I decided it was time for my annual spring driving tour of the Lake Wisconsin/Wisconsin River area outside of Poynette on a sunny afternoon, April 18. The old Emerson family cottage was located on the shore of a Wisconsin River back water in the Town of Dekorra, north-west of Poynette. It’s beautiful section of Columbia County and I like to revisit it at least twice every year.
I got off to a late start, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The 55-mile circle tour can be driven in as little as two and a half hours, but I prefer to take time for a number of stops along the route to enjoy the views, take a hike or two and enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the many parks along the way.
Sunday’s drive was made without the lunch or the hikes because of the later starting time, but it was still an enjoyable trip on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
I drove out of DeForest toward the interstate and turned right on County Road I, just past the interstate interchange. I noticed a few farmers in the field on the way to Arlington. When I stopped at the stop sign in Arlington I decided to go straight, past the Arlington Firemen’s Park. A short ways past the park the road ends at Richard’s Road. I remembered back to when I was a kid and the family would be driving up to the cottage. As we came up to that stop sign Dad would announce that we were going to take the road named after me. I turned left and it was a short drive to WIBU Road.
I made a right and traveled up the hill and past the old WIBU radio station. It’s starting to look a bit run-down. The views from the top of that hill are spectacular, but you have to drive off the road to see them due to the dense wood cover along the side of the narrow road.
Poynette is at the bottom of the hill. I took a left at the stop sign and it was just a short one block drive to Highway CS and headed right toward Lake Wisconsin. It’s a pretty stretch of wooded drive through Pine Hollow to get to the interstate interchange. Keep going straight on the road, don’t turn toward Okee or the Lodi area. A short ways past Dekorra Lutheran Church I came to the stop sign and a right turn took me on Whalen Grade across Lake Wisconsin. The water was pretty choppy and there were not many boats on the lake. There were hardly any cars parked off the grade crossing, but once the fishing season opens, it will be hard to find a parking place at this popular fishing spot.
Once I crossed the grade I turned left on Tipperary Road. This road travels along the shoreline of Lake Wisconsin. There are many cottages lining the road through here and folks have to cross the road to get to the lake from their cottages. Drive slow and watch for pedestrians. Quite a few were out in the lake in waders putting up their docks and a few of the docks that were already up had fishermen on them trying out their casting rods. The road follows the lake shore until it bends to the right and follows the shore of the Wisconsin River. At this corner on the left side of the road is James Whalen Memorial Park with picnic tables and playground equipment for the kids.
I turned right and started to climb up the hill. I had to go slow because there were a lot of hikers and bikers on the road at this point. In my opinion, this section of Tipperary Road is the most dramatic stretch of road in the trip. It is built into the bluff and takes you high above the cottages and the river. The sights are amazing any time of the year. The downside is the road is narrow with little to no shoulder, so you can’t stop to appreciate the view unless you pull into a private driveway. It eventually drops down to river level and I stayed on this road until Wild Cat Beach Road where I turned right and headed away from the river.
This part of the trip was through open fields. There were a few farmers out working the ground. Quite often one can spot sandhill cranes in these fields. A few years ago we hit this area during mating season and we must have watched for about a half hour while they performed their mating dances. With the tractors in the fields there were no cranes to be seen this year.
I came to a stop sign at the junction of County Road V and turned left towards the river. V follows the river shoreline for a while. Just before crossing the interstate I came to the junction of Oak Knoll Road. This is where the old Emerson cottage is located. I usually travel up and down Oak Knoll but this year I kept traveling on V. After a few miles of farm scenery I again approached the river at Hooker’s Resort.
I followed the road to the right and about down the road I pulled into the parking area of Dekorra Park. This was a favorite park for Molly and I to take our sons Scott and Jim on a picnic when they were grade school age. It has a large field of grass overlooking the Wisconsin River with playground swings and slides. There’s even a tennis court. If you want to launch a boat in the Wisconsin River, you can do it here. You can wade and swim in the sand bottom river, but be cautious — there is a fast current in the river and there are no life guards.
There was something new in the park, a new Wisconsin Historical Marker has been installed telling about the Village of Dekorra. The river town was booming until the railroads came through. Be sure you stop to read it when you find yourself in the area.
I continued down the road and went straight past the road to Lake Columbia which is a cooling pond for the Columbia Power Plant.
I turned right at the junction with Highway 51 and after a short drive I saw a sign for the Rock and Wool Winery at Drake Road. It was only a half mile off 51 so I decided to check it out. It looks like an interesting spot to stop and try their wines in the barn on the farm, but I didn’t take the time on this trip. I plan to go back later and try it.
I soon came into Poynette from the north. I turned left on CS at the Owl’s Nest and a mile and a half down the road I went by the MacKenzie Wildlife Center. This is a fantastic spot for a picnic and enjoy the wildlife exhibits while you are there. Also take a hike on one of the many trails. Make sure your family visits the MacKenzie Environmental Center this spring or summer. It’s a great place to visit and it’s all free.
I took Highway 22 to the right and hooked back up with 51 at North Leeds and then back to DeForest. It was a great spring time drive through some beautiful country and it’s close to home.