Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway

A non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers.

Chapter 4: Affected Environment

The boundaries of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway follow the path of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. Running southwest from the bay of Green Bay to the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, the study area crosses 280 miles and the entire width of the State of Wisconsin. The area includes portions of 15 counties in the state and comprises of 1,115 square miles of land.


Wisconsin is the 18th most populated state in the Union, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, with 5,363,675 residents. Since the 1990 U.S. Census, the state has continued to grow, increasing from 4,891,796, a 9.6% growth in 10 years. In 2000, the state contained 2,321,144 housing units within a total area of 65,498 square miles. This calculates to a population density of 98.8 persons per square mile and a housing density of 42.7 units per square mile. Males constitute 2,649,041 of the population and females, 2,714,634.

The 15 counties involved in the study area contain 1,382,293 residents, over a quarter of the population of the state. This, however, is not evenly distributed throughout the corridor. An examination of communities within the study area boundaries shows a larger number of people live along the Fox River. Likewise, the 2000 Census reveals that the population growth rate is higher in this region. From 1990 to 2000, the counties along the Fox River grew by 15%, while counties along the Lower Wisconsin grew by 11%. Of these, Marquette and Waushara counties experienced the highest population growth rate. Grant and Richland counties experienced the lowest growth rate within the Parkway. (See Table 4.1)

Socioeconomic Conditions

According to the 2006 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, Wisconsin ranks 19th among the wealthiest states in the nation. In 2000, the median household income was $43,791. Within counties along the Parkway, household income was similar, with an average of $42,267. Of these, Calumet had the highest median income at $52,569, while Richland maintained the lowest figures at $33,998.

In 2000, the state’s leading occupation was professional/management work, followed by sales and office, production and transportation, service, construction and maintenance, and farming, fishing, and forestry. The leading industrial categories included: manufacturing (22.2%), education, health, and social services (20%), retail trade (11.6%), arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (7.3%). Counties within the study area account for 30% of the state’s entire non-farm employment. A majority of this employment is located along the industrial belt of the Lower Fox River, from Green Bay to Oshkosh. Counties along the Wisconsin and, in particular, the Upper Fox remain largely rural and contain the lowest numbers of non-farm employment, such as Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake, and Richland. One exception to this is Dane County, with a non-farm employment rate of 251,031. The county contains the City of Madison, the state capital, which is not included within the boundaries of the Parkway.

Home values fluctuate throughout the Parkway, averaging from $75,100 in Crawford County to $146,900 in Dane County. Property tax rates remain fairly uniform throughout. In 2004, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimated an effective tax rate of $20.01, or 2.001%, per $1,000 of taxable property.

Land Use

The Parkway contains varied land uses, from urban centers, rural communities, to open green spaces. The Lower Fox and portions of the Upper Fox, along Lake Winnebago, are significantly more developed than the remainder of the corridor. This area is characterized by a higher degree of industrial and commercial land uses. Park/recreational use are intermingled, and a majority of the outlying areas remain agricultural. Portions of the Upper Fox, from Oshkosh to Portage, contain a higher portion of agricultural and forestry land. Only 3% of this area is categorized as urban. Similar land uses continue along the Lower Wisconsin River Basin. This region, consisting of the final 92 miles of the Parkway, is protected from large-scale development as a state riverway (Lower Wisconsin State Riverway). Agriculture, forestry, and recreation constitute its primary land uses.

The Parkway contains portions of 5 different Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), within several counties within the Parkway. These are: Green Bay (Brown County), Appleton (Outagamie and Calumet counties), Oshkosh-Neenah (Winnebago County), Fond du Lac, (Fond du Lac County), and Madison (Columbia, Dane, and Iowa counties). Of these, Madison is the only city that is not within the Parkway boundaries. Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh-Neenah, and Fond du Lac are connected by U.S. Highway 41.


The Parkway contains a substantial collection of transportation routes and a diverse array of modes. As noted in Chapter 2, the study area’s original transportation system was its natural network of rivers and lakes. Many of Wisconsin’s first cities grew up along the first highway through the state, the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, which connected 2 major water routes through the continent, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Later, advances in rail and road travel took over, linking to these existing communities along the Parkway. Urban centers continued to develop along these routes.

Industrial/Commercial Water, Rail, and Air Transportation

Today, the study area includes two commercial ports at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. Seventeen locks are located on the Lower Fox River, from Menasha to Green Bay, and one lock on the Upper Fox at Eureka. Several rail lines follow the rivers and pass through the boundaries. Primary lines include, Canadian National, which runs from Green Bay to Fond du Lac, and the Wisconsin Southern Railroad Company, running southwest from Oshkosh to Markesan, and along the Lower Wisconsin, from Sauk City to Prairie du Chien. Several depot stations are located along these routes. An Amtrak station is located at Portage. Restoration of a passenger rail, from Milwaukee to Green Bay—following the corridor from Fond du Lac to Green Bay—, is outlined long-term as part of the Midwest Rail Initiative. Twelve public airports are located throughout the Parkway. Primary commercial airports include the Austin Straubel International Airport at Green Bay and the Outagamie County Regional Airport at Appleton.

Road/Highway Transportation

Automobile travel is the most utilized form of travel throughout the Parkway. The highway system within the study area consists of interstate highways, U.S. and state highways, and local roads. Interstate highways cross through the area connecting major urban centers, such as Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago: 90, 94, and 39 near Portage, and 43 through Green Bay. Most U.S. and state highways run northeast/southwest and connect to these interstate systems and MSAs. Many of these routes, including 41, 45, 151, 26, and 18, began as military roads, linking primary ports along the Fox-Wisconsin waterway. By far, local roads are the most numerous and provide access to specific sites within communities along the Parkway.

