
Main St., Theresa
This museum, in the home he built in Theresa, contains furnishings and displays of Solomon Juneau, the founder of the City of Milwaukee.
Seippel Homestead & Center for the Arts
1605 N. Spring St., Beaver Dam
Operated by the Beaver Dam Arts Association, the Center at the Seippel Homestead presents a variety of collections throughout the year, including a fiber arts exhibit, wildlife exhibit and Christmas gift gallery.
Points of Interest
Wisconsin's First Iron Smelter
Main Street, Mayville
Visit the ironworks, the site of the iron smelter that first provided the raw material for Mayville's still-flourishing metalcrafting industry.
Swan City Park Pavilion
South University Ave., Beaver Dam
Visitors to historic Swan City Park are delighted by the ornate and picturesque Queen Anne pavilion that serves as its centerpiece. This quaint Spring House features the mineral water spring around which Dr. George E. Swan founded a resort in 1880. The spring's "Vita Water" was sold for its healing properties and attracted people from the area for many years. Although the resort buildings were removed in the 1940's, the Spring House still stands and attracts admiring viewers from around the world.
Only a handful of U.S. cities - all large metropolitan areas - have more pieces of outdoor sculpture than Waupun, "The City of Sculpture". There are seven bronze statues in Waupun, one on private property just north of the city, all sculpted or commissioned by early Waupun industrialist Clarence Shaler, including: James E. Fraser's historic and world-renowned depiction of a weary "Recording Angel" at the grave of Shaler's wife, Blanche Bancroft Shaler, in Forest Mound Cemetery; Shaler's three-figure tribute to his mother, "The Pioneers", located in Wilcox Park at 426 S. Watertown Street; and "Dawn of Day", located at 201 E. Main Street.
N. University Ave., Beaver Dam
Founded in 1855, Wayland Academy is one of the highest-ranking college prep schools in the nation. College Hall, a brick-constructed Greek Revival building once a dormitory, is an outstanding example of mid-nineteenth century design.
Enjoy farm fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, jams, jellies, preserves, syrups, and more. In season, gardeners will find a variety of bedding plants, annuals and perennials. Non-gardeners will find fresh cut flowers and vegetables. Amidst the food, fun and flowers, market-goers may also find unusual art and craft items, music and entertaining street performers. Dodge County's Farmers Markets are:
Juneau: Dodge County Courthouse Lawn, Fridays, June through September
(later, weather permitting)
Mayville: Historic Main Street, Wednesdays and Fridays, 7:00 a.m. - noon, June through
Horicon Marsh Bird Festival
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area and National Wildlife Refuge
During the second weekend in May, at the peak of the spring bird migration, when well over 100 different kinds of birds can be sighted on a single day, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, area bird clubs, Chambers of Commerce and the Fond du Lac Convention and Visitors Bureau host the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival. This marsh-wide event offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, field trips, marsh tours, bird-banding demonstrations and other events. Special activities are offered for families and children. Entertainment, food and other special events offered through local chambers of commerce round out the weekend activities.
Must-Skis Waterski Shows
Tahoe Park, Beaver Dam
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Beaver Dam's Must-Skis Waterski Team performs, thrills and entertains at Tahoe Park. Must Sunday shows begin at 6:00 P.M. Click here for complete schedule with show times.
Fox Lake Historical Days
In July, Fox Lake celebrates its heritage with Civil War battle re-enactments, Confederate and Union encampments, a quilt show, fine arts show and sale, old-time music, dance, tour of homes, children's fish-a-ree, Ecumenical Sunday Service in the park and Sunday afternoon pie and ice cream social and pontoon boat rides. Call for dates and schedule of events.
Dodge County Antique Power Show
Cty. Hwy. B & I, Burnett Corners
In August, ancient, mighty and monstrous machines chug to life at the annual Dodge County Antique Power Show. Witness the gigantic and powerful engines of old - steam engines, antique tractors and gas engines - ploughing, threshing, powering sawmills and battling for best in an antique tractor pull; shop the flea market and craft show, peruse the farm toy collection, enjoy the pedal pull, relish the food, sweet corn and other refreshments.