Waupaca County, Wisconsin

Waupaca County Attractions

Carved by glaciers in the last great ice age, Waupaca County is a land of rolling hills, rushing rivers, rocky ravines, kettle lakes, sandy plains and prairies, rugged woodlands, farming towns and thriving villages. Located in the East-Central part of the state, the Waupaca area's earliest known inhabitants were woodland Indians, builders of effigy mounds; large raised earthen structures in human and animal forms including fish and turtles sacred in their culture.

While most of the more than seventy mounds mapped in the late 1800's were overtaken by forest or ploughed-over by early settlers, one of these ancient structures, shaped like a catfish, can still be seen in the yard of a rural home along County Highway QQ east of Taylor Lake.

After centuries of occupation by native Potowatomi, Menominee and Chippewa people, the Waupaca area's Indian lands were ceded to the United States in the late 1830's and permanently settled by the first non-native, mostly Yankee families, in 1849. When the newcomers arrived, Chippewa and Menominee campsites still dotted the deeply forested countryside.

Attracted by abundant stands of virgin timber, waterways for mill power and river transportation, the early settlers prospered on the lumber trade. Drawn by the opportunity for employment in the rapidly growing forest industry and low-cost cut-over land for farming, immigrants from across the sea arrived in increasing numbers. Sawmills and flour mills sprang up along the waterways, banks, stage houses, taverns, blacksmith shops, followed to serve the growing population. The timber was cut and the land was cleared, planted and harvested. In 1852 a post office was established at the area's principal settlement, officially named "Waupaca". In 1875, the village of Waupaca became a city. 

In the late 19th century, as the timber harvest dwindled and single-crop farming exhausted the soil's wheat-growing potential, the area's farmers turned to dairying. The establishment of cheese factories, with their demand for a steady supply of milk and the University of Wisconsin's dairy extension services revolutionized the area's agricultural industry and transformed Waupaca County into one of the nation's leading dairy producers.

Visitors to Waupaca County will find the area's history well-preserved. Local museums feature displays of artifacts, furnishings, tools, farming implements and household items reflecting the many-faceted lives of the people who have called this their home, including the ancient Woodland Indian community, early European explorers, Yankee settlers, and European pioneers. The area's history is also reflected in well-preserved and restored historic architectural treasures; log structures and 19th Century residences and commercial buildings that continue to house and serve the county's residents.

For more than a century, Waupaca County's lakes, rivers and streams, woods and water falls, abundant wildlife, small town friendliness and gracious hospitality have made it a favorite vacation destination for generations of families. Here, fishing enthusiasts will find crystal clear trout streams, rushing rivers, a chain of lakes full of bass, walleye, northern, muskies and pan fish; and, full service bait, tackle, guide, and boat rental outlets that furnish everything needed for a successful catch including up-to-the-minute weather and fishing condition reports. In winter, hard-water fishing yields great catches through the ice.

With thousands of acres of public hunting grounds, lakes and waterways full of large and small game, game birds and waterfowl, Waupaca County is one of Wisconsin's favorite hunting grounds. Area outfitters provide everything needed for a successful outing, including boats, trail maps, and transportation.

Water sport enthusiasts enjoy swimming at Waupaca County beaches, boating, water skiing and excursion boating on the chain of lakes, and canoeing or tubing on the Crystal, Little Wolf and Waupaca Rivers.

Nature lovers enjoy discovering unique geologic formations and up-close contact with rare and endangered plant and animal communities found along the River Ridge, Ice Age and Hartmann Creek State Park Trails. The county's parks, rustic roads, and forest paths are criss-crossed with hundreds of miles of trails for biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, ATVing, snowmobiling and horseback riding.

Golfers will find six different courses to choose from in Waupaca County and area parks provide tennis, volleyball and outdoor basketball courts. The City of Waupaca boasts anew skate park to test the skills of in-line skaters, skateboarders and BMX bikers. The county also offers a variety of go-kart tracks for driving thrills, and miniature golf courses for putting skills.
Area antique, craft, curio and collectible shops offer treasure hunters a wide variety of shopping discoveries; unique artifacts, household goods and furnishings including prehistoric and pioneer weapons and tools, Victorian furniture, lamps, silver and chinaware, Civil War and turn-of-the century portraits and photographs, musical instruments, and contemporary gifts and collectibles.

Waupaca County offers a wide range of dining opportunities; nightclubs, family restaurants, fast food franchises, taverns, pubs, with menus ranging from elegant full-course candlelight dinners and home-style family fare to catered al fresco picnics and stop-n-go carry-out specials.

At day's end, Waupaca County visitors also have a broad range of lodging accommodations to choose from, including camp sites under the stars, full service RV resorts, lakeside housekeeping cottages with boats, motors, piers, sand beaches and more; economy and full-service hotels and motels.