Public/Alternative Transportation

The Parkway also provides for many alternative modes of transportation. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has designated bicycle routes within each county along the Parkway corridor. Snowmobile, ATV, horse-riding, hiking, and water trails are also provided by the WDNR. Public and shared-ride transportation is also available in the Green Bay, Fox Valley, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Ripon, Portage, Prairie du Sac, and Prairie du Chien. County-wide and multi-county transit systems are located in Sauk, Grant, and Iowa Counties. Shuttle services are available from Portage to Madison and from Green Bay to Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Air and Water Quality

The Parkway’s air quality is generally of good to excellent quality. Information obtained from the WDNR shows that four air monitoring sites exist along the corridor, at Green Bay, the Fox Cities, Fond du Lac, and Prairie du Sac. These sites measure air pollutant and ozone levels and are used as the basis for designation of ‘non-attainment’ areas, or areas that do not meet federal air quality standards. While increased urbanization of the Lower Fox have had some impact on the local air quality, none of the counties within the Parkway boundaries are designated as ‘non-attainment’ areas at this time. According to the American Lung Association’s 2007 report, ”State of Air,” populations in Brown, Dane, Fond du Lac, Grant, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties are considered at risk for air quality related health problems. Continued urbanization in these regions, will have a detrimental impact on the air quality. Decreasing quality is due, primarily, to increasing car and truck emissions. Currently, the WDNR is working closely with the EPA to reduce pollutants and institute control programs.

The surface waters of the Fox and Wisconsin River Basins provide drinking water and recreation for the many thousands of people living along the Parkway. Since the implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972, many efforts have been made to limit pollution from municipal and industrial discharges. As a result of these efforts, water quality along the corridor has improved, particularly within the last decade. However, water impairment continues to be a major issue along the Parkway, mainly due to non-point sources.

The Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, including many of the pool lakes made the WDNR’s 2008 impaired rivers list. While both rivers retain low priority status, this means that the waterbodies are not meeting their designated uses due to pollutants. The WDNR has been working with the EPA to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which signals the amount of a particular pollutant a stream or lake can allow before exceeding water quality standards. The desired TMDL is specific for each water source and is calculated by the amount of load from point source, plus the amount of load from nonpoint sources, plus the margin of safety. Currently, TMDLs are being calculated and monitored for the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers.

The Lower Fox River and Green Bay basin continue to struggle with excess levels of phosphorus, sediment, PCBs, and mercury. Much of this is a result of increasing urbanization and population levels and large-scale manufacturing operations found along the river. In 2001, several sites along the Lower Fox were added to the EPA’s National Priorities list as superfund sites. Since this time, significant actions have been taken to clean up the river by local agencies and manufacturers. Increasing demand is a problem that still continues, however. The WDNR is currently working to improve water quality by implementing significant monitoring, TMDLs, and accountability projects. Restoration efforts have begun, which include the implementation of safer agricultural practices, controlling short and long term urbanization, storm water management, restoration and soil control, and nutrient management plans.

On the Upper Fox, runoff from non-point sources, such as agriculture, contributes the highest percentage of pollutants into the waters. The same is true for the Lower Wisconsin, where high levels of Atrazine pesticides have been detected in wells near Iowa and Sauk counties. In addition, both waters lie downstream from major industrial centers, impoundments, and hydropower dams, and have inherited point pollution impairments.


Wisconsin has become a tourist destination for regional, out-of-state, and in-state visitors. Approximately 46% of tourists come from outside the state. Of these, 2% hail from Canada and 2% from other foreign countries. Forty-four percent of tourists come for the purpose of pleasure, 35% come for business, and 20% come for meetings or conventions. While summer continues to be the state’s top tourism season, recent economic figures from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism demonstrate that Wisconsin is a year-round destination for tourists.

Tourism greatly contributes to Wisconsin’s economy. According to a report by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, in 2007, tourism contributed $12.776 billion to the state’s economy, including $1.422 billion in state and $0.638 billion in local revenues. This is over a 122% increase from 1994. (In 2008, the Department of Tourism reported a nearly 3% increase over 2007’s tourism expenditures, despite the economic recession.) In 2007, there were over 300,000 jobs created as a result of this industry, generating $7.086 billion in residential income. Counties in the Parkway account for 32% of the state’s total expenditures. Of the 72 counties in the state, the Parkway contains 3 of the top 5 most visited counties—Dane, Sauk, and Brown.

Tourists come to the corridor for many reasons, for its rich history, bountiful recreation, and many cultural events. Primary tourist destinations include the many state parks and campgrounds. Each summer, festivals, including Oktoberfest, Cheese Fest, and the Blues Festival, draw large crowds to communities along the waterway. Also popular are the numerous historic/cultural sites, such as Heritage Hill State Historical Park, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Taliesin, or the Victorian estate of Villa Louis.


The Parkway holds a great diversity of landscapes and geology. Its boundaries traverse through 3 of the 5 geographic providences in Wisconsin, the Eastern Ridges and Lowlands, Central Plain, and Western Uplands. These providences are delineated by their unique topography and geologic makeup, which were greatly influenced by the movement of glaciers across the Wisconsin landscape 18,000 years ago, as described further in Chapter 2 and 3. Today, this region bears some of the best examples of a glacial landscape in North America.

