Tag Archive | Wisconsin River

Portage – Where The North Begins!

11-27-12 & 1-19-14

Portage sign

Downtown Portage

Portage is a city of 10,000 with a fascinating history going back to June 14, 1673.  Fr. Jacques Maquette and Louis Joliet “portaged” here, making their way to the upper Mississippi to map and explore.  Portage is in a unique spot, the Fox and Wisconsin rivers meet here, making it easy for explorers to go to the Mississippi from here. This settlement was dubbed “la portage” by the French, latter anglicized to Portage.

The city has many markers showing the approximate spots where  many of these events took place.  If you enter town on Hwy. 51,  you encounter a red granite monument that was dedicated in 1905. It is close to where Marquette and Joliet entered the Wisconsin River, which is across the street.

Marquette and Joliet Marker

At nearby Pauquette Park, you see the marker showing the location of the Ferry landing at the  Wisconsin river.

Ferry Landing place

Bridge over Wisconsin River

Another important historic site in Portage is the Historic Indian Agency House.  It was built by the Federal Government for John Kinzie and his wife Juliette in 1832.  It is situated at the portage point between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers.  Many events take place here throughout the year, the main season between May-October 15.

Indian Agency House in Portage WI

Other historic buildings have also been preserved,  Fort Winnebago and the Surgeon’s Quarters is another seasonal site open May through October 15.

Surgeons Quarters Portage

In town there are just as many interesting sights.  Portage was also home to playwright Zona Gale. Her former home is now called Museum at the Portage and is also open seasonally.

The Zona Gale house had a fire  April 13 and is closed until further notice.

Museum at the Portage

After achieving success, she bought a home for her parents. It is now the headquarters of the Women’s Civic League of Portage.  It has been an active organization for over 80 years.

Women Civic League Gale Home

To further honor Zona Gale’s achievements,  The Zona Gale Theatre is the  arts center in Portage.  Zona was very active in Portage until her death in 1938.

Zona Gale Theatre

The museum and this house are part of the Society Hill Historic District, where the wealthy and leadership of early Portage lived.

Society Hill Historic District sign

Many of the mansions are constructed of yellow “Portage brick” , similar to the “Cream City (Milwaukee) brick from Milwaukee but made in Portage in the 19th century. Read more about this brick on pages 15-18 of this document.

Society Hill District Yellow Brick house


A historic canal also runs through Portage. It was completed in 1876, connecting the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers for easy access in town.  It now has a recreational path alongside. Friends of the Canal have been working to revitalize the area around the canal.  Look directly ahead in the photo and you see Canal Feed and Seed mill, constructed in 1861. No longer a mill, the property is now The Big Chicken Resale and antique store, since 2011.

Canal Seed and Feed 1861

All this exploring can build up an appetite!  We have enjoyed meals at three establishments in Portage. One is The Red Apple. Another is The Levee. Also the big truck stop Petro off of I-90/I-94/I-39, Exit 108A (Hwy 78S). Their Iron Skillet Restaurant is wonderful!

The Red Apple Restaurant in PortageThe Levee Restaurant in PortagePetro Iron Skillet  in Portage

It’s time to work off that great meal you ate!  In the winter, if you are into winter sports, you are close to Cascade Mountain. Its just around the bend on 90/94 if you continue past Petro. You can’t miss the large billboard on the side of one of their buildings. Here is video taken by someone snowboarding down.

Cascade Mountain sign

Cascade Mountain


Ski Hill

Cascade Mountain cut out with us

We have enjoyed our visits to Portage. Come for the sports, come for the rich history!

Related Articles and Sites

* Cascade Mountain

* City of Portage

* Chamber of Commerce

* Amtrak in Portage

* Portage Daily Register newspaper

* Museum at the Portage

* Portage WWII History Museum

* Portage Canal Society

* “La Portage” Gets a Visit From the British

* Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters

* Indian Agency House

* Gretchen Willis Photography

* Downtown Portage Walking Tour pdf

Talking Turkey in Boscobel


Boscobel sign

Its also Wisconsin’s Outdoor Recreation Destination too!

Boscobel is located in Grant County, not far from Muscoda.  This area was first discovered by French explorers  Louis Joliet and Jacque Marquette in 1673.  “Bosq” in French means “wood” and”belle” means “beautiful”.  Read about the community history here, as well as Grant County.  Today its a thriving community of 3000 ready to welcome visitors (including us) and new residents alike.

Turkey hunting takes place often several times a year. Contact the DNR for turkey season and licensing.   Boscobel has many places for lodging, including the Sands Motel.

Sands Motel

Our day began there by crossing the Blaine Bridge over the Wisconsin River on Highway 61.

Blaine Bridge in Boscobel, WI

Boscobel has many historic buildings and monuments.  The first one we saw was The Rock School,  a century-old school still in use today.

The Rock School in Boscobel WI

Next, we saw the Grand Army of the Republic Hall (G.A.R.), possibly the only remaining standing G.A.R. Hall in Wisconsin, or even the Midwest. It was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places on 12-27-07.  Members sponsor Muskets and Memories every August, one of the largest Civil War reenactment events in the Midwest.  They also have artifacts inside to see when open.

