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The Area

The Driftless Area, that part of the upper Midwest that escaped being glaciated in the last Ice Age, is remarkable for its beautiful wooded hillsides and valleys cut by cool spring-fed trout streams.  This unique area encompasses much of southwestern Wisconsin and parts of southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and northwestern Illinois. The ridges offer unparalleled views of contoured fields, small family farms, and forested hills; valley roads wind lazily around and across streams and rivers. Soldiers Grove lies in the Kickapoo Valley, an area defined by the Kickapoo River, the longest tributary of the Wisconsin River and perhaps the nation’s oldest untouched river system.  Called the “crooked river,” the Kickapoo meanders some 125 miles, but only covers 65 miles as the crow flies.  Within the Kickapoo Valley and the larger Driftless Area, you can enjoy many activities.

Avalanche Looms

The Arts
The beauty and tranquility of the Driftless Area makes it a haven for artists of all kinds.  Around the curve or tucked away are the homes and studios of writers and poets, potters and painters, weavers and woodworkers.  You can visit their studios, go to galleries that carry their works, or attend festivals focused on the arts.  Here are some suggestions (click on the name to go to a website):

Avalanche Looms, Avalanche
Joseph Schwarte Custom Furniture, Gays Mills
Kathie Wheeler Fine Art, Viroqua
Kay’s Potiques, Ferryville
Ken DeWaard Fine Art, Viroqua
Trout Creek Studios, Soldiers Grove

The Carriage House, Boscobel
Gays Mills Arts Collective, Gays Mills
The Pump House, La Crosse
The Red Door Gallery, Richland Center
State Street Gallery, La Crosse
VIVA Gallery, Viroqua

Festivals and Studio Tours:
Art Fair on the Green, La Crosse
Driftless Area Art Festival, Soldiers Grove
Fall Art Tour, Baraboo, Dodgeville, Spring Green, Mineral Point
Spring Green Arts and Crafts Festival, Spring Green


Kay's Potiques
VIVA Gallery
Driftless Area Art Festival
Ridgetop Farm

The small family farms that dot the landscape are testament to the area’s agricultural heritage.  Many dairy farms still remain, but the area is fast becoming known for its organic farming.  Organic Valley Family of Farms, one of the nation’s largest organic producers, is located here, in La Farge.  The local food movement is strong here, and you should not miss our locally-produced maple syrup, honey, and cheeses. 

Gays Mills is known for its Orchard Ridge, seven apple orchards located along Highway 171.  In the fall, the orchards offer dozens of varieties of apples, along with baked goods and jams.  In the spring, you may find you-pick strawberries and raspberries.  In early summer, cherries are available, and in early fall, you can also find arbors heavy with purple grapes.  And speaking of grapes, don’t forget to visit the area wineries.

Kickapoo Exchange, Gays Mills
Organic Valley Family of Farms, La Farge
People’s Food Coop, La Crosse
Viroqua Food Coop, Viroqua

Gays Mills Orchard Ridge, Gays Mills
Fleming Orchard, Gays Mills
Hillcrest Orchards, Gays Mills
Kickapoo Orchard, Gays Mills
Shihata’s Orchard, Prairie du Chien
Sunrise Orchards, Gays Mills
Starry Ridge Orchard, Gays Mills
Turkey Ridge Organic Orchard, Gays Mills
West Ridge Orchard, Gays Mills

Branches Winery, Westby
Spurgeon Vineyards, Highland
Vernon Vineyards, Viroqua
Wollersheim Winery, Prairie du Sac


Organic Vegetables
Apple Orchards
Vernon Vineyards
Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail

For those of you who like to ride, there is every type of bicycling opportunity close by.  For those who like the adventure of mountain biking, there are excellent trails at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve near La Farge and at Sidie Hollow Park near Viroqua.  For those who like pavement under their wheels, there is the 32-mile Elroy-Sparta Bike State Trail, with its famous rock tunnels.  And for those who like to set their own course, the winding roads of the Driftless Area offer enjoyment (downhill) and challenge (back up).  The recently-published Crawford County Bike Map offers suggested routes of varying difficulty.

