THERE ARE MANY BUSINESSES WITH ACCOMODATIONS
SEE MORE INFORMATION FOR ALTERNATE ROADS FOR ENHANCED SCENIC RIDE
Northwest Passage (17.5 miles) Begin at Pioneer Memorial Park in Westfield (don’t forget to get water at the artesian well across from the park) and ride west on Pioneer Park Rd. Cross CTY CH and take Pioneer Park Rd which turns into to Eagle Ave Take Eagle Ave to CTY A, right on CTY A, continuing straight on 4th Ave as you cross CTY M. Take a left on 4th Rd, right on Dakota Drive, right on CTY CH and follow back into the village and turn right onto Pioneer Park Rd back to the parting area. This route has a lot of hills and curves.
MORE INFORMATION: The Northwest Passage Ride bike route in Marquette County is perhaps the most physically challenging course, but only for the northern portion and it’s well worth it for the extraordinary scenery. The route is 15.3 miles with many hills in the north. You can avoid that part of the trail by turning west on Dover Court, north on 5th Avenue, and west again on Dover Road which will put you back on the route at 4th Road going south. You’ll still have a great ride, but miss deep valleys, heavily wooded roads, and beautiful vistas.
Begin this route in Westfield where you can leave your car and begin your tour. Whether you check out the pretty VIllage of Westfield at the end or beginning of your tour, be sure to do so. Westfield grew up around the mill pond like so many settler towns. There’s a pretty little Veteran’s Park with a gazebo on your way out of town right on the mill pond.
Don’t miss the Coldwell Bank Realty building in downtown on the corner of Second and Main Streets. It’s also the information center where you can pick up maps and brochures about Marquette County. But the big draw of the building is the hole in the floor. That’s right, there’s a hole in the floor that looks down over huge trout that swim in pristine water of a spring that runs through the basement.
You can read about the interesting building in the office. It started out as Schwark Furniture Store, then became the Gardner Propeller Company that made propellers for WWII planes, then it was Quinn’s Plumbing and Appliance, Quinn’s Sport Shop (when the trout began swimming in the basement), and now Kravick Realty. And, oh yeah, Dutch Schultz’ window repair used to be in the back. It’s well worth the stop before or after your pedaling frenzy on the trail.
Another sight to see is the Marquette County Historical Society. The only regular hours are Wednesdays 1 to 4 but calling ahead will get you a tour while you’re here for the biking. The numbers are Museum 608-296-4700; or 608-296-2618, Joan.
Now head north out of town on CH but watch carefully and turn left onto Adams Street. This turns into 6th Court and eventually takes you back to CH. Taking this turn off will put you on a little travelled side road for a more enjoyable ride. County CH is a main road north, so there is a fair amount of traffic for our rural county. But then, traffic to those who live here means something totally different to those who might be visiting from a city. In any case, CH is straight and open with lots of sun and open air.
Watch for the Springfield Township Cemetery established in 1863. One of many old settler cemeteries.
Before you get off of CH and onto Dakota Drive going west, you may want to get off the designated route and loop around Wood Lake. It’s a very hilly route, and there are houses all around the pretty, deep lake, but there is a public boat landing where you can walk down to the lake. You turn right on Becker Road, left onto Dakota Avenue, and left again on 5th Drive which takes you back to CH. The public access is on 5th Drive.
You have to be watchful again to see the junction of CH and Dakota Drive. It’s easy to miss. On the map it looks like you’ll be going straight ahead, but you will be turning left or west onto Dakota Drive.
This route makes you keep your eyes on the road because you have to watch for the sharp right, or southwest on 4th Avenue. Found it? Now pedal down the road and look for a metal sign that marks the Hugh Iltis Prairie and Savanna Restoration project. Hugh Iltis was Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is best known for his discoveries in the genetics of corn and his inspiring passion for land stewardship. As a botanist, Iltis served as the Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Herbarium. He is co-author with Theodore Cochrane of the Atlas of the Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Flora.
This prairie restoration is on private land and was completed with management guidance as well as financial help from various agencies including Partners for Fish & Wildlife program and Wisconsin DNR Landowners Incentive Program and the all-student burn crew from UW-Stevens Point. An easement to the USDA protects 80 acres of the land. Once restored, it became perfect habitat for federally-endangered Karner Blue butterfly as well as Red-headed woodpeckers, Grasshopper sparrows, Whip-poor-wills, Sandhill cranes and bountiful prairie grasses and forbs. Standing along the road and watching the wind blow the grasses and plants waving in unison will recharge your soul.
The area you are riding through was once home to the earliest people who live here. A banner stone was once found in this area and was reported in the Wisconsin Archeologist. Banner stones were used by Paleo Indian and Archaic people as far back as 12,000 years ago. They added weight to atlatls, a tool used to throw spears farther and with more force . The valleys would have provided protection in winter and the many hills and lakes would have been important to them also. Lakes used for water and food and hills as waypoints and ceremonial sites.
There are other deep natural lakes like the above mentioned Wood Lake. Lake Burnita and School Section Lake offer you other off-the-route choices for touring. Refer to your map to see the roads that lead to these pretty lakes. Again, it is very hilly on these roads.
As you travel south on 4th Avenue, you’ll peer off the road into deep, heavily wooded valleys. There are very few houses on this road and when there is a house, it may have a Fresh Eggs sign at the end of its drive. Lush forested land leads you back into Westfield and the end of your ride.
The Northwest Passage Ride bike route in Marquette County is a passage through time and travel through land that still breathes forth natural beauty as it was intended in thick woods and open prairies and deep valleys. It will make you glad you came.
What you'll see:
The Marquette County Historical Society
Hugh Iltis Prairie