Marquette County Attractions
Located in the gently rolling countryside of south-central Wisconsin, Marquette County remains largely untouched by human habitation. Almost two-thirds of the County's 320,000 acres are covered by primitive oak and pine forests alive with an abundance of wildlife, and vast expanses of grassy marshlands, vibrant with the sights and sounds of thousands of nesting and migrating birds.
Named for the French Jesuit explorer, Jacques Marquette, who traveled here in 1673, Marquette County's waterways remain today much like they did years before -- idyllic waterways, great for canoeing, boating and fishing; rich in wildlife and tranquil beauty.
In 1890, the Montello Express promoted development of Marquette County's tourism potential, editorializing that "It is admitted by most intelligent people that Montello is most favorably suited to make it an attractive and delightful Summer Resort." Today, as at the turn of the last century, Marquette County is a natural vacationer's paradise, but not just for summer anymore!
In spring, the county's woods and wetlands come alive with the sights and sounds of hundreds of thousands of birds; rare and endangered plants spring new growth, trout dart hungrily after the first emerging waterflies, ruffed grouse labor to attract their mates, "drumming" their hearts out on fallen logs, and delicate wildflowers burst into bloom. Hikers, cyclers and canoeists take to the waters and trails, birders take out their binoculars, turkey hunters tryout their calling techniques, and anglers scout out their favorite fishing holes as fast as the melting snows allow.
In fall, as the woods turn to red and gold, migrating birds again fill the countryside with their calls, hunters get ready to respond to the first explosive flash of feathers from the underbrush, and anglers work the lakes and streams for the last of the year's soft-water catches while hikers. Cyclers and canoeists explore the glorious colors and watch the squirrels, beavers, muskrats, mink and otters as they scurry to fill their larders and prepare their shelters for the season ahead.
In winter, cross-country skiers quietly glide through frosted woodlands where inquisitive whitetail deer shyly peek-out from the distance and ermine (weasels in winter wear) lay tracks across the trail; anglers patiently try their hand at hard-water fishing through the ice as beavers and muskrats sun themselves atop the domes of their winter lodgings. Snowmobilers explore the winter wonderland on 250 miles of trail that crisscross the County; trail riders take to horseback and entire families bundle up in buffalo robes to take a horsedrawn sleigh or wagon ride to view the winter scenery as it was seen by the area's first European settlers, 150 years ago.
The father of our country's National Park Service, naturalist John Muir, spent his boyhood on a Marquette County farm located alongside Fountain Lake, now named Ennis Lake. The lake and the Muir's' Farm are now part of Muir Park; a National Historic Landmark consisting of 125-acres of land and lake restored to the state they were in when Muir's father and brother found them 140 years ago. John Muir's legacy lives on in the pristine beauty and proliferation of recovering plants and animals found in Marquette County's many wildlife conservation and preservation areas, including the Fox River Unit of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, across the road from Muir Park, Duffy's Marsh, Comstock Marsh, the Summerton Bog and the Germania and Grand River Marshes.
In Marquette County's woods and wetlands, naturalists, birders and casual observers will find hundreds of different species of birds: great flocks of Canada Geese, one of the largest congregations of once-endangered Great Sandhill Cranes in the Midwest, elegant but noisy tundra swans, great blue herons, white egrets, osprey, an occasional bald eagle, ducks galore, songbirds by the score; bluebirds, orioles, thrashers, bob-o-links, towhees and more. Uncommon elsewhere, pileated woodpeckers are common here, but would rather be heard than seen. Pheasants pad through the marshes. Ruffed grouse, woodcock, and quail rustle in the grass. Wild turkeys gobble their way through the countryside while turkey vultures, "black hawks" to the American Indian people, circle effortlessly high in the sky.
Dotted by nearly seventy lakes and ponds, and crisscrossed by fifteen sparkling trout streams, Marquette County has some of the most varied and productive fishing spots in the Midwest. On the Fox and Grand River systems, monster catfish and Northerns lurk, just waiting to run out your line. Lunker Muskies, Northern, Walleyes, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Bluegills, Perch and Crappies abound in area lakes and mill ponds.
Marquette County's 15 spring-fed trout streams offer plenty of space to whisk out your line, and plenty of Brown, Brook and Rainbow Trout waiting to reward the effort. Public access and boat launching facilities are available on most county lakes and rivers, with many additional private access points at area resorts and campgrounds. Area resorts and outfitters also offer canoe, boat and motor rentals, along with tackle and fresh, live bait to bring in the catch of the day or the thrill of a lifetime.
