SIX AMAZING HISTORIC STOPS ALONG THE WISCONSIN GREAT RIVER ROAD
ON THE WEST COAST OF WISCONSIN
History is constant companion along the great river road on Lake Pepin. People have lived and traveled the area for thousands of years. Nature itself made history here, keeping the glaciers at bay and creating what is today the largest natural lake on the Mississippi River. Pull over and enjoy!
1. Bow and Arrow
Alternately identified as a Bow & Arrow or a Bird Effigy, this rock figure is pointing toward (or flying in direction of) Lake Pepin. The origins and age of this effigy is unknown, and archaeologists are still puzzled over its intent and purpose. It seems to be the only ancient boulder figure in Wisconsin, although many are known from other states. The effigy is just off of State Highway 35 (Great River Road) south of Hager City, about a mile south of the intersection with U.S. Highway 63.
2. Lake Pepin
Lake Pepin itself is a great piece of history. Known to the Native Cultures and the French as “Lake of Tears. Many thousands of years ago glacial debris from the faster moving Chippewa River caused a bit of a backup on the Mississippi, forming Lake Pepin. The lake is the largest natural lake on the Mississippi River and its widest natural spot at about 2.5 miles wide. It is now about 24 miles long, but at one time stretched almost to where St. Paul now stands, 70 miles away. The pull out is located down river between Bay City and Maiden Rock.
3. The Legend of The Maiden
Many versions of the legend exist. First chronicled in the 1820’s legend has the great tragedy took place around the year 1700. The legends all tell the tale of a young Native maiden who was going to be forced to marry a great warrior that she did not love. Instead, she chose to sacrifice herself by singing her death song, then jumping to her death from the great rock that soars 400 ft into the air.
4. Stockholm Pier
Located in the Village Park in Stockholm, the stone pier was constructed as a landing and shelter for steamboats that plied the Mississippi River. Reaching 750 feet into the lake, you can get a taste of what it's like to be on the water of the Great River. Today you will find folks strolling and fishing along the pier.
5. Fort St. Antoine
European history has deep roots in the area. Nicholas Perrot was a daring adventurer, fur trader, and able diplomat. The handsome Frenchman built Fort St. Antoine on the shore of Lake Pepin near here in 1686. Alarmed by the aggressions of the English, the French government felt it was necessary to repeat their claims with sufficient pomp and ceremony to impress the Indians and to assure their allegiance. Accordingly, here at Fort St. Antoine on May 8, 1689, Perrot formally took possession of the entire region west of the Great Lakes "no matter how remote" in the name of Louis XIV. When A.W. Miller surveyed this area in 1855, he reported the fort site occupied "a space of about 60 by 45 feet, and stood about 70 feet back from the point of highest watermark on the lake shore." The fort site is downriver from Stockholm on Hwy 35.
6. Birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder:
The regions most famous one-time resident is without a doubt, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura was born in the big woods 7 miles outside of Pepin. Her life in the area was chronicled in the first book in the series – Little House in the Big Woods. Today a replica of the cabin the famous family lived in stands at the site – now surrounded by fields as the big woods of legend have all faded away. You will also find a delightful museum dedicated to Laura in the village of Pepin. The wayside is located 7 miles up County Road CC off of Hwy 35, outside of Pepin.