Juneau County Attractions
Bordered on the east by the Wisconsin River, with 57 lakes, including Wisconsin's 2nd and 4th largest inland bodies of water, and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, Juneau County is a natural year 'round vacationland! Hunters, anglers, hikers, cyclists, trail riders, naturalists, birders, boaters, swimmers, water-skiers, canoeists, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers can all enjoy the thousands of acres of parks, the numerous trails, abundant wildlife and hundreds of miles of rivers, streams and lakes.
Carved from sandstone bedrock 18,000 years ago by the North American glacier, Juneau County was covered for 4,000 years by the waters of Glacial Lake Wisconsin. When the lake dried up, the land became covered by giant boulders and later was covered with grasslands, scrub brush and forests of towering pines rich with wildlife.
The power of the Wisconsin River was harnessed by the construction of two hydroelectric dams, one at Petenwell Rock and the other at Castle Rock, forming the state's 2nd and 4th largest inland lakes, both on the eastern border of Juneau County. Constructed in the late 1940's, the Castle Rock and Petenwell Dams were the first "floating type" dams in the U.S.; built on sand and constructed of concrete, with imbedded cutoff walls that penetrate deep into the glacial sands, permanently anchoring them. Together, these power plants generate enough electricity to serve more than 250,000 homes; and, the lakes they created serve the recreational needs of thousands of visitors every year.
From the effigy mounds and petroglyphs of the Juneau County's earliest known inhabitants and one of the Midwest's largest collections of Woodland Indian Cultural artifacts, to the dams and mill sites established by the first wave of Yankee entrepreneurs and the schools, churches, and mansions constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area's rich historic heritage is protected, preserved, and celebrated throughout Juneau County.
Treasures of the past, including ancient arrowheads, 19th century fishing lures, pioneer farming implements, turn-of-the-century furniture, porcelain and enameled household goods, art and clothing are waiting to be discovered in Juneau County's many antique, specialty and collectibles outlets.
More than one-third of Juneau County's total land area is dedicated to wildlife preservation and available for public recreational use; including fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, boating, canoeing, cycling and wildlife observation.
The prairies, forests, and scrub lands of Juneau County host an abundance of wildlife; including a variety of rare and endangered plants and animals. Here nature lovers will find the world's largest population of the delicate endangered Karner blue butterfly, a growing number of shy and elusive gray wolves, solitary Blanding's Turtles, an occasional Massasauga Rattlesnake, one of the largest concentrations of whitetail deer in the Midwest, black bears, raccoons, squirrels, ruffed grouse, pheasants and sandhill cranes.
The woods and waters of Juneau County also host a great variety of bird life, including bald eagles, hawks, grouse, turkeys, songbirds, herons, egrets, shorebirds and thousands of migrating waterfowl. The County's lakes, rivers and streams are alive with brown, brook, and rainbow trout, bass, pan fish, walleye, northern, catfish, and muskies.
Cyclists enjoy biking through Juneau County's scenic beauty and historic sites on the County's peaceful backroads, the fully-paved, handicapped accessible Omaha County Trail, the multi-tunneled, easy graded, crushed limestone Elroy/Sparta Trail, Wisconsin's premier rail-to-trail conversion, and the Wisconsin "400" Trail. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers enjoy riding and gliding through the County's winter wonderland on hundreds of miles of trails prepared, groomed and signed for safe and comfortable passage. Several segments of trail are also open to horseback riders and ATV vehicles as well as hikers and cyclers. Along the many miles of trail, travelers will find rest stops, towns, food, beverages, supplies, campsites, and overnight accommodations.
River adventurers enjoy canoeing through spectacular scenery and historic sites along the Lemonweir, Yellow and Wisconsin River trails. Area outfitters provide maps, equipment, and guides. Along the shores, interpretive signs provide information about the historic significance and folklore of various trail segments. From the Castle Rock Dam south, the Wisconsin River flows easily to the Dells. The Yellow and Lemonweir Rivers are smaller and faster flowing, and can be navigated by skilled canoeists. All of the area's rivers are relatively stable. Camping grounds, rest stops and picnic areas are found along the way.
Juneau County diners enjoy a wide range of menus offered in a variety of settings, including delectable desserts, baked goods and deli specials served in an authentic coffee house atmosphere; great sandwiches, fish fries, lunches and dinners served in friendly area bars and grills, cafes, pubs and family restaurants; elegant continental cuisine and all-American favorites served on lakeside decks, in supper clubs, restaurants and resort dining rooms.
At day's end, Juneau County visitors can choose from a variety of lodging accommodations, including primitive, starlit campsites, full-service campgrounds and, RV parks, rustic resorts, lakeside cottages, country inns, ranches and bunkhouses, full service luxury lodges and economy motels.