The Lower Wisconsin cuts through the Driftless Area, a region that largely escaped the footprint of glaciation. The river itself is wide, shallow, and sandy, with several small pool lakes amongst its braided stream. Large bluffs and hills of Paleozoic bedrock line the river valley. Near Portage, the Baraboo Hills, an oval ring of Baraboo quartzite, was formed as a result glacial action.

The Fox River flows through a subdued and ice sculpted landscape of moraines, drumlins, and tunnel channels. Several lakes, most notably Lake Butte des Morts and Lake Winnebago, pool along the river channel. The Upper Fox is winding and narrow. Due to its slight elevation change, it contains the largest amount of wetland areas (10%). The Lower Fox drops approximately 170 feet to bay of Green Bay. This portion of the river follows the Niagara Escarpment, a 430 to 415 million year old ridge of Silurian strata, which extends from Niagara Falls, around the eastern side of Lake Huron, and finally curves into Wisconsin, terminating below Lake Winnebago.

Natural Resources

Recognized natural resources within the Fox-Wisconsin waterway include 1 National Wildlife Refuge, 1 state riverway, 29 Natural Areas, 6 state wildlife areas, and 5 National Natural Landmarks. Most of these resources are owned by the WDNR, and are carefully managed to protect the unique ecosystems within their boundaries. Other agencies undertaking natural resources management within the study boundaries include the USFW, the Nature Conservancy, and numerous counties, municipalities, land trusts, and non-profit organizations.

Natural Areas/National Natural Landmarks

The Fox-Wisconsin waterway flows through 4 distinct ecological landscapes, resulting in a remarkably diverse group of natural resources along its 280-mile length. These landscapes are delineated by the WDNR and include the Central Lake Michigan Costal Ecological Landscape, Southeast Glacial Plains Ecological Landscape, Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape, and the Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape. Natural areas and National Natural Landmarks within these ecological landscapes include the following:

Central Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscapes
  • Red Banks Alvar, Brown County. (WDNR & the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust)

    Located on the eastern shore of the bay of Green Bay, this unique ecosystem consists of very shallow soils overtopping dolomitic bedrock, resulting in the mixed boreal, southern and prairie species that are typical of the post-glacial environment and subsequent warming. The Red Banks Alvar, in addition houses one of the most diverse snail communities in the Midwest.

  • High Cliff Escarpment, Calumet County. (WDNR)

    These limestone cliffs form part of the Niagara Escarpment that continues northeastwards through the Door County Peninsula to Niagara Falls in New York. The cliff habitats contain several plant communities including bulblet fern, leaf cup and stickseed. The talus slope below the cliff consists of an undisturbed mixed hardwood forest.

Southeast Glacial Plains Ecological Landscapes
  • Berlin Fen, Green Lake County. (WDNR)

    Two dome shaped mounds, consisting of wet calcerous peat, provide the habitat for shrubby cinquefoil, chairmaker’s rush, and endangered and special-concern species.

  • Puchyan Prairie, Green Lake County. (WDNR)

    A variety of diverse and threatened wetland species and communities survive in this floodplain of the Puychan River. One hundred and thirty species of native plants have been recorded at the site. In addition, rare bird fauna including American bittern, black tern, and Henslow’s sparrow are found in this area, as well as several endangered animals.

  • Princeton Prairie, Green Lake County. (WDNR)

    This area abuts Puychan Prairie and many of the same species are found in wetland communities and southern sedge meadow, wet-mesic prairie and open marchland. In addition, the area is an important waterfowl breeding habitat.

  • Fountain Creek Wet Prairie, Marquette County. (WDNR)

    Regionally, this is an unusual type of prairie, located within the larger Grand River Marsh Wildlife Area. In addition to fen species of flora, it is a refuge for avians such as sandhill cranes, great blue herons and bobolinks.

  • Page Creek Marsh, Marquette County. (Nature Conservancy)

    This wet prairie is the main staging area for the fall migration of the sandhill crane, and also the home of a variety of birds and rare insects and animals.

  • Summerton Bog, Marquette County. (Wisconsin Nature Conservancy, National Natural Landmark)

    This glacial lakebed, supplied by artesian springs consists of old sedge meadows, tamarack bogs, and fens. It is home to the rare pickerel frog, and numerous nesting birds. It is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

  • Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. (USFW, managed by the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge)

    This area comprises 1,054 acres of wetland and upland at the southern end of Buffalo Lake, abutting Muir Park.

Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscapes
  • Muir Park, Marquette County. (WDNR)

    The central feature of Muir Park is the 30-acre Ennis Lake, the outdoor laboratory of noted naturalist and conservationist John Muir. The park also contains a diverse array of unusual flora and fauna. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

  • Mazomanie Oak Barrens. (WDNR)

    The sand terrace along the Wisconsin River is a significant oak barren remnant that supports among other species, the threatened cream gentian and the rare prairie fame-flower.

Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscapes
  • Ferry Bluff and Cactus Bluff. (WDNR and the Wisconsin Nature Conservancy)

    These sandstone bluffs harbor undisturbed open cliff vegetation and prairie remnants and are important nesting sites for the threatened bald eagle. A Civil War ferryboat landing was once situated at the base of Ferry Bluff.

  • Mazomanie Bottoms. (WDNR)

    This Wisconsin River floodplain forest houses numerous varieties of flora and fauna, including migrating and nesting birds.

