Day Trip: Montello
Old-fashioned pleasures in pretty Montello
Your tour guide: Kathleen McGwin, Montello Historic Preservation Society
The confluence of the Fox and Montello Rivers drew people to the Montello area as far back as 12,000 years ago, when Paleo Indians stood atop the granite outcrop laid bare by the last glacier that had pulled back from covering Wisconsin. Archaic and Woodland cultures harvested wild rice in the widening of the Fox and built over 600 conical and effigy mounds around what we now know as Buffalo Lake.
In 1848, the same year Wisconsin became a state, Jason Daniels built a log cabin and saw mill on the Montello River, and Yankees, Irish, Prussian, Scotch and other settlers began to pour in. A dam was built, deepening Buffalo Lake, steamships once plied the waters and a large woolen mill stood on the sister river, the Montello.
Today you can see waterfalls from Montello Street, where once a quarry company blasted eight stories down to retrieve the world's hardest granite. Montello granite was used all around the country--in the construction of General Ulysses Grant's tomb, for example. The falling water, pretty in all seasons, plays on surface of the water, where swans swim in summer.
Stroll our historic downtown to find B&B's Country Store (28 W. Montello Street, 608-297-7511), which will take you back to the days of penny candy, wax lips and pastel candy buttons. Buy a bag of Montello mints, refreshing lozenges made with oil of mint made from fragrant plants grown right here in Marquette County.
Catch a movie at Montello Theatre (30 E. Montello Street, 608-297-7300) where you can still afford to take the whole family to first run films. Once an opera house, the building was erected in 1878.
Down the street is J. P. Vaughn Hall (55 W. Montello Street, 608-297-9746), home of the Montello Historic Preservation Society.Â Our changing exhibits will surprise you--vintage quilts one year, John Muir the next.Â Each summer brings an opportunity for new learning and fun.
Rent or bring your own canoe or kayak to put in on the Fox at Rendezvous Paddle and Sports on Montello Street just a few blocks from downtown Montello. They'll pick you up after a day of floating down the same river Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet canoed on their 1673 voyage to find a route to the Mississippi River.
Drop a line in Buffalo Lake, cast out a spinner in Montello Lake or just sit and gaze over the water where great blue herons fish for frogs, eagles pass overhead and mink play along the shore ... yes, right in the city that has the only stoplight in all of Marquette County.