Museums and Historic Sites
Juneau County Historical Society
Boorman House Museum
North Union St., Mauston
The Boorman House, a 13-room mansion with windowed cupola, built in 1876, houses the Juneau County Historical Society's museum and its collections of artifacts, records and research materials. This site also features two additional buildings, the Dr. McIntosh medical office building, which houses a collection of medical and dental artifacts, and a recently constructed storage building that houses the Society 's collection of agricultural implements, water wagon, storage and workshop. Open Saturday and Sunday afternoons from memorial Day to Labor Day.
Cty. Hwy. 0, Mauston
This community hall from a far earlier time still houses community activities and a collection of rural church artifacts. Located just off of State Highway 58 on Cty. Hwy 0, south of Mauston.
Cty. Hwy. A, Hustler
The Twin Bluffs contain exceptional petroglyphs (pictorial etchings) carved and painted by the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people over a 1,750 year period from about 100 B.C. to 1650 A.D.
Wisconsin National Guard Memorial
Library and Museum
Camp Williams - Volk Field, Camp Douglas
Housed in a restored 1896-log lodge, the museum features 3,000 sq. ft. of exhibits, video and slide programs. Historic research assistance is provided in the Memorial Library. Open year 'round.
Cty. Hwy H, Cutler
Located north of Camp Douglas on Cty. Hwy. H, just past the intersection with 30th Street, is the Kalpproth Museum of early farm machinery; a fascinating collection of tools and equipment that contributed to the development of agriculture as Wisconsin's principal industry.
Harry A. Mortensen Collection
Memorial Library, New Lisbon
A massive collection of artifacts from the Woodland Culture, representing the life's work of the late Harry A. Mortensen, is displayed at the New Lisbon Memorial Library, one block west of US 12 and 16 on Park Street. A part of the Mortenson Collection is also on display at Raabe's Pharmacy on US 12 and 16 in downtown New Lisbon.
Castle Rock Park
Cty. Hwy. G, Juneau County
Situated in a beautiful wooded area on 16,000 acre Castle Rock Lake, the state's 4th largest inland body of water, this 160 acre park has 300 campsites, half with electrical hookups, all with fire rings and picnic tables, abundant playground equipment, handicap-accessible bathhouse showers, sanitary station and boat-launching facilities. Favorite park activities include swimming, boating, water-skiing, fishing and canoeing.
21st Ave., Juneau County
Located in northern Juneau County on 23,000 acre Lake Petenwell, the state's 2nd largest inland body of water, this scenic 80-acre park has 140 campsites, 56 with electrical availability, showers, playground equipment, sanitary station and boat-launching facilities. Swimming, boating, canoeing, water-skiing, and, great fishing are favorite activities on t he clear blue waters of the Pentenwell.
Necedah National Fish & Wildlife Refuge
State Hwy. 21, Necedah
Administered. by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 43,656-acre Necedah Wildlife Refuge provides a breeding and nesting area for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge is also responsible for preserving natural diversity and an abundance of flora and fauna, and for providing for the needs of threatened and endangered plants and animals. Necedah Refuge boasts the world's largest population of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, as well as bald eagles, timber wolves, Blanding's turtles and Massasauga rattlesnakes. The Refuge is an excellent place to observe spring and fall migrations, as almost 200 different bird species nest or rest here on their way to and from their wintering grounds. The Refuge provides opportunities for people to enjoy and learn about our natural world through wildlife-compatible activities including hiking, cross-country skiing, hunting, fishing, photography, birding and various educational events. Known for its abundant white tail deer population, the Refuge is also one of the largest and most popular bow hunting spots. The Refuge office is open year-round from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm weekdays, while the Refuge grounds are open seven days a week during daylight hours. The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is located 4 miles west of Necedah on State Highway 21.
Central Wisconsin Conservation Area
Located north and south of Eagle Nest Flowage on the western boundary of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, the 60,000 acre Central Wisconsin Conservation Area provides public hunting grounds for waterfowl and upland birds, including wild turkeys, first established near here in 1953. Camping permission may be obtained from the Meadow Valley Ranger Station.
Buckhorn State Park
Cty. Hwy. G, Juneau County
This 2,500 acre state park, located on a Peninsula on the 16,000 acre Castle Rock Flowage, Wisconsin's 4th largest inland lake, offers year-round outdoor activities for the entire family, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, canoeing, picnicking, hunting, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
The park features 24 walk-in campsites on the shoreline. Most have "push garden carts" to haul gear into the site. Four campsites are suitable for pop-up or hard-sided trailers, and three large group campsites. The park also has two large picnic shelters and three accessible hunting blinds, an accessible fishing pier and an accessible boat boarding dock, and an accessible cabin for persons with disabilities. Reservations may be made for all facilities.
