Paddle and walk in the footsteps of

HISTORY

Northcentral Wisconsin has a rich and storied history that dates back to the native Ojibwa cultures who first settled the area, and the French Explorers who traveled these woods in the 17th century. The Turtle Rock segment of the Ice Age Trail is named for the legendary site where the Ojibwas would leave offerings to the gods as they portaged between Grandmother and Grandfather Falls. In the 1800s, the area was filled with a burgeoning lumber industry that first carved our trails through the woods and leveraged the waters of the Wisconsin River. Historic sites along the water trail and on land are the perfect destination for those who love to explore the stories and artifacts of days past.

Unveiling history along The Pinery through engaging signs

At the Pinery, signs along the Wisconsin River offer trip planning tools and engaging content. Each sign not only features detailed maps, safety reminders, and trail conditions but also presents captivating storytelling elements, unveiling fascinating tales of the area and its connection to the river. For history enthusiasts, these signs provide a rich experience, complemented by QR codes leading to web pages filled with multimedia content about each segment of the trail.

Unveiling history along The Pinery through engaging signs

At the Pinery, signs along the Wisconsin River offer trip planning tools and engaging content. Each sign not only features detailed maps, safety reminders, and trail conditions but also presents captivating storytelling elements, unveiling fascinating tales of the area and its connection to the river. For history enthusiasts, these signs provide a rich experience, complemented by QR codes leading to web pages filled with multimedia content about each segment of the trail.

ENJOY MOTHER NATURE’S BEAUTY

that took eons to create.

It has taken millions of years for the Wisconsin River to carve its way through the center part of our state. In doing so, It has created a veritable wonderland of lakes, forests and rock formations that one has to see to truly appreciate. As the river trail winds south of Tomahawk, the valley walls reach up to the sky, standing ten to twelve feet above the water, capped with Eastern Hemlock, White Pine and a variety of hardwood trees hanging over the edge. The exposed bedrock of Grandfather Falls is considered to be the oldest rock in the area, dating back nearly two million years. The Wisconsin River Valley has beautiful views of waterfalls, wildlife and even the ruins of manmade structures that have surrendered to the gently flowing waters of the river as Mother Nature continues her work. The landscape is filled with lush vegetation and makes a perfect backdrop for long, leisurely days spent on the water.

ENJOY MOTHER NATURE’S BEAUTY

that took eons to create.

It has taken millions of years for the Wisconsin River to carve its way through the center part of our state. In doing so, It has created a veritable wonderland of lakes, forests and rock formations that one has to see to truly appreciate. As the river trail winds south of Tomahawk, the valley walls reach up to the sky, standing ten to twelve feet above the water, capped with Eastern Hemlock, White Pine and a variety of hardwood trees hanging over the edge. The exposed bedrock of Grandfather Falls is considered to be the oldest rock in the area, dating back nearly two million years. The Wisconsin River Valley has beautiful views of waterfalls, wildlife and even the ruins of manmade structures that have surrendered to the gently flowing waters of the river as Mother Nature continues her work. The landscape is filled with lush vegetation and makes a perfect backdrop for long, leisurely days spent on the water.

See historic bridges from a new perspective

There are many bridges along the water trails in this area – both historic and recent. The Eau Claire River Bridge claims the oldest bridge on the trail. It replaced an old wooden bridge and a year later became a railroad bridge. It also has a unique pony truss design (the only one designed this way in Wisconsin). Barker-Stewart Island is connected to downtown Wausau by three different types of historical bridges – all from different years. In fact, many of the bridges near or around downtown Wausau are now considered historic – such as Big Bull Falls – East Channel (1926) & West Channel (1914), High/Memorial/Scott Street (1928), Slough Street (1915), Isle of Ferns Pedestrian Bridge (Unknown), and Abandoned Chicago Northwestern (1921). The landing at Riverlife Park allows you to get out of the water and explore a couple of historic bridges in less than an hour without leaving downtown Wausau.

See historic bridges from a new perspective

There are many bridges along the water trails in this area – both historic and recent. The Eau Claire River Bridge claims the oldest bridge on the trail. It replaced an old wooden bridge and a year later became a railroad bridge. It also has a unique pony truss design (the only one designed this way in Wisconsin). Barker-Stewart Island is connected to downtown Wausau by three different types of historical bridges – all from different years. In fact, many of the bridges near or around downtown Wausau are now considered historic – such as Big Bull Falls – East Channel (1926) & West Channel (1914), High/Memorial/Scott Street (1928), Slough Street (1915), Isle of Ferns Pedestrian Bridge (Unknown), and Abandoned Chicago Northwestern (1921). The landing at Riverlife Park allows you to get out of the water and explore a couple of historic bridges in less than an hour without leaving downtown Wausau.

Flowing through history: stories from The Pinery

Read these blog posts to learn the history of The Pinery and the areas that surround it.

That Old Wisconse

Among the pioneers of the Great Pinery who had spent their lives living, traveling, and working on the river; an affectionate and familiar name for the Wisconsin River was common, "The Wisconse."

Wisconsin River's Name

The Wisconsin River's name has a rich history and varied interpretations, reflecting its significant role in the region's geography and culture. The river, originating in northern Wisconsin, flows southward.