  • Arena Pines and Sand Barrens. (WDNR)

    The unique vegetation of sand barrens is exemplified in this natural area composed of jack pine, black oak, and river birch, interspersed with false heather shrub and dry prairie species. Button-weed, an endangered species is found here.

  • Tower Hill Bottoms. (WDNR)

    Home of the state-threatened red-shouldered hawk, this undisturbed floodplain forest also contains several varieties of climbing vines.

  • Bakken’s Pond. (WDNR)

    This cold spring-fed pond contains a diverse amphibian and reptile community, including leopard frogs, tiger salamanders and the northern water-snake. The area also features a bottomland forest.

  • Smith Slough and Sand Prairie. (WDNR)

    The slough and prairie contains a shallow ox-bow lake, old dunes, and undisturbed sedge meadows. It is the home of several species of concern, including Blanding’s turtle, the starhead topminnow, and the small forget-me-not Myosotis laxa.

  • Gotham Jack Pine Barrens, Richland County. (WDNR)

    This site contains the largest and best remaining black oak and Jack pine barrens in Richland County, and a floodplain forest with numerous rare plants and animals.

  • Avoca Prairie and Savanna, Richland County. (WDNR and the Baraboo Range Preservation Association, National Natural Landmark)

    With the largest natural tall-grass prairie east of the Mississippi River, interspersed with oak openings, Avoca Prairie retains much of its original 1833 survey appearance, and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

  • Orion Mussel Beds. (WDNR)

    Fifteen rare animals, including mussels, mayflies, dragonflies, beetles, and fish can be seen at this site. In addition, the 1,500 feet of Wisconsin River frontage supports one of the best preserved and least disturbed mound groups in Wisconsin. Built by the Effigy Mound Culture of the Late Woodland period between 750 and 1,000 AD, the site features the Twin Lizards and Catfish mound group, which consists of 15 mounds including 3 birds, 1 bear, 2 lizards, 1 conical, and 8 lineal mounds. The mounds were carefully sculpted and look much as they did when they were built.

  • Blue River Sand Barrens. (WDNR)

    This area is one of the largest and best examples of this harsh and arid ecological community type in Wisconsin. The constantly moving sand dunes host a variety of dune plants, reptiles and nesting birds.

  • Blue River Bluffs. (WDNR)

    The steep bluffs, dry prairies, and oak savannah are rich in species diversity, with several rare plants such as Indian plantain, pale false foxglove and upland boneset present.

  • Richwood Bottoms. (WDNR)

    Part of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Richwood Bottoms has one of the best swamp white oak dominated floodplain forests in the region.

  • Woodman Sand Prairie and Dead Lake. (WDNR)

    The shallow Dead Lake is an excellent habitat for muskrat, beaver, mink, and puddle ducks. Varied vegetation, some extremely rare is found in the sand prairie, while Dead Lake Marsh in the northern portion of this natural area is a turtle habitat.

  • Kickapoo River Natural Area. (WDNR, National Natural Landmark)

    Located along the Kickapoo River, it is a tributary of the Lower Wisconsin. With little disturbance, this area best reflects the natural plant and animal communities that occupied the state in the mid-1800s.

  • Wauzeka Bottoms. (WDNR)

    An extensive stand of mature floodplain forest is situated on the north side of the Wisconsin River, and provides habitat for a diverse avifauna.

  • Adiantum Woods. (WDNR)

    The transition from mesic to dry-mesic to dry forest, with accompanying changes in sub canopy, shrub layer, and understory vegetation is exhibited in this natural area on the south bank of the Wisconsin River.

  • Baraboo Range. (WDNR, National Natural Landmark)

    It is a unique example of an exhumed mountain range. The range contains the largest block of mostly deciduous forest remaining in the upper Midwest, wet and dry prairies, and marshes, with at least 28 different natural communities living in the area.

  • Wyalusing Hardwood Forest, Grant County. (WDNR, National Natural Landmark)

    This site contains the 4 major southern forest types that illustrate John Curtis’ classic concept of a vegetation continuum, and as such was dedicated to this internationally recognized Wisconsin botanist in 1966.

  • Wyalusing Walnut Forest, Grant County. (WDNR)

    Situated on the sides of a high bluff above the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, this natural area contains a continuum of forest types, including pure stands of black walnut.

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway

In addition to these natural areas, over one-third of the study area is designated as a state riverway. In 1989, a 92-mile stretch of the Lower Wisconsin River between Prairie du Sac and Prairie du Chien, at the confluence of the Wisconsin River, was designated as the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. The riverway contains portions of Dane, Iowa, Sauk, Richland, Grant, and Crawford counties. The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board and the WDNR manage the area, with the purpose of maintaining and improving the aesthetic and natural integrity of the area. Within its 92 miles, 18 small units are individually managed by the WDNR:

  • Mazomanie Unit
  • Cassel Prairie Unit
  • Arena Unit
  • Helena Marsh Unit
  • Spring Green Unit
  • Bakken’s Pond Unit
  • Wyoming Bluff
  • Lone Rock Unit
  • Buena Vista Unit
  • Avoca Unit
  • Muscoda Unit
  • Blue River Unit
  • Knapp Creek Wildlife Area
  • Boscobel Unit
  • Semrad Slough Unit
  • Woodman Unit
  • Millville
  • Wyalusing Unit

Many other areas are maintained by the state to protect the natural resource of the area. Among these, 6 wildlife areas and 5 state parks exist within the boundaries of the study area. Providing both resource protection and recreation, these areas are discussed further in the recreational resources section of this chapter.

