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The Region of Marquette, Muir & You
Posted by Gary Haas on October 21st, 2010
Oh, what glorious Wisconsin Wilderness! Everything new and purse in the very prime of spring when Nature’s pulses were beating highest and mysteriously keeping time with our won! Young hearts, young leaves, flowers, animals, the winds and the streams and the sparkling lake, all wildly, gladly rejoicing together!
Five miles off Interstate 39, near the Fox River community of Montello, is John Muir Memorial County Park. Tucked away in the woods and wetlands of Marquette County, the 150-acre park pays tribute to America’s most famous conservationist, John Muir.
This concealed park contains a small granite monument to the “Father of the National Park System,” a 30 acre-spring fed lake, quiet meadow, picnic area and segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. It is also National Historic Landmark and one of the preserved treasures within the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway.
Far from the high peaks of Yosemite, it may be difficult to imagine that Muir began his environmentalist wonderings in the rolling hills of south-central Wisconsin. In 1849, Muir’s family moved from his homeland of Scotland to this very spot.
Called the Fountain Lake Farm, Muir’s family presided over the land for six years, building a house and raising livestock. It was here, in these “sunny woods,” that Muir developed a deep appreciation for nature. Years later, as his travels took him to the redwoods of northern California and mountains of Alaska, his mind continued to drift back to this quiet spot in Wisconsin.
Called Muir’s Lake when his family resided there, the glacial kettle in the center of the park now goes by the name Ennis Lake. In Muir’s book, The Story of my Boyhood Youth, he recalls the small lake of his childhood home.
“It is fed by twenty or thirty meadow springs, is about half mile long, half as wide, and surrounded by low finely-molded hills dotted with oak and hickory, and meadows full of grasses and sedges and many beautiful orchids and ferns… On bright days, when the lake was rippled by a breeze the lilies and sun-spangles danced together in radiant beauty and it became difficult to discriminate between them.”
The park is also located in the county named for another Parkway hero, Father Jacques Marquette. This land looks very much as it did when the Jesuit explorer traveled through here in 1673 on his way to the Mississippi River.
Today, visitors and residents alike can travel to this park and experience the same sights that Marquette paddled past 300 years ago and wilderness that so inspired Muir 150 years later.
It is unique experiences such as these that the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway aims to protect.
In the spirit of John Muir and his love of National Parks, the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is working to designate this region as a National Heritage Area.
A unique segment of Muir’s National Park System, this designation will recognize the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway region as a unique, nationally distinctive place where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to tell an important story about United States’ history.
The story of Marquette and his route of discovery and of Muir and his boyhood home are connected through this special place we call the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway. However, these stories are not exclusive to this region. As these historical figures went out and shaped this nation, they remained connected to the Parkway and this small piece of land we now call John Muir Memorial County Park. Today, we can connect to these people and the story of our nation through the landscape of the Parkway.
To learn how you can support the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway effort, click here.