Located in east central Wisconsin along U.S. Highway 10 and Wis. Highways 22, 49 and 54, Waupaca is 90 miles from Madison, 125 miles from Milwaukee, 210 miles from Chicago and 240 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul. 

Museums and Historic Sites 

Pioneer Park
This park features restored buildings that bring Clintonville's past to life, including History House, a two-story frame building constructed in 1861; the Doty-Bassinet House, a unique pioneer era building with walls constructed of cordwood pieces piled atop each other, held together with cement mortar; and the Ralph Denn Stavemaker Cabin, Home and Factory under one roof. Visitors to Pioneer Park will find more than local history on display here; the park's Stone Collection includes a section of the Great Wall of China -believed to be the only part of that monumental structure ever removed from China -along with stones gathered from roads and quarries near Jerusalem in the Holy Land, Yellowstone National Park, the Dakota Badlands and Arizona's Petrified Forest. Pioneer Park is open to the public 1:00- 4:00 pm Sundays and Holidays throughout the Summer.

Four-Wheel Drive Museum
W.A. Olen Park, Clintonville 
715-823-2141 (FWD Corp.)
Located on the site where the four-wheel drive vehicle was invented and the nation's first four-wheel drive cars and trucks were manufactured, this museum's exhibits are open to the public on Summer weekends. Group tours may be arranged by calling FWD Corp. 715-823-2141

Iola Mills Museum
Lake Iola, Downtown Iola
Picnic down at the old millpond and dam that furnished the power for this 19th Century milling complex with its' picturesque boomtown facade; view the fieldstone-built power plant; savor the sound of the water rushing through the spillways alongside the dam and stop for ice cream in the original office of this Historic Register Complex.

Hutchinson Museum
South Park, Main Street, Waupaca
The Hutchinson House was one of the first wood frame homes built in Waupaca. Moved from its original location to the park, it is furnished with Victorian-era antiques that bring the elegance of tasteful living that its original, late 19th Century, occupants enjoyed. Docents provide interpretive tours of this fascinating home. Open from 1:00 to 5:00 pm Fri., Sat., Sun. and Holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Marden Center Museum
Wisconsin Veterans Home, Hwy.QQ, King
The World Wars Museum located in the Marden Center of the Wisconsin Veterans Heritage Historical Village.

Montgomery St.
New London
Visit five historic buildings relocated here, fully restored and furnished with original period pieces that bring their past to life; including The Chicago & Northwestern Depot built in 1923; a Log Cabin home built in the late 1850's; Octagon House, an elegant eight-sided building built in 1867; Triangle School, built in 1857 and closed after graduating it's last class in 1948; Village Chapel, originally a school, converted and furnished for non-denominational worship, personal meditation and weddings; along with two cabooses and a diesel locomotive that once served the U.S. Army and the area's timber industry. Open Sundays, June through August and by appointment for group tours.

Old Symco
State Hwy. 22, North of Manawa
This historic village, located two miles north of Manawa nestled in a small river valley in the heart of Union Township, was settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800's. Here, visitors will find St. Mark Lutheran Church and School founded by those early German settlers; the only known complete collection of the great Fairbanks-Morse one-through-six cylinder engines,; and restored buildings reflecting the mid-19th through early 20th century life of "Unionville" as this settlement was originally known. On weekends, the Union Threshermen reconstruct the building of Unionville, and conduct contests, exhibits and demonstrations of antique horse-, steam-, and gas-powered farm machinery at work making shingles, milling lumber, baling straw and hay, threshing grain, crushing rock, grinding feed, and plowing fields. 

Waupaca County, Wisconsin

Parks & Nature Centers

Decker Memorial Park
11.5 acre aquatic park with boat landing located 4 miles East of Weyauwega on CTH F. The site provides access to the Wolf and Waupaca Rivers, parking area, restroom facilities, seawall & picnic area and a boardwalk into a wildlife area/wetland habitat.

Royalton Park
2 acre park immediately west of the Little Wolf River bridge on the south side of STH 54 in the Town of Royalton. The site features a flower garden, picnic tables and grills, a small shelter and playground equipment.

Waupaca County Fairgrounds
Located in the City of Weyauwega. Facilities include a race track, several livestock and exposition buildings, a grandstand area, and outdoor arena. Host to the Waupaca County Fair held in August. Grounds and buildings are available for special events, reunions, shows and winter storage.

Waupaca County Forest
Located on Desert Road on the Town of Fremont, the site is undeveloped and contains 3 miles of hiking, horseback riding, skiing and snowmobile trails.

Nelson Park
1/2 acre park located on CTH K, 3 miles South of the City of Waupaca. The Crystal River winds its way through the wooded park. The site hosts restroom facilities, picnic tables and grills, a foot-bridge to a small island and riverside benches. A popular park for fishing and picnics. 

Indian Crossing Park 
1/4 acre historical attraction of Oakwood Park is located Northeast of the CTH Q bridge. Facilities include picnic tables, benches and grills. A pier is available to encourage shoreline fishing and usage by boaters. A marker describes the site's historical significance. 