While Wisconsin has had great success preserving its many natural resources, every county within the study area harbors some type of plant or animal that is considered to be endangered, threatened, or of concern at a state level. According to the WDNR State Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI), the study area contains over 450 of such species. The Bureau of Endangered Resources maintains this inventory, established in 1985.

For a complete list of these species found throughout the basin, please reference the NHI’s on-line database at

Recreational Resources

Outstanding recreational resources exist within the Parkway for every taste. Green Bay to the Fox Valley region is known for its shopping, dining, and entertainment facilities. Numerous golf courses dot the shores of the rivers. Resort facilities exist at Green Lake. Trophy-potential fishing locations are present at Green Bay, Lake Poygan, and Green Lake. Additionally, camping, hunting, skiing, biking, swimming, and boating facilities exist at several spots throughout the corridor. These areas are maintained by private organizations and companies as well as state, county, and municipal agencies. For more information on these resources, see Appendix A, Maps 2, 3, and 4.

State Wildlife Areas

The State of Wisconsin has been acquiring land to meet conservation and recreational needs since 1876. These wildlife areas are open for traditional recreation uses, including hiking, hunting, trapping, nature photography, and berry-picking. Designated sites also allow camping, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and other use. State wildlife areas within the study boundaries include the following:

  • White River Marsh, Green Lake County.

    This 12,000-acre property consists of open marsh/wet meadow, swamp hardwoods/tamarack swamp, upland prairie/oak savannah and shrubs.

  • Germania Marsh Wildlife Area, Marquette County.

    This 24,000-acre property consists of open marsh/wet meadow, swamp hardwoods/tamarack swamp, upland prairie/oak savannah and shrub carr.

  • Grand River Marsh, Green Lake County.

    This 7,000-acre property consists of consists of open marsh/emergent cattail wetland, upland prairie/oak savannah, and shrub carr/wet meadow.

  • French Creek State Wildlife Area, Columbia County.

    This 3,450-acre of marsh once produced “wire-grass,” a native plant used in the manufacturing of grass rugs and matting and later was subject to grazing and the occasional harvest of wild hay by farmers. Today, the wetland is being managed to promote seed-bearing plants for a fall migration food source for waterfowl. Egrets, herons, and shorebirds are plentiful.

  • Swan Lake Wildlife Area, Columbia County.

    The property consists of approximately 2,090 acres of wetlands, 145 acres of upland (grassland) and 100 acres of wooded habitat.

State Parks

The WDNR also manages 5 state parks within the study boundaries: Heritage Hill State Park in Brown County, High Cliff State Park in Calumet County, Devils Lake State Park in Sauk County, Tower Hill State Park in Iowa County, and Wyalusing State Park in Crawford County. These parks provide extensive camping, hiking, swimming, and trail facilities for visitors.


Several trails exist throughout the study area. These trails are designated for various purposes, including hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, horses, and ATVs.

National Scenic Trail
Ice Age Trail, Columbia and Sauk County.

This 1,000-mile hiking trail exists entirely within the state and celebrates the legacy of the Ice Age. Following the some of the finest glacial geologic features in the world the trail passes through the study area twice, in Columbia and Sauk counties, near Portage and Merrimac. The trail provides numerous opportunities to see and touch glacial history.

Aldo Leopold Legacy Trail System

The state trail system in Wisconsin is named for influential ecologist, Aldo Leopold and includes 42 trails. The study area contains 6 of these trails, totaling over 80 miles.

Fox River

Green Bay to Greenleaf, 13.9 miles. Follows length of Fox River. Hiking and horse riding permitted.

Mountain Bay

Green Bay to Wausau, 80.5 miles. Follows old rail bed. Hiking, tour biking, snowmobiling permitted. Follows old rail bed from the Green Bay to Rib Mountain, 80.5 miles. Hiking, tour biking, snowmobiling permitted.


Brillion and Forest Junction, will eventually connect from Manitowoc to Stevens Point, crossing both the Fox Cities and WIOUWASH Trail. County operated. Hiking and biking permitted.


Oshkosh to Birnamwood, 22 miles. Hiking, biking, skiing and snowmobiling permitted.

Mascoutin Valley

Ripon to Berlin, 9 miles. Goes past farms and wetlands. Hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, and snowmobiling permitted.

Wild Goose

Fond du Lac to Clyman Junction, 32 miles. Skirts near western edge of Horicon Marsh. Hiking, biking, skiing, and snowmobiling permitted.

Water Trails

Water trails provide a series of access points, resting places, and attractions for users of water crafts. The Fox and Wisconsin Rivers provide several access points for motorized and non-motorized water crafts throughout the Parkway’s length. Currently, the Water Trail Portage Project is being conducted along the Fox River. This project is constructing portages at each of the lock locations, beginning with the Appleton locks. This project provides better access to the Fox River, and is one link in the chain of projects for the completion of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway.

Many other county and municipally-run trails exist throughout the corridor. Trail improvement and efforts are facilitated by several non-profit organizations, such as the Wolf Run Association, Winneconne Walks, and Greenways. More information on these trails is found in Appendix D.

Rustic Road Program

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation maintains the Rustic Road program. These routes provide hikers, bikers, and motorists an opportunity to leisurely travel through scenic countryside. The following rustic roads are found throughout the study area boundaries: R21, R22, R46, R49, R53, R69, and R104.

Scenic Byway

The study area contains 1 National Scenic Byway. Known as the Great River Road, the route follows the length of the Mississippi, between Arkansas and Minnesota. It crosses through the study area from Bridgeport to Prairie du Chien, along State Highway 60. The byway is available for water, biking, and automobile travel and highlights the history and important places along the Mississippi River route.