G.A.R. Hall in Boscobel

In nearby Memorial Park stands a Monument dedicated to Civil War Soldiers.

Civil war Monument in Boscobel

Before exploring the rest of town, we had lunch at the Unique Cafe.

Unique Cafe in Boscobel

Unique Cafe inside

Original owners of the cafe opened in 1932 and have been owned by Doyle and Nancy Lewis since 1983.  They are the nicest people and will serve you a great breakfast or lunch.  Pies are their specialty, and we had a piece of French Silk pie, yum!

French Silk Pie

Doyle proudly showed us the Packer Room downstairs and posed for a picture with us.

Doyle Lewis and us at Unique Cafe

Call them at 608-375-4465 if you want to reserve the room for your party.

Lunch done, we continued to explore their main street, Wisconsin Avenue.

Downtown Boscobel

We stopped at the historic Central House-Boscobel Hotel, also known as the Central house. This hotel is where two guests that stayed here originated the Gideon Bible. The current owners of the hotel is Charles Griesel and his wife, Dr. Jean, purchased in 2009.  Their son Jim took us up to the Gideon Room, #19 on the 2nd floor.  Thanks Jim!  Call 608-375-4714 to schedule a tour. 

Central House in Boscobel

Room 19 in Central House

Gideon Room #19

Before saying goodbye to Jim, he showed us a picture of his great-great-great uncle, who built the hotel in 1865.

Jim Griesel's 3x uncle

We enjoyed a bakery treat at Violet Dreams Bakery. (closed)

Violet Dreams Bakery

The historic Boscobel Depot Museum  is on 800 Wisconsin Ave.  The track next to it is still in use, but only for freight trains since 1960. IMG_8762

Behind the depot is Depot Park, where a tank is on display.

Army TankM60 A3 Tank stats

Also on Wisconsin Ave is the former Sylvester Grist Mill (1866),  now Wisconsin River Outings.

Wisconsin River Outings

Boscobel has a strong scouting tradition that goes back over a century.  In 1913 the Boy Scout Cabin was constructed to give scouts a central location to meet and recreate.

Boy Scout Cabin in Boscobel

You can’t leave Boscobel without a picture with their large wild turkey on 1200 Elm St.  The turkey is a staple of town parades.

Boscobel Turkey mascot

Special thanks to The Boscobel Dial newspaper company for a copy the book, “Boscobel-River and Rails”  book by Agatha Bender.

Boscobel Dial NewspaperBoscobel-River and Rails book

We give a thumbs up to the friendly people of  Boscobel.  They invite you to come visit and talk turkey with them too.

Related articles

Gibraltar Rock near Lodi


This is another beautiful state rock formation in Southern Wisconsin.  Gibraltar Rock towers over the countryside and farms below. It’s located  in Columbia County, not far from Lodi in the Town of West Point. Approaching the site is a large tree-covered hill, bright with autumn colors when we went.

Lodi (167)

We  arrive at the small parking lot, it’s a steep hike up so wear suitable footwear.

Gibraltar Rock Map

We began our hike, lots of colors to see on the way up.

Hike to Gibraltar Rock

We made it,  on top was a historic plaque on a rock.

Gibraltar Rock plaque

The view was breathtaking!

Framed Farm from Gibraltar Rock

The Wisconsin River below.

Gibraltar Rock

What a great place to visit, make this a stop if you are in the area, and bring your camera!

Gibraltar Rock County Park

31st Annual Morel Mushroom Festival in Muscoda




This was our first time in Muscoda (pronounced Mus – co – day), located in Grant County by the Wisconsin River. Muscoda means “Prairie of Flowers”. They earned the status, “Morel Mushroom Capitol of the World.”  The village is on the Lower Wisconsin River Road.

At 10:00 am we arrived downtown at Mushroom Headquarters. They sold lots of souvenirs of the festival. I got a brown hoodie with the festival logo on it.  I wish I could say we ate some, but we didn’t.  They are VERY expensive.


The first thing we saw was a kid’s parade celebrating the Morel.

Tame big ones Morel Kids

A lot of fun things were going on, arts and crafts vendors had lots of great items, plenty of morel gifts. Here is a $150 bench and walking sticks.

Morel benchwalking sticks

Muscoda also has a delightful cafe and gift shop called The Pink Spot.  We stopped there for lunch and conversation.  Owner Katy Grimm loves chatting with her customers and even posing for a picture.  She would love it if you would stop by 🙂

Pink Spot small

Katy Grimm text sm

The festival also had a small car show and helicopter rides.  Even chainsaw wood carving demos.

Chainsaw Carvingcar show


This festival was great fun, we hope to go back next year.  At the northern edge of town is a great park and campsite, Victoria Riverside Park and Campsite. Its right at the edge of the Wisconsin River for easy access to water recreation. The park also has a beautiful gazebo overlooking the river. It even has a  Little Free Library just before you turn in.

Victoria Riverside ParkFreeLibrary

Here is the gazebo from across the river in winter. Beautiful!


Victoria Riverside Park Gazebo framed

I hope you enjoyed your visit, we sure did!