Lafayette County Attractions
Enjoy the unspoiled natural beauty of Lafayette County while also experiencing Wisconsin's rich and colorful frontier history. Sleep and dine in restored 19th Century mansions, and visit frontier and mining settlements, historic battlegrounds, and Wisconsin's First State Capitol.
Once lead mining country, Lafayette County was settled in the 1820's by miners who clawed ore from the hills. Some mining camps and several mines have been restored and are open to the public, including two at the Swindler's Ridge Museum in Benton and one in the City of Shullsburg. Other area museums and historical sites offer artifacts, restored buildings, tours and displays that bring the frontier past to life. Lafayette County also offers its visitors lakes, trails, scenic overlooks of unexcelled beauty in the surrounding farmland, forests, rivers and hills. Wildlife enthusiasts will find abundant varieties ranging from bald eagles and coyotes to bluebirds and wild turkeys along area hiking, biking and ATV trails. Recreational opportunities also abound in peaceful, historic Lafayette County, the original home of Wisconsin's mining badgers.
Lafayette County offers visitors a touch of the past, lots of natural beauty and the best of present day hospitality. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Lafayette County is 20 minutes from Dubuque, 20 minutes from Galena, and 2 ½ hours from Chicago.
Museums & Historical Sites
First Capital of Wisconsin State Park
County Hwy. G, Belmont
Tour two of Wisconsin's First State Capital buildings, restored to recall the days when the State Legislature met here for 46 days in 1836. The Council House, where frontier lawmakers wrangled over passage of 42 bills, has been refurbished in the style of the period. A museum in the Supreme Court Building depicts life in the 1830's on the Wisconsin frontier.
Swindler's Ridge Museum
25 West Main Street, Benton
Named after a nearby ridge where miners stole lead from each other's diggings, Swindler's Ridge Museum features three sites in the original mining complex, including two mines restored as working models. Open every weekend Memorial Day through Labor Day, 12noon - 4pm.
Village School House Museum
Catherine Street, Benton
The 1851 Benton School House Museum allows visitors to visit the past through class photos, vintage books, desks, alumni memorabilia and a collection local newspapers. Call to arrange visits.
Darlington's Main Street
Main Street, Darlington
Darlington's Main Street is a registered National Historic District offering residents and visitors the opportunity to visit, dine and shop in restored, historic buildings and businesses.
Lafayette County Courthouse
Main Street Boulevard, Darlington
Standing at the top of Darlington's Main Street Boulevard, the Lafayette County Courthouse is an architectural treasure. The monumental sandstone structure built in 1905 features marble walls, tile floors, and a Tiffany glass rotunda. The Courthouse is richly decorated with murals and statuary throughout and is the only courthouse in the nation built with private funds from a single donor. Tours are held Monday through Friday, 8am - 4:30pm.
Lafayette County Historical Society Museum
525 Main Street, Darlington
A few blocks from the courthouse is the Lafayette County Historical Society Museum where residents and visitors will find model trains, railroad history, pearling displays, and unusual artifacts of local history. Historic prints, books and photos are available for purchase. Open Monday through Friday 1:30pm-5pm and Saturdays 9am-12noon.
St. Augustine Church
County Highway W, New Diggings
608-744-3438 or 608-854-2396
A definite must to see is St. Augustine, a magnificent Italiante church built by pioneer missionary Fr. Mazzuchelli. It is Wisconsin's oldest wooden church and the last remaining church constructed under Fr. Mazzuchelli's direction. Open every Sunday, May 31 through September 31, 1pm-4pm, or by appointment.
Badger Mine and Museum
279 W. Esptey, Shullsburg
Relive the rich history of a bygone era -- Wisconsin's mining period. Descend 51 steps with your guide into a hand-dug 1827 mine. Other lead mines are open to the public, but none are as extensive. The museum features recreations of the original mining camps including a general store, apothecary, tobacco shop, blacksmith shop, and a carpentry shop. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 10am-4pm.
National Water Street Historic District
Water Street, Shullsburg
Forty-four buildings in Shullsburg are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The best way to see them and other older homes, churches and interesting sites is to pick up a free brochure at the tourist information office and take the self guided tour.
Blackhawk Memorial Park
County Highway 78, Woodford
Parks Dept. 608-776-4970
Visit the site of the June 16, 1832 battle where frontier militia led by Colonel Henry Dodge fought and subdued a Kickapoo war-party from Black Hawk's "British Band." This action came about in response to the murder of several frontiersmen at Spafford's farm and near Fort Hamilton (Wiota, WI). After this battle, Black Hawk continued his retreat north and west across Wisconsin, being pursued by General Henry Atkinson, Colonel Zachary Taylor, Dodge, and for a time, private Abraham Lincoln.
Parks & Nature Centers
Belmont Mound State Park
Parks Dept. 608-776-4970
Cheese Country Recreation Trail
Yellowstone Lake State Park
County Hwy. F, Blanchardville
Yellowstone Lake State Park offers 2,600 acres of year round family outdoor activity: picnicking, hiking, fishing, hunting in the spring, summer and fall and an array of water sports on one of Wisconsin's most beautiful lakes, and ice fishing, skating and snowmobiling in winter.
Special Things to Do
Bloody Lake Black Powder Shoot and Rendezvous
Blackhawk Memorial Park, Woodford
Live history at it's best! Black powder shoot and Indian encampment participants re-create the early 1800s in period costumes with authentic clothing, weapons, food, and shelter. Frontier games include tomahawk and knife throwing, shooting, and fire-starting competitions. Held the first full weekend in May.
Points of Interest
Visit this mysterious hill where cars drift backward up the hill, or so it seems. Stop by any shop in Shullsburg and ask for directions.
Primitive Methodist Church
County Hwy. H, Jenkynsville
A small stone church built in 1861 and a collection of five stone buildings are all that remain of Jenkynsville. Located four miles north of Benton, this abandoned mining village was first settled in 1837. Homecoming services are held on the last Sunday in June. Call to schedule a visit.