Biking Trails:
Crawford County Bicycle Map
Elroy-Sparta State Trail, Kendall (Trail Headquarters)
Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge
Richland County Bike Map
Sidie Hollow Park, Viroqua

Bike Shops:
Bluedog Cycles, Viroqua

Crawford County Road
Blue Dog Cycle Rider
Bald Eagle

The availability of contiguous forests, the preservation of natural wetlands, and the presence of one of the nation’s greatest flyways—the Mississippi—offers unparalleled bird watching.  We are near one part of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail, the Mississippi-Chippewa Rivers Region.  Depending on the season, you have the chance to see warblers, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles, and during migrations, great flocks of snow geese, white pelicans, and other travelers.

Favorite Birding Spots:
Blue River Sand Barrens State Natural Area, Blue River
Duck Egg County Forest, Viroqua
Kickapoo River State Wildlife Area, Wauzeka
Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge
Rush Creek State Natural Area, Ferryville
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, La Crosse

Bird Watchers
Sandhill Cranes
Kickapoo River Bluffs

The “crookedest river in the world,” the Kickapoo, is a great place to paddle.  There are a number of canoe liveries in and near Ontario, where the high sandstone cliffs are breathtaking in their beauty as you slip by on the water.  The lower part of the river can also be canoed, as it winds through farming communities and grasslands.  The lower part of the Wisconsin River offers great family canoeing, with no need to portage.

Canoe Liveries:
Crooked Creek Canoe, Readstown
Kickapoo Yacht Club Canoe Rental, Rockton
Mr. Duck’s Canoe Rental, Ontario
Titanic Canoe Rental, Ontario
Wisconsin River Outings, Boscobel


Canoeing the Kickapoo
Dairy Days Rodeo

From the arts to agriculture, from heritage to hoe-downs, there is a festival to celebrate every aspect of our region.  Every summer weekend offers a choice of activities, and even in winter, we celebrate customs and traditions that make this place special.

Soldiers Grove:
Dairy Days, Father’s Day Weekend
Driftless Area Art Festival, Third Weekend in September

A Sampling of Other Area Festivals:
Apple Festival, Gays Mills
Crawford County Fair, Gays Mills
Kickapoo Country Fair, Organic Valley Headquarters, La Farge
Larryfest Outdoor Bluegrass Festival, La Farge
Prairie Dog Blues Festival, Prairie du Chien
Snowflake International Ski Jump Competition, Westby
Syttende Mai Festival, Westby
Vernon County Fair, Viroqua
Villa Louis Carriage Classic, Prairie du Chien
Wild West Days, Viroqua
Winter Festival, Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge


Driftless Area Art Festival
Winter Festival Sleigh Ride
Trout Fishing

The Driftless Area boasts hundreds of miles of pristine trout streams, like the West Fork of the Kickapoo River or Timber Coulee.  And there are a number of great guides to help you find and catch that wily trout.  There is also fishing on the Mississippi, a great way to while away a summer afternoon—or a winter one, if you are more intrepid.  Check out the Wisconsin DNR’s Go Fish site for information on seasons, regulations, and places where they’re biting.

Fishing Guides:
Driftless Angler Fly Shop, Viroqua
Jacquish Hollow Angler, Richland Center
Silver Doctor Fly Fishing, Viroqua


Brown Trout
View from Wildcat Mountain

There are a number of superb hiking opportunities close by.  Wyalusing State Park, near Prairie du Chien, offers panoramic views of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers.  On the 22 miles of hiking trails, you might pass Indian burial grounds or see some of the 90 species of birds that have been recorded.  Between LaFarge and Ontario is the 8,600-acre Kickapoo Valley Reserve, which has three hikers-only trials, and miles more shared with off-road bicyclists and horse people.  Nearby Wildcat Mountain State Park, on a steep ridge overlooking the Kickapoo River, has over 25 miles of wooded hiking trails.