Cultural Resources

The rich and diverse history of the people who lived and worked along the Fox-Wisconsin waterway has been extensively described in earlier chapters. Their cultural history is preserved in the material culture they left behind, including effigy mounds, the architecture of transportation, religion, commerce, industry, and agriculture, and in the several museums that commemorate the history and heritage of the river communities along the waterway.

The 280-mile waterway had early strategic importance as the water link between the eastern seaboard of North America and the interior of the country. As Yankee movement into the area expanded during the first decades of the nineteenth century, the key land/water intersections were the obvious choices for military forts that helped establish dominance of the area. Fort Howard, Fort Winnebago, and Fort Crawford were abandoned in the mid-19th century, but Green Bay, Portage, and Prairie du Chien, all commemorate their legacy, not only with material culture, but in cultural identity, reflected in street, community, and even company names (the Fort Howard Paper Company has been a Green Bay landmark for almost 100 years).

Each county and community is unique, and most include sites or districts that have been recognized as having local, state, or national importance. Along the waterway, there are over 3,500 sites that are considered significant enough to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including 8 National Landmarks and 1 National Monument. A full list and map of the sites is provided in Appendix A, Maps 8, 9, and 10. Those having the most relevance to the themes proposed in this study are listed below.

NOTE: Many archeological sites along the waterway are highly significant and as such, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, as is customary for these fragile sites, their location is not specified and they are off-limits for public visitation.

Numbering system for Theme Areas for following sites
  1. Trail of the Serpent
  2. Route of Discovery
  3. Waves of immigration
  4. Hardest Working River Highway
  5. Industry of Abundance
  6. Conservation
Lower Fox River
Heritage Hill State Historical Park, Green Bay. (Theme areas 1,2,3)

This 50-acre outdoor living history museum was established in 1975 when several of Green Bay’s most important historical structures such as Tank Cottage, Fort Howard Hospital, and the Baird Law Office and others were threatened with demolition in their original locations. The rich settlement history of northeast Wisconsin is traced in four theme areas that depict changes in the cultural community over a 300 year period, from the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries through the early 20th century. Heritage Hill State Historical Park is open for visitors and school tours throughout much of the year. It is owned by the WDNR and operated by the Heritage Hill Corporation. Five buildings within the park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hazelwood House Museum, Green Bay. (Theme areas 3,4)

This fine example of Greek Revival architecture remains in its original location in the Astor Historic District above the east bank of the Fox River. Morgan and Elizabeth Martin built the house in 1836, and the family remained in residence until the 1920s. Morgan Martin, a prominent lawyer and territorial delegate to the United States Congress, was a key player in the development of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, and the museum features the history of the project and Martin’s involvement. The site, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is owned and operated by the Brown County Historical Society, and is open to the public. Several special events take place during Hazelwood’s season.

Oneida Nation Museum, Green Bay. (Theme areas 1,2)

Traditional Iroquois longhouses and a museum tell the story of the peoples of the Oneida Nation. Special exhibits, programs, and summer events are highlighted at this museum.

De Pere. (Theme areas 2,3,4,5)

In 1671 French Jesuit explorer Père Claude-Jean Allouez established the St. Francis Xavier Mission on the east side of present-day De Pere. The site, at the final set of rapids on the Fox River was named Les Rapides Des Peres. The town connects to the river through its history of industry, settlement, and river navigation, with two historic districts, remnants of the 1851 lock and dam, and several important historic structures. The De Pere Historical Society owns and operates White Pillars within the North Broadway Street Historic District. All are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Grignon Mansion, Kaukauna. (Theme areas 2,4,5)

Pierre Grignon established a trading post at this natural portage along the Fox River, known as Grand Kakalin, in 1760. The family controlled the local fur trade, built the first grist and sawmills in Wisconsin, and was considered a prominent developer of the Fox Valley. Grignon’s son Charles built the Greek Revival “Mansion in the Woods” as a trading post and family home in 1837. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, owned and operated by the Outagamie Historical Society, and open for visitation by appointment. For information, contact the Charles A. Grignon Mansion, 1313 Augustine Street, Kaukauna, Wisconsin 54911.

Appleton Locks 1, 2, 3 and 4 Historic Districts, Appleton. (Theme areas 4,5)

The Appleton locks are important examples of the efforts made by the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers Improvement Company to provide a waterway from Green Bay to the Mississippi. The 17 locks along the Lower Fox River are all significant, though not all have retained integrity. The Appleton locks are a visible and easily accessible illustration of the importance of the river, both as a water highway and an industrial water power supply. The locks are owned by the WDNR, and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Hearthstone, Appleton. (Theme areas 3,4,5)

The large ornate Queen Anne revival home was designed and built in 1882 by William Waters, a prominent Fox Valley architect who also designed the Wisconsin building at the Chicago 1893 World Columbian Exposition. The home is an architecturally important example of Queen Anne style, popular at the turn of the 20th century. Its interior typifies the lifestyle of a comfortable wealthy industrialist and his family. However, its major significance is that it was electrified as early as 1882, in the first multiple and private home use of a hydroelectric generator. Hearthstone’s rare functioning 1882 Edison light switches and electroliers are possibly the only such surviving wiring and fixtures. Owned and operated by the Friends of Hearthstone Inc., and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this site is open to the public year-round.