Oakwood Park
26.6 acre park located on CTH Q in the Chain O' Lakes area Southwest of Waupaca. Facilities include picnic tables and grills, playground equipment, restroom facilities, drinking water, boat launch and nature trails. A railroad tie walkway is a feature of the nature trail, which provides access to a small wilderness pond. A roadside walkway along CTH Q links Oakwood Park with Indian Crossing Park. 

Little Wolf Park
2 acre park with boat landing, located 1/2 mile Northeast of Manawa on CTH N on the Southern shore of the Manawa Millpond. Facilities include an open shelter, picnic tables, grills, restrooms and parking area. 

Lembke-Long Lake
Located in the Town of Dupont off CTH S on Long Lake Road. The site provides direct access to Lembke Lake and indirect access (by channel) to Long Lake. A picnic table and bench are provided. 

Keller Park
19 acre park located on CTH G between Marion and Big Falls. The site is heavily wooded with a 21 acre lake impoundment of the Pigeon River which provides fishing and small boat usage. A dam and spillway are located in the park. Facilities include an open shelter, bath house, restrooms, picnic tables and grills, playground equipment, volleyball and basketball courts, and hiking trails.   

Northland Park
1 acre park located 8 miles North or Iola on STH 49. This site consists of a picnic area furnished with picnic tables, benches and grills, developed around Flume Creek and Northland Dam (trout waters).  

Big Falls Pond Access
Located in the Village of Big Falls on CTH C. This ramp provides access onto the North Branch of the Little Wolf River and Big Falls Pond. Shorelines feature attractive wooded areas and granite outcroppings. A picnic area is available. 

Points of Interest

Bandstand and Remington Statue
The Triangle, Manawa
In the Triangle, the center of activity, adjacent to the Manawa Municipal Building, stand two must-see 19th Century classics; the Victorian-era Bandstand and Frederick Remington's heroic sculpture "The Bronc Buster".

Cactus Rock
Bean City Rd., New London 920-982-5822
Also known as "Poppy's Rock" this unusual glacial formation supports a number of plant species rarely found in the midwest, including the prickly pear cactus.

Special Things to Do

Horse and Buggy Days
Visit one of the nation's premier cheese factories, take a carriage ride through historic neighborhoods, observe a Civil War re- enactment, compete in a costume and beard contest during Weyauwega's annual. For more information call 920-867-2500.

Little Falls Park
Big Falls
Cycle the scenic back roads, take a quiet walk in the woods or visit the whitetail deer, stately elk and Canada Geese.

Pigeon River Street Days
Third weekend in May.  Carnival runs Thursday night through Sunday evening.  Friday evening car show.  Saturday crafters and food vendors and a rubber duck race. 715-823-4606.

Webfooters' Water Ski Shows
Visit and sample the products of the area's many fine cheese factories, compete in a Walleye Tournament, go trail riding, take in one of the Webfooters' award-winning water ski shows. For more information caIl 920-446-3838.

Vintage Military Equipment and Gun Show
In the Iola/Scandinavia area, take in one of the nation's largest, premier "Old Car Shows", visit the great Vintage Military Equipment and Gun Show, or feast on authentic Norwegian cuisine at the annual Winter Carnival. For more information call 715-445-4000.

Chain Skiers Water Ski Show
In Waupaca, thrill to the Chain Skiers weekly water ski show, worship on board the "Chapel on the Lakes," canoe the Crystal River, or cruise the Chain on an authentic stern-wheeler. For more information call 715-258- 7343.

Mosquito Hill Nature Center
Wolf River Theatrical Troupe
New London
Visit the Butterfly House at Mosquito Hill Nature Center, enjoy one of the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe's productions, or march down the streets of the city renamed "New Dublin" for Wisconsin's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade. For more information call 920-982-5822.

Strawberry Fest
Held annually on the third Saturday in June, STRAWBERRY FEST is a family festival that features a large downtown art/craft fair, strawberry shortcake, a children's costume contest, live entertainment and much more. What a great way to celebrate the beginning of summer in the Waupaca area! --Strawberry Fest Run, 5K (3.1 Mile) run and 1 mile walk/run. For registration form, contact the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hometown Days
HOMETOWN DAYS is the annual Waupaca July 4th celebration. Held on the 4th, it features a 10:00 a.m. parade on Main Street, a Knights of Columbus chicken barbecue lunch and a Kiwanis food stand at South Park, a 6:30 p.m. Chain Skiers Show at the Veterans Home, and a 9:30 p.m. fireworks display over Shadow Lake.

FALL-O-RAMA is a family festival held annually on the third Saturday in September. The event includes food, entertainment, arts and crafts, a chance to cruise the Chain of Lakes, horse-drawn wagon rides, pumpkin carving and other slices of Midwest Americana.