WVIC Story & Wisconsin River

WVIC traces its roots from the heart of the Northwoods, through the boom of the paper and power industry, to the river valley we know today. The WVIC has been the caretaker of water in 21 reservoirs.

Historic Hiawatha Trail Bridge

This pony truss bridge is one of Tomahawk’s recognizable landmarks. It was constructed in 1894 by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway as part of a rail line that served the paper mills of the area.

History of papermaking

Wisconsin’s paper industry has seen many changes over the past 170 years and continues to be a cornerstone of Wisconsin’s economy. Papermaking in Wisconsin began in Milwaukee on March 7, 1848.

The search for Wisconsin's first priest

Father Schmirler was trying to discover the exact location where Father Rene Menard died while trying to reach refugee Indians on the headquarters of the Black River in the summer of 1661.

The Great Pinery

Long ago, white pine forests covered much of the Northwoods of Wisconsin, and the expanses of what could yield valuable lumber stretched well into Michigan, Minnesota and Canada.

History of Brokaw & the paper mill

In 1889, Norman Brokaw of Kaukauna and W.I. Edmonds of Appleton came to Marathon County to investigate reports of excellent and unexploited waterpower. Their idea was to establish a paper mill.

The 1912 flood of the Wisconsin River

If you were standing right here on July 23, 1912, you would have seen the signs of the coming disaster that would be one of the most infamous evenings in the history of the Wisconsin River.

Wisconsin River Valley gets hydromania

[…] the turn of the 20th century saw a surge in the number of hydro projects being created [on] the Wisconsin River. Many [places in the US] saw hydro dams as the answer to their problems.

Lumbering at Big Bull Falls

In 1838, George Stevens led the first expedition of Europeans up the Wisconsin River with the goal of establishing a sawmill that would allow for the harvest of the Great Pinery.

History of Janke Book Store

This timber boom of the 19th century led to the development of the city of Wausau by settlers. Soon Wausau’s downtown, centered around Third Street, grew just two blocks from the river.

History of the Wausau Dam

Wausau owes its existence to the Wisconsin River that flows through it. As early as 1841, logs were being sent down to Big Bull Falls, where sawmills were harnessing the river’s power to drive powerful saws.

Wausau’s islands become parks

Since the founding of Wausau [...], the islands here have been central to the development of the community. The islands [...] continued to be the place where the [...] lumber industry operated.

A hill becomes a mountain

The defining landmark for this region has long been Rib Mountain. The four-mile-long ridge of ancient quartzite towers 600 feet over the surrounding landscape and dates back some 1.7 billion years.

Alexander Airport takes off

The 1920s were an exciting time for aviation. In less than 20 years, planes had gone from flimsy contraptions [...]to sleek, powerful machines capable of cross-country flights and beyond.

History of Marathon Corporation

A paper mill was also finished in 1910 […], and the newly formed Marathon Paper Company soon took over running the dam and its six turbines that provided the power for its entirely electrically-driven mill.

Wausau expands south

Wausau’s southeast side [...] was recognized for its fertile land in the 1860s, attracting settlers. [...] It was chosen [...] by Marathon County for various health institutions and care facilities.

Waterfowl & shorebird migration

Lake Wausau is a great place for viewing waterfowl [...] [like] the variety of loons, grebes, ducks and more are most abundant. April to early May is prime time for viewing this variety of birds as they migrate.

History of Rothschild Park

Rothschild Park, initially named “Pine Park,” has served as a central community hub since June 10, 1908, drawing about 2,100 visitors who accessed it via the trolley line.

Chief Mosinee and Native People

According to the stories […], in the 1800s Chippewa and Menomonee people would spend part of each year encamped here on the Wisconsin River. The Native Americans had long developed a sort of migratory life [...].

The History of the Mosinee paper mill

In the first decade of the 20th century, it was clear that paper production would be the new industry to replace lumber in many Wisconsin communities.

The Mosinee Bridge

In 1854, the new Mosinee post office building moved from the east side of [...] river to the west side. The first settlers had settled on the eastern side, along the major road that connected Mosinee to the wider world.

231 year history of Mosinee

Mosinee has a long and rich history dating from the days of the first French fur trappers, stretching through the logging days, and continuing forward into the future.

DuBay and the legacy of the Fur Trade

By the time John Baptiste DuBay made his home in [...] Mosinee, he had already had a long and distinguished career. He had managed the Lac du Flambeau trading post for the American Fur Company [...].

The Northerner

In the mid-1800s, steam-powered boats were making waves as a new way to travel the nation’s larger rivers[...]. It did not take long [...] for enterprising people to try to operate steamers up and down the Wisconsin River.

The Story of Knowlton

In many ways, the story of Knowlton is a story about the importance of roads. […] its location on the main road made Knowlton an important link in the commerce and community of Central Wisconsin.

The Portage

For most of the history of humans living along the Wisconsin River, waterways were the main method of travel. [...] the Native Americans were navigating the lakes and rivers of the Pinery in birchbark canoes.

Looking for more?

Explore organizations that are preserving the history of The Pinery.

The award-winning Marathon County Historical Society

Tomahawk Historical Society

Rhinelander Historical Society/Museum

Merrill Historical Museum

100 E 3rd St, Merrill, WI 54452

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Sign up with your email address to receive news and event information.