High Cliff Park and Mounds State Park, Calumet County. (Theme area 1,5)

The park sits on the Wisconsin Lime and Cement Company quarry, established in 1870. Remnants of lime kilns and pits remain, and the former company store is now a museum. In addition, the park contains 12 Siouan effigy mounds. The park is owned and operated by the WDNR and is open to the public.

Upper Fox River
Paine Lumber Company Historic District, Oshkosh. (Theme areas 3,4,5)

Edward Paine founded the Paine Lumber Company in 1853, and was an influential leader as Oshkosh developed into “sawdust city.” This historic district includes worker housing, and a thrift bank, built to meet the needs of immigrant workers, and is a fine example of the industrial paternalism that was encouraged at the turn of the 20th century. The buildings are privately owned, and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Chicago and Northwestern Railway Depot, Fond du Lac. (Theme area 5)

Fond du Lac’s location at the southern shore of Lake Winnebago makes it a prime transportation hub. This site represents the railroads that replaced the Fox-Wisconsin waterway as a transportation system. The depot is a fine example of the work of Charles Summer Frost, whose depot designs were used extensively by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. Typically Romanesque in style, it utilized local brick and is considered to be an “elegant efficient and sturdy representation of his style.” It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The building is privately owned and in process of renovation.

Eureka Lock and Tender’s House. (Theme area 4)

The Eureka lock and tender’s house is situated just south of the town of Eureka in Rushford township. Constructed in 1875, it demonstrates the typical form and features of the nine Upper Fox locks, which in contrast to those of the Lower Fox were generally located at rural rather than urban sites. The future of the Eureka lock and tender’s house is in jeopardy due to closure of the lock and abandonment and probable demolition of the house. It is owned by the WDNR, and is presently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Huron Street Historic District, Berlin. (Theme areas 3,4,5)

This historic district exemplifies the commercial development of small towns along the Fox-Wisconsin waterway during the mid-to-late 19th century. Berlin was established in 1847 as a ferry-crossing across the Fox River, and became a transportation and commercial hub for both river and rail traffic during the 1860s. The 4th block Huron Street district is a particularly good example of a late 19th century small Wisconsin town, in part because of its architectural integrity. Typical of such communities, the street housed a variety of commercial and social establishments including a grocery store, dry goods store, several banks, a hotel, churches, meeting halls, and specialty stores. Berlin’s specialty industries included cranberry growing, rush-chair weaving, button-making, and a leather industry. The Berlin downtown area remains vibrant with a strong tourism presence, viable commercial businesses and a strong sense of community pride. The Berlin Area Historical Society supports 3 museums, and holds an antique appraisal event each year. The buildings are individually owned. For information on specific buildings, contact the city or Berlin at

Fountain Lake Farm, rural Montello. (Theme area 3,6)

John Muir, pioneering advocate of natural preservation and founder of the Sierra Club, spent his teenage years at Fountain Lake Farm in the 1850s. He later traced the formation of his conservation philosophy to this time period, when he was helping his father work the farm. This 80-acre portion of the original 160-acre farm owned by John Muir’s parents is a mixture of oak openings and woods, Fountain Lake and spring, and a sedge meadow. The site once contained the original farm buildings. The entire area has been left to return to its ecologically diverse wild state. The site and the adjacent John Muir Park is a National Historic Landmark. It is privately owned. For further information contact the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir at:

Portage. (Theme areas 1,2,3,4,5)

The main themes of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway are well-represented throughout the small town, at several sites that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Indian Agency House, Portage.

Built in 1832 for Indian agent John Kinzie and his wife Juliette, this is one of the earliest surviving homes in Wisconsin. It is operated as a museum, and owned by the Portage Historical Society. Juliette Kinzie’s book, Wau-bun, captures life on the frontier in Portage during the 1830s. The Agency House and 233 acres is 1 of 2 historic sites that are owned and administered by the National Society of the Colonia Dames of America in the State of Wisconsin.

Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters.

The only surviving building from Fort Winnebago overlooks the site where Marquette and Joliet left the Fox River in 1673. It is operated as a museum by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Portage Canal and Industrial Waterfront District.

The historic canal that runs through the city for a 1-mile stretch is being restored by the Portage Canal Society. Its south bank is part of the Ice Age trail. The Industrial Waterfront District contains several good examples of 19th century commercial buildings with multiple ownership and varied utilization.

Museum at the Portage.

The home of Zona Gale, well-known Wisconsin novelist, is now owed by the Portage Historical Society and houses a permanent collection of Portage historical artifacts, in addition to Gale’s study.

Lower Wisconsin River

The outstanding natural beauty of this area has made this a prime setting for recreational activities, described in the previous section. However, it also contains important cultural resources, including several mound areas that are not accessible to the public.

Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm, Sauk City. (Theme area 6)

“The shack” consists of a 250-acre parcel of sandy river-bottom land along both sides of the Wisconsin River. It also contains a small cabin (“the shack”). Famed naturalist and conservationist Aldo Leopold and his family restored the burned-out landscape with careful and extensive planting of native species, beginning in 1935. Leopold’s land-ethic practice was developed at this site, the background for his book A Sand County Almanac. The site is owned by the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Taliesin. (Theme area 6)

The estate of world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright overlooks the Wisconsin River, and is a prime example of early 20th century architecture. Wright used the site as a living laboratory, and all the elements of his design process can be seen in the buildings. The home, studio, several outbuildings, and their surroundings are open to the public. The site was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1976. It is owned and operated by the Taliesin Foundation.

