My friends Jim and Cathy Stevens were intrigued by a public television program about Prairie du Chien, so I offered to give them a guided tour. They brought their grandson Caden along and we spent the day enjoying some of Wisconsin’s most beautiful scenery.
Our first stop was one of the scenic attractions of Iowa County, Hyde’s Mill. Built in 1850, and powered by a wooden water wheel, this property (including the nearby mill house) is actually for sale.
Traveling along the Wisconsin Riverway, we spotted a family of trumpeter swans enjoying the beautiful morning.
One of my favorite views of the mighty Mississippi River was not quite as dramatic because the fog hadn’t quite burned off yet.
It was a little sunnier by the time we arrived at Lock & Dam #9, just south of Lynxville. A tow was going through the locks as we arrived…
…and soon was heading south with it’s heavy cargo.
Just south of the Lynxville Dam is one of my favorite spots on the river. Not because of the name, as you might suspect, but because I was baptized in the river at this location by the Rev. Harry Moeller in 1967.
As we drove into Prairie du Chien along Frenchtown Road we passed the historic Francois Vertefeuille house, the oldest house in Wisconsin still on its original location. It was built more than 200 years ago.
There are lots of interesting things to see and do in Prairie du Chien. We decided to visit the old Territorial Prison in the basement of the Crawford County Courthouse. The prison was built in the 1840s, when Crawford County took up almost half of what is now the state of Wisconsin. The boot shown on the desk has a thick sole of lead, and was worn by prisoners when they left the prison, to make sure they didn’t escape.
The prison is also sometimes called The Dungeon. You can see why you wouldn’t want to stay there very long.
Donna Steiner, the Clerk of Circuit Court, graciously gave us the tour and said that they would welcome more visitors. So, if you’re in the neighborhood and want to see The Dungeon, stop by the Clerk of Courts office on the first floor of the old courthouse and ask if someone can give you a tour.
In the nearby newly constructed County Administration Building is another historic display, with details on one of the most historic events in Prairie du Chien history, 190 years ago.
We crossed the Mississippi to grab lunch at the McGregor Marina, then proceeded to Pikes Peak State Park for the scenic viewing. The park was filled with UW-LaCrosse students in their colorful t-shirts.
The students were resident assistants, on a recreational retreat before the arrival of the rest of the students. Jim Stevens talked with the RA’s from the dorm where he used to live.
The confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers was a key reason for the historical importance of Prairie du Chien, located near the intersection of what was for many centuries the equivalent of the intersection of interstate highways. We spotted a kayaker on the Wisconsin River, can you see him?
Construction on Marquette Road (highway 35) made for a confusing confabulation of highway signs along Main Street.
Speaking of Marquette Road, the old homestead still stands, although all of the homes that used to be across the street from us are now gone.
Up the street is The Cannery, now a popular spot for those who enjoy the decorative arts. The parking lot, where we used to play ball, was not very full, because of the construction but we enjoyed the ice cream!
As we headed back to Madison we made one final stop, at Wyalusing State Park. This is the Passenger Pigeon monument, which laments the extinction of this species which once darkened the skies over Wisconsin. I have been to Pikes Peak and Wyalusing Parks many times, but this was one of the few times I’ve been to both parks in one day, and enjoyed their dramatic vistas of the mighty rivers.