Since the founding of Wausau in the late 1830s, the
islands here have been central to the development of
the community. The islands that were the first home
to these settlers in the 1840s continued to be the place
where the all-important lumber industry operated.
Many of Wausau’s islands inherited names from the
lumber companies that operated there. Even as the
lumber industry was declining, people in Wausau
were going to the islands to enjoy summer picnics
on the cool Wisconsin River.

Oak Island
Oak Island Park, which became part of the city park
system in 1918, was once an actual island where
people would gather informally to enjoy the river. The
park stopped being an “island” when the path of the
river was moved. Instead of flowing along what is now
the path of River Drive, land valuable for development
was gained when that part of the river was shifted to
what is now called the east channel.

Government Lot 4 Islands
There were a handful of islands at the base of Big Bull
Falls owned by the Plumer Land Company. In 1920, the
damming of the river drastically changed some of
these islands to mere slivers of their original size.
In 1932, as part of an expansion of Riverside Park, the
city officially made Picnic Island its own park. People
had been crossing to it from Riverside Park for years.
The island was the only former Lot 4 island to remain
substantially unchanged and it provided an excellent
picnic spot.

Fern Island
Fern Island was originally known as Stack Island,
because the lumber companies found it a good place
to stack up logs waiting to be cut into boards at the
sawmills. As the lumber industry declined around the
turn of the 20th century, the Wisconsin Valley
Improvement Company gave the island to the city.
In the 1940s, the city developed it to become another
park, which has the official name Isle of Ferns Park.

Baker-Stewart and Clarke’s Islands
In the early 1970s, the city developed two parks on former
lumbering islands. The creation of hiking trails to the site
of the old Barker-Stewart Lumber Company coincided
with it becoming Barker-Stewart Park. The city acquired
the bridge to get out to Barker-Stewart from Clarke’s
Island as well as some of that island and soon it would
be developed into its own island park. In recognition of
the impressive falls here that attracted the early
European settlers, this park is called Big Bull Falls Park.