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. (Theme areas 1,2,6)

This 92-mile stretch of the Lower Wisconsin River is not only a beautiful natural area, but a living history experience. As historian Reuben Gold Thwaites eloquently noted in 1877, it is “where the oppression of solitude is felt with such force that it takes but slight stretch of the imagination to carry one’s self back in thought and feeling to the times when the black robed members of the Company of Jesus first penetrated the gloomy wilderness.” For this reason, it is also a significant cultural resource. The riverway has multiple ownership and use.

Prairie du Chien. (Theme areas 1,2,3,4,5,6)

Prairie du Chien is the final link in the Fox-Wisconsin waterway as it discharges into the Mississippi. Like Green Bay and Portage, the town has a multi-layered history, and is the oldest settlement along the Mississippi River. The area houses several Native-American effigy mounds and burial grounds. Prairie du Chien was a fur trading center during the 18th century and the site of Fort Crawford, the third military fort built by the U.S. Army in the first decades of the 19th century. The town and adjacent island of St. Feriole contains several National Historic Landmarks that underline the historic importance of the town.

Villa Louis Historic Site.

The estate of Louis Dousman and his family has been restored to the late Victorian period, and is interpreted with living history guides. The Villa Louis is a large Italianate home surrounded by restored gardens and outbuildings, one of which is used as a museum to document the fur trade that brought Dousman his original fortune. This site is owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Fort Crawford Museum.

Fort Howard, Fort Winnebago and Fort Crawford together represent the military presence on the Western Frontier in 19th century Wisconsin. The second Fort Crawford was built in 1829 and today the restored hospital houses a medical museum, dedicated to Army Surgeon William Beaumont who spearheaded experimental discoveries on the human digestive system in the 1830s. Another building on this location houses the Prairie du Chien museum. The site is owned and operated by the Prairie du Chien Historical Society, and has an active event schedule. The Society also operates the Crawford County Courthouse Jail which is open to the public.

Effigy Mounds National Monument. (Theme area 1)

While not technically on the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, as it is located directly across the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien, this site is an important addition to the cultural resources of the river corridor because it is one of the few places that effigy mounds can be easily seen. The monument includes almost 200 mounds and 31 effigies in the shapes of birds, reptiles, or mammals. Additionally, parts of the 2,500-acre site are accessible to disabled visitors, and therefore an opportunity to view some of the American Indian history that is less easily accessible in other parts of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway. The site is owned and operated by the NPS.

Educational Resources

There are several educational resources available to Parkway visitors and residents, from exhibits, speakers, festivals, workshops, and publications. These resources complement the many cultural and natural sites that exist within the study area, providing opportunities for individuals to better understand the importance of the Parkway. Educational programming and publications are primarily facilitated by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, municipalities, local historical societies, and natural/cultural organizations and agencies. A sample listing of some of these resources are listed below.

Museums and Exhibits:

Numerous museums and historical societies exist along the corridor, displaying exhibits on a variety of topics, including local history, industry, American Indian artifacts, river transportation, and more.


Many local organizations and historical societies have published books, brochures, and essays on the history of the area.

  • Fox-Wisconsin Rivers Heritage Corridor (brochure), Friends of the Fox Inc. and East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
  • The Fox Heritage Waterway (brochure, 1995), Friends of the Fox Inc.
  • Looking Back (2008), Montello Historic Preservation Society.
  • The Story of the Mascoutin Nation and of their Massacre (2008), by Edmund L. Runals, Berlin Area Historical Society.
  • History of the Christian Endeavor Academy (2004), Endeavor Historical Society.
  • Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier (1926), by Bruce Mahan, State Historical Society of Iowa.
Educational Events:

Throughout the year, several educational events are organized throughout the corridor. The following list demonstrates some of these types of events.

  • Effigy Mound Tours, walking tour of Indian burial and ceremonial sites at Tower Hill State Park and Tower Hill State Park. Presented by Cultural Landscape Legacies, Inc.
  • Astor Historic Neighborhood Walking Tours, learn about the history and architecture of this historic district in Green Bay. Presented by the Brown County Historical Society.
  • Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival, Little Chute, celebrate and learn about cheese making in Wisconsin. Presented by the City of Little Chute.
  • Cannons & Redcoats Popular Living History Reenactment, reenact frontier life in Prairie du Chien at the time of the War of 1812. Presented by the Fort Crawford Museum.
  • Morel Mushroom Festival, Muscoda, speakers present on historical and natural topics, such as: “Agricultural Origins, Dispersals, and Landscapes in Native, WI,” “The Mounds of the Muscoda Area.” Presented by Cultural Landscape Legacies, Inc.
  • Voyager Canoe Trips, travel the route of the first Wisconsin explorers in a voyager canoe and learn about river history. Presented by Fox of the River Voyager Canoe Trips.
  • Basket Making Workshops, learn to make historic baskets. Presented by Heritage Hill State Historical Park.
  • Aldo Leopold Weekend, groups and communities come together to read out loud from A Sand County Almanac and celebrate the ideas of Aldo Leopold. Presented by the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

In addition to the many annual and periodic events that are held throughout the study area, year-long celebrations take place. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has proclaimed 2009 as the Year of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. Throughout the year residents of Wisconsin will recognize the accomplishments of the Riverway with presentations and special lectures that will take place throughout the year. Additionally, the Wisconsin State Legislature has named 2010 the “Year of the Niagara Escarpment.”

Chapter 8 of this study examines the impact a NHA designation would have upon the aforementioned environment.