In the county's more than 6,000 acres of public hunting grounds, hunters will find one of the best whitetail deer herds in the state; an abundance of small game including red and gray foxes, raccoons, coyotes, fox squirrels, ground squirrels, and cottontail rabbits; plenty of ruffed grouse, woodcock, quail, pheasant, wild turkeys, ducks; and, more than 200,000 Canada Geese in season.
The County's two golf courses offer 36 holes and all the amenities needed for a perfect pair of outings. Five additional courses, available in neighboring Green Lake and Waushara Counties, give golfers a different course to play every day of the week. Miniature golf enthusiasts will find five courses scattered throughout the county; and bowling is on tap at the area's modern bowling centers.
Marquette County Historical Society Museum
125 Lawrence Street, Westfield
Take a walk through Marquette County's historic past, brought to life in the Historical Society's extensive collection of artifacts, dating from the area's earliest pioneering days through the mid-twentieth century. The Museum's collection is exhibited in three separate buildings: the newly constructed Kerst Exhibit Building, and two historic structures, a railroad section house containing memorabilia of earlier railroad days, and the Cochrane-Nelson House, a stately two-story home with high-ceilings and filigree woodwork constructed in 1903, furnished from top to bottom with antiques and collectibles that were useful and fashionable when the county was young. The Museum is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 1:00 pm. to 4:00 pm., from the last Wednesday in May through the first Wednesday in September.
Montello Granite Quarry
Hwy. 23, Montello
The Montello granite quarry, opened in 1879, employed more workers and generated more income for Montello than any other single business. Montello red granite was used to build the tombs of U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, and decorates Wisconsin's magnificent State Capitol Building. The rapids that once provided the power to run the quarry machinery now form four sparkling waterfalls that cascade over granite outcroppings into the quarry that made Montello famous, and prosperous. The waterfalls and quarry can best be viewed from the Montello Granite Park, located on Hwy. 23 in Montello.
State Hwy. 23, Montello
Located on Hwy. 23, just west of downtown Montello, are two historic buildings: Le Maison Granit, a Georgian Revival style mansion built of Montello granite in 1909, now operated as an historic retreat and bed and breakfast inn; and, the impressive Marquette County Courthouse, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. What may well be the oldest, but is definitely the largest tree in the State of Wisconsin, a 138 foot tall cottonwood with a crown spread of 132 feet and a 23.2 ft. circumference, stands in the park between these two historic buildings.
John Muir County Park
Co. Hwy. F, Montello
Recently designated a National Historic Landmark, 125-acre Muir Park was the boyhood home of internationally famous naturalist and the father of this country's National Park Service, John Muir. Restored and preserved, as it was 100 years ago when John Muir wandered its hills and meadows, Muir's Fountain Lake Farm still rings with the sounds of songbirds. The shores of Fountain Lake (now renamed Ennis Lake) still dance with the elegant mating rituals of the Great Sandhill Cranes in spring and harbor flocks of waterfowl on their twice-yearly migrations.
Thousands of acres of woodland and marsh have been preserved in Marquette County. In addition, there are rivers and lakes, shopping, golf, and Wisconsin's largest tree. In Marquette County, there is something for everyone!
Natural Areas - Many of the great natural areas found throughout Marquette County are open to the public and are fantastic places to catch sight of some of the wildlife in the county. These include the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, Observatory Hill, Summerton Bog, Paige Creek Marsh, Comstock Marsh, Grand River Wildlife Area and the Germania Marsh Wildlife Area.
Observatory Hill - Rising 300 feet above the surrounding terrain, this hill is Marquette County's highest point. After hiking up through ancient forests, the view from the top is fantastic! Public access to the site can be reached from the intersection of Hwys. 22 and F on the South side of Montello. See the maps for more precise directions.
Wisconsin's Largest Tree - Yep, that's right, the biggest tree in Wisconsin is an enormous cottonwood sitting prominantly on Hwy 23 in Montello. Situated in front of the historic Marquette County Courthouse and the beautiful Granite Mansion, the tree takes several people linking hands to make the circumferance.
Montello Granite Park and Waterfalls - Four sparkling waterfalls cascade down granite outcroppings into the old Montello granite quarry. Granite from this quarry was used in some of the great monuments in American History, including President Grant's tomb.
The Amish Community - A thriving Amish community has been established in the southeastern part of Marquette County and neighboring Green Lake. The Amish have over two dozen shops that offer handcrafted furniture and quilts, home-baked and bulk foods, garden produce and more.