Points of Interest
Glacial Lake Wisconsin
About 18,000 years ago, the last great North American glacier crossed the Baraboo Hills at Devil's Lake and blocked an ancient riverbed with a giant earthen dam, creating "Glacial Lake Wisconsin." Glacier lake Wisconsin is a million-acre freshwater lake up to 150 feet deep, covering 1,800 square miles including all of Juneau County, and stretching from Stevens Point in the north and west to present-day Tomah.
About 14,000 years ago, the loose rock, sand, and earthen dam that created the Glacial Lake burst, generating a colossal flood that emptied the lake in about three days. The force of the rushing waters carried boulders weighing more than a ton, created a new course for the Wisconsin River, carved out the Dells, swung east around the Baraboo Hills and forever changed the landscape and the destiny of the land that was to become Wisconsin.
The land that had lain under the water for 4,000 years was level and sandy, studded with rocky outcroppings, towering buttes and bluffs of Cambrian sandstone that had once been islands protruding from the glacial lake. The water is gone, but the lake can still be seen from viewing platforms atop the sandstone spires throughout Juneau County. The top of Mill Bluff provides a matchless view of the great glacial lakebed, now covered with woodlands, scrub brush and prairies, strewn with rocky islands stretching as far as the eye can see.
19th Ave., Necedah
The largest scenic rock formation in northern Juneau County, Petenwell Rock is named for a star-crossed lover, who legend has it, leaped to his death from this spot with the local Indian Chief's daughter, Clinging Vine. It is said that the Indian gods returned Clinging Vine to the rock where she stands today, faithful to the memory of her lover, Peter Wells, surrounded by magnificent bald eagles that nest and soar over their special place. The eagles are particularly evident here in winter when they fish the bountiful open water below the dam.
Buckley's Bridge and Mill
Cty. Hwy. M, Juneau County
Where Buckley's Bridge carries County Highway M over the Lemonweir River, is the site of Buckley's Mill, built in 1850 by the first settler of Clearfield Township. The stone foundations of the mill can still be seen at the river's edge, and is best viewed from a canoe.
Civil War Memorial
Heritage Park, New Lisbon
Heritage Park features a statue erected by the Grand Army of the Republic in 1897 as a memorial to veterans of the Civil War. A rifled Civil War cannon is part of the memorial. The park also holds an impressive horse watering trough that once graced the main intersection of the city, where US Highways 12 & 16, STH 80 and CTH A meet. Long abandoned, the relocated and restored watering trough is a reminder of the slow-paced 19th century summer days when children in pony carts, ladies in carriages, farmers on wagons and boys with their dogs met, chatted and shared the news of the day as they lined-up to water their animals in the center of town.
The Mauston Dam
Built in 1842 to power a sawmill that turned white pine harvested along the river to lumber, the dam at Mauston created Decorah Lake, named for a prominent Ho-Chunk Indian family who lived in this area. Beyond the dam, the Lemonweir River takes a hard left turn, heading for the Wisconsin River, 15 miles to the East.
Gee's Slough Effigy Mounds
Indian Mounds Park, New Lisbon
Indian Mounds Park, owned and maintained by the local Lion's Club, preserves the "Gee's Slough Group of Effigy Mounds." The main attraction of this mound group is a unique panther effigy; a mound constructed of earth and formed in the shape of a long-tailed, running panther. All other known panther effigies have straight legs; this one is running on flexed legs. The mounds are remaining testimony to the tenacity and endurance of the Woodland Indian Culture, ancestors of Wisconsin's Ho Chunk (Winnebago) people. Access to the park is along Indian Mound Road at the south end of New Lisbon, just off US Highways 12 and 16.
At the site where it is believed the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, appeared to a local farm woman 50 years ago, followers have built 14 grottos depicting several saints and events in the lives of the Holy Family. Guides are available for tours of the grottos. Also on site is a home for wayward men, a Mother's Infants Home, a K-12 Christian Catholic School; and, a House of Prayer, currently under construction.
4th Annual Youth Fishing Tournament
Kids ages 17 & under are welcomed to get together and fish. Sponsored by www.lake-link.com Hosted by: Country Corners Bait & Tackle. Two full days of fishing, camping, cookouts & campfires. On Sunday after all the fish are registered, the Awards & Prizes will be handed out along with a Pot Luck/Fish Fry. This is a free event for the kids. Donations welcomed.