History...Scenery...And Just Plain Fun!
W I S C O N S I N
West Salem lies close to the halfway point on the 21.5 mile La Crosse River State Trail. It connects with the Great River Trail approximately eight miles to the west, and with the Elroy-Sparta Trail approximately thirteen miles to the east. This trail is a connecting link between the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and the Great River State Trail. Recreationalists have approximately 75 miles of biking and hiking between Elroy and Perrot State Park near Trempleau.
Whether you enjoy biking, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, or nature watching, the La Crosse River State Trail, which runs parallel to the La Crosse River, offers something for outdoor enthusiasts in every season.
The La Crosse River State Trail has been developed from abandoned Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Sparta and Medary. Prairie remnants, farmlands, trout streams, hardwood forests and wetlands are found along the trail. Packed limestone screenings provide a smooth riding surface. The bridges have planked floors and railings in place for riders safety. A new bridge (1998) at Medary crosses an active rail line running parallel to the trail. This bridge connects the La Crosse River Trail to the Great River Trail. Campgrounds and public parks are located in or near villages and cities adjoining the trail. A special access trail leads to Veterans' Memorial Campground, two miles west of West Salem.
The scenery and terrain of the Coulee Region have made it a popular attraction, and now with increased interest in snowmobiling, this is an ideal combination. It all happens on the La Crosse River State Trail and surrounding trails, well marked and maintained by local snowmobile clubs.
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Sparta, the "Bicycling Capital of America," is located at the east end of the La Crosse River State Trail. Sparta offers numerous services a rider may require including motels, bed & breakfasts camping facilities, bike rentals and repair, restaurants, service stations, grocery stores, laundromats, churches and excellent medical facilities.
Sparta takes pride in its 18-hole Municipal Golf Course which has the reputation of being one of the finest in the state. Memorial Park, located on the north shore of Perch Lake, contains five picnic shelters, a playground, four lighted softball diamonds, a concession stand, an Olympic size swimming pool with wading pool, tennis counts, soccer fields, lighted ice skating and hockey rinks complete with warming houses and a football field. You may also utilize the 12-lane state-of-the art bowling, banquet and family fun center.
Cross Country skiing and snowmobiling attract many visitors during our winter months. Hunting, fishing and canoeing enthusiasts enjoy the beauty of Monroe County year round.
Rockland is situated on the La Crosse River Sate Trail about six miles west of Sparta at the bottom end of Fish Creek Valley. It was once a thriving farming community that was home to two banks, a feed store, a feed mill, two department stores, a blacksmith shop, a lumber yard, a creamery, a cheese factory, an ice house, two stockyards, two railroad depots, a hotel, a restaurant, a tavern, and at least four grocery stores. In later years there was also a sawmill that burned to the ground in a spectacular blaze in 1973.
Now the village is a bedroom community with over 500 residents and is growing. A recent addition is the prairie Natural Area that stretches about two and one half miles to both the east and west along the trail. Over much of the included five miles, a community of prairie grasses and associated broad-leafed plants grows today as it did when the first Europeans settled.
Winnebago Indians were the first known residents on the present site of Bangor. The first European settlers were Welsh, and they named their new home for their home in Wales. While the Welsh were creating a village, the surrounding countryside was being claimed by seven families of Swiss immigrants. Descendants of some of these early settlers still live in the area.
Among the points of interest, are the Welsh Methodist Church in the village, and the inscribed sandstone cliff along Dutch Creek just south of the Bangor park. The iron railroad bridge over Dutch Creek provided the inspiration for the La Crosse River State Trail logo.
Neshonoc, which was located on the La Crosse River near the present junctions a State Highway 16 and 108, was the original settlement in this area. Here Hamlin Garland, Pulitzer Prize winning author, was born in 1860.
Thomas Leonard changed the course of history when he offered the newborn Milwaukee to La Crosse Railroad Company a free right-of-way through his land. Neshonoc succumbed to the competition and ceased to exist as a separate entity. A number of houses were moved from Neshonoc into West Salem to help the nucleus of the new community.
One of the houses moved from Neshonoc was the Palmer-Gullickson octagon house on North Leonard Street. Thomas Leonard's last home, the "Old Salem House," still stands at the foot of Leonard Street. The Garland Homestead on Garland Street was purchased by Hamlin Garland as a retirement home for his aging parents. All three are on the register of historic places and are well-known local landmarks.
Currently the business center for a large agricultural community, West Salem is home to 4075 residents.
Eagles and hawks soar above verdant green bluffs while nestled below the city of La Crosse spans the confluence of three rivers: the Black, the La Crosse and the mighty Mississippi.
An extensive system of recreational paths and designated bike routes is being developed to connect all parts of the city with the state rail-trails system in the region, a network of over 111 miles of connected trails. The city is a gateway to scenic rides in Minnesota and the paved trails through the canyon of the Root River. All these trails are used year round, for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing during the winter, and biking, walking, and running during the rest of the year.
The Mississippi River has been central to the life of La Crosse since its earliest days, as a logging boom town and bustling steamboat port. Mark Twain, himself a river boat captain, visited La Crosse and admired the"stately red brick buildings" in his classic Life on the Mississippi. Today, the restored downtown historic district features such attractions as Pearl Street, with a collection of ice cream parlors, bookstores, coffee shops and gift shops. Just as impressive are some of the finest Victorian homes in the country.
Riverside Park serves as summer home to two river boats, the Julia Belle Swain and the La Crosse Queen. The Julia Belle Swain is one of the last truly steam-powered boats of the Mississippi and a faithful replica of the type of river boat operating in the area over one hundred years ago. The La Crosse Queen is a 150 passenger double decked stern wheeler river boat offering excursions up and down the river. La Crosse also serves as port of call for the three river boats of the Delta Steamboat Company - the American Queen, the Mississippi Queen and the Delta Queen. The historic role of the river is chronicled at the Riverside Park Museum.
State Trail Passes
Bicyclist, age 16 and older, are required to carry
trail passes April 1st through the end of the season.
Passes are not required for hikers. The annual passes are
honored on all Wisconsin state trails. The daily pass is
only honored on the day it is marked. Wisconsin Senior
Citizen Recreation Cards are honored on state trails.
Trail passes are sold by various business along the
trail. A list of these businesses is posted at the trail
in each community. Please patronize these businesses and
purchase a trail pass before riding the trail. The passes
must be carried with the bicyclist when riding on the