When craving the solace of the outdoors, with enough room to breathe and keep a social distance, the Driftless can offer you the recreation you love with the space you need when searching for the history of the Driftless. Be sure to check ahead to see if offered services and reenactment events are are ongoing.
Look forward to your future vacation in Southwest Wisconsin and learn what the Driftless is all about. Click to order a map and start the daydream.
Click to order or download a map and start the daydream.
Farming has been a way of life in the Driftless for generations. Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center has created an open air museum that allows you to step back in time to a Norwegian immigrant’s homestead farm in the 1800’s. Summer kitchen, spring house, blacksmith, stable and more. These buildings offer a peek into the lives of those who first chose to settle in the Driftless.
Where to begin? Learning the why behind the buildings adds to the fun as the ingenuity of the builders becomes evident. So, did you know the corn cribs were built on a pile of rocks to allow for airflow to dry the grain?
Step back into the Victorian lifestyle of the wealthy in the 19th century on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien, WI. The house was built by a fur trader, lumberman, and land speculator, Hercules Louis Dousman, who amassed a fortune and was one of Wisconsin’s most prominent frontiersmen. The estate is known for not only the beauty of the home, but the antique furnishings from the era. The staff has worked hard to find the original pieces, or as near to original as possible.
Where to begin? Be sure to save enough time to explore the grounds as well as the house. There is a Fur Trade museum on the property and both self-guided and guided tours available.
Fort Crawford Museum
There is a lot of history in Prairie du Chien, WI. What was once a French trading post is now one of the oldest communities in Wisconsin. The Fort Crawford Museum is really two museums. In one you can learn about several aspects of the city’s history including the War of 1812 and the Mississippi River clamming industry. In the other you delve into frontier medicine, including old dental practices and how sick and wounded soldiers were cared for.
Where to begin? Plan on spending an hour or two. The museums are small, but detailed. You might find the section that talks about the City’s archeological discoveries while building streets quite interesting.
Historical reenactments are a fun way to experience active history, and there are a few of them to be found in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. The War of 1812: Battle of Prairie du Chien is a reenactment of Wisconsin’s only battle of the war. The Villa Louis Carriage Classic celebrates the 1800’s with carriage races and participants in period dress, and at the Rendezvous you will find the largest fur-trader reenactment in the Midwest.
Where to begin? The Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce keeps its pulse on all things historical and you can find out about historical events, including reenactments on their site.
Log Cabin Heritage Park
In Gays Mills, WI you will find a unique outdoor architectural museum comprising six log structures that have been moved to the site and maintained. There are log cabins, but also a hen house, corn crib, and a log school house. The school house was built in the 1850’s to house 50 students grades one through eight and their single teacher. This one room school house was used for nearly 90 years.
Where to begin? One of the buildings was built without nails. Can you find it? Also, the park itself is a nice place to stop and enjoy a picnic with shelters, grills, restrooms, and a playground.