Hiking Trails and Natural Areas:
Hogback Prairie, Steuben
Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge
Wildcat Mountain State Park, Ontario
Wyalusing State Park, Bagley


Ice Cave Hike
Effigy Mounds

The area has a rich history, and those who are interested in anything from Native American history to early settlement to architecture will find something to explore.  Just across the Mississippi River is Effigy Mounds, with its 206 ceremonial and sacred sites associated with 15 American Indian tribes.  Back across the river in nearby Prairie du Chien is the Villa Louis, the meticulously-restored Victorian estate of one of Wisconsin’s earliest settlers.  And if architecture is your passion, then Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate in Spring Green, is not to be missed.

Historical Sites:
Effigy Mounds National Monument, Harpers Ferry, IA
Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center, Coon Valley
Pendarvis State Historical Site, Mineral Point
Taliesin, Spring Green
Villa Louis, Prairie du Chien

History Museums:
Fennimore Railroad Historical Society Museum, Fennimore
Prairie du Chien Museum at Ford Crawford, Prairie du Chien
Vernon County Historical Museum, Viroqua


Norskedalen Heritage Center
Villa Louis
Fall Hillside

Scenic Drives
It’s tempting to say that every drive around here is scenic, but there are some that are especially so.  Wisconsin has a wonderful Rustic Road designation that points out some of our most scenic, lightly-traveled country roads.  The Great River Road along the Mississippi is one of the nation’s treasures, with its soaring limestone bluffs, quaint river towns, and river views and activity.

Rustic Roads:
Tunnelville Road, south of La Farge off of Highway 131
Dutch Hollow Road/Sandhill Road/Lower Ridge Road, south of Ontario off of Highway 131
County MM, near La Crosse, off of US Highways 14/61

Scenic Roads:
Great River Road, Wisconsin

Ridgetop View
Great River Road
Down A Country Road

You’ll have to drive over an hour to reach a shopping mall, but we think that assures you’ll find something different here.  From hand-crafted items to antiques to unique gifts, our small towns can offer something a little different to take home with you.  Part of the experience is enjoying the craftsmanship of our local Amish community, from their quilts to their furniture to their homemade candy.  Stop at local Amish shops as you drive the area (no Sunday sales, though) or visit one of the shops below.

Amish Goods:
Down A Country Road, Cashton
Otter Vale General Store, La Farge

Bramble Books, Viroqua
Driftless Books and Music, Viroqua

Highway 14 Antiques, Viroqua
Liberty Pole Store, Liberty Pole

Avalanche Looms, Avalanche
Ewetopia Fiber Shop, Viroqua

nusual Gifts:
Driftless Fair Traders, Viroqua
Viroqua Public Market, Viroqua
Wild Things, Rockton


Bramble Books
Viroqua Public Market
Snow Shoeing

Winter Activities
Winter may be a good reason to sit by our fireplaces, but it’s also a great time to be outdoors.  The Kickapoo Valley and the larger Driftless Area are great places for winter sports such as snow shoeing, cross-country skiing (by candlelight on Valentine’s Day), downhill skiing, and other cold-weather activities. 

Cross-Country Skiing:
Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge
Wildcat Mountain State Park, Ontario
Wyalusing State Park, Bagley

Downhill Skiing:
Mount La Crosse, La Crosse

Snow Shoeing:
Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge
Wildcat Mountain State Park, Ontario

Westby Ski Jump
Snow Shoeing

Other Area Links

Gays Mills
Prairie du Chien
Richland Center
Soldiers Grove
Crawford County
Grant County
Monroe County
Richland County
Vernon County
Driftless Wisconsin
Kickapoo Valley Association

The Roth House
102 Pine Street
Soldiers Grove, WI  54655