Adams County Attractions
Adams County is a natural wonderland, bordered on the west by the Wisconsin River and two large flowages, Petenwell and Castle Rock, the second and fourth largest inland lakes in Wisconsin. The area is dotted with lakes and wetlands and crossed by brooks and streams. The county is studded with rocky mounds, forested bluffs and fanciful stone islands rising from the bed of an extinct glacial lake, with large expanses of sandy prairie, scrubwood and pulpwood forests.
Roche-A-Cri State Park was once occupied by ancient Americans who left pictographs and petroglyphs on the walls the Roche-A-Cri rock formation more than a thousand years ago, and by the people of three Wisconsin Indian Nations, the Ojibwe, Menominee and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) and then discovered by French explorers in the late 1600's, Adams County was settled in the 1830's and 1840's by a few dozen former Yankee soldiers, traders, timber cutters, trappers and adventurers.
The prehistoric record of the earliest known inhabitants is still visible on the walls of Roche-A-Cri mound; and the story of the area's discovery and development is preserved and told in the artifacts, archives and displays found in the Adams County Historical Society's McGowan House Museum. Nineteenth century churches and commercial buildings are still standing throughout the county. The Village of Friendship celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2007.
With Wisconsin's second and fourth largest inland lakes, plus 24 lakes and ponds ranging from 7 to 855 acres totaling 40,000 acres, 8,000 acres of recreational land, 22 canoe trails totaling more than 100 miles, 11 swimming areas, 270 miles of snowmobile trails, 15 miles of designated cross-country ski trails, 40,770 acres of public hunting land, 100 miles of trout streams, six golf courses, including Championsip courses “The Pines” & “the Lakes” plus a new Northern Bay Resort, Marina & Replica Golf Course. Lake Arrowhead including dozens of tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, a championship water skiing course, a motorcycle/ATV recreation complex, Dyracuse Recreational Area, hundreds of campsites at Castle Rock And Petenwell Lakes, 12 parks, wildlife areas and nature centers, it is no wonder that Adams County is Central Wisconsin's number one four-season outdoor playground, recreation and relaxation center.
Whatever your favorite outdoor activity may be, chances are you'll find it offered in several Adams County locations. Hiking, cycling, fishing, ice fishing, canoeing, tubing, boating, sailing, relaxing, dirt bike riding, hill climbing, ATVing, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, swimming, camping, water skiing, volleyball, softball, baseball, golfing, tennis, small and large game hunting, birdwatching, wildlife observation, rock climbing and archeological exploration are all available in Adams County.
Anglers and fly fishing enthusiasts will find a variety of cold- and warm-water fish in abundance here, including Walleye, Northern Pike, Panfish, Trout, and Bass. Lunker Muskies are found in Petenwell, Easton, Goose and Parker Lakes and Big Spring Pond. Hunters routinely bag their limit of whitetail deer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, pheasant, geese, ducks and wild turkeys on the county's public hunting grounds. Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will also find plenty to hunt and shoot in Adams County. The county's varied geological features support many different plant communities that provide habitat for an exceptionally wide variety of vegetation, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, including some rare, recovering and endangered species; bobcats, Karner butterflies, tiger beetles, meadow beauty, cross milkwort and netted nut-rush.
Shopping in Adams County is adventurous fun. From unusual finds to unusual bargains, there's a lot to discover in the county's stores, craft and curio shops, waysides and flea markets; rustic furniture, old and new artworks and bargains of all kinds.
Adams County's restaurants offer a variety of dining opportunities sure to satisfy every appetite, from home-cooked family meals to surf and turf; fine ethnic cuisine to a rustic barbecue in the woods; a romantic dinner for two to a quick and hearty sandwich to go. At day's end, Adams County visitors can choose to sleep under the stars in one of the area's seven hundred plus campsites, or at a friendly full-service motel, cottage, Vacation Rental Home or lakefront resort.
Parks and Nature Centers
Roche-A-Cri State Park
State Hwy. 13, North of Friendship
Roche-A-Cri State Park covers 604 acres and includes grasslands, open cliffs, pine barrens, oak forest, prairie, and Carter Creek. The 303 ft. rock formation that is the centerpiece of the park was named Roche-A-Cri or "crevice in rock" by French traders and explorers who used it to help determine their location. A hand-built 303-step white pine staircase leads visitors to the top of the steepest cliff face in Wisconsin. From the top of the mound, viewers can look out over 10 counties spreading as far as 120 miles away. The park offers hiking, fishing and cross country skiing in season, 41 wooded campsites with fire rings, including 37 reservable sites and one handicap accessible site, toilets, water, picnic tables, and firewood.
Castle Rock County Park
Castle Rock Lake,
Castle Rock County Park features 141 acres with 200 camping sites on 13,955 acre Castle Rock Lake, the state's fourth largest inland lake. Modern shower/restroom facilities are available as well as state approved electric and hand pump wells. The park shelter may be reserved and there are 180 picnic tables throughout the park. The park contains a designated swimming area on the lake, a boat launch, wood structured playground equipment, disposal station, marked hiking trail and soda, ice and firewood sales.
Petenwell County Park
Petenwell County Park, on Wisconsin's second largest inland lake, 23,040-acre Petenwell Lake, features over 500 campsites on 431 acres, modern shower and restroom facilities, electric and hand pump wells, modern playground equipment, a designated swimming area on the lake, a boat launch, new marina, gameroom, marked hiking and cross-country ski trails, and soda, ice, candy, and firewood sales.
Perfect for hiking, bird watching, enjoying rare and endangered plants, butterflies, birds and animals, Quincy Bluff is part of a 3,298 natural wildlife area managed by the Nature Conservancy and Department of Natural Resources. These departments restore and maintain the same plant and animal habitats that were present here before European settlement in the 1800's. There are three sandstone mesas in the area: Quincy Bluff, Rattlesnake Mound, and Lone Rock. Quincy Bluff is a two-mile long sandstone outcropping that rises 200 ft. above the now extinct Glacial Lake Wisconsin.
Quincy Bluff has several different natural areas or communities. On the east side are wetlands, open bogs and tamarack swamps that provide homes for sandhill cranes, ducks, geese and marsh birds. Some rare plants that thrive in these wetlands are the meadow beauty, cross millwort and the state endangered netted nut rush. The lower bluffs support a very different community known as the Pine-Oak Barren. Barrens are sandy, drought-prone areas with pine, "scrub" oak and large open grass ranges that provide habitat for large animals including bobcats, white-tail deer, wild turkeys. Pine and oak barrens are also perfect habitat for wild lupine, lead plant, butterfly weed, and many more. The same habitat is perfect for the federally endangered Karner butterfly whose larvae feed only on wild lupine; and the small rare tiger beetle. Bluebirds, yellow warblers and other songbirds also flourish in the barrens.
The top of the bluff is a forest of red oaks, white oaks, pines and open areas filled with wild prairie flowers. Turkey vultures or black hawks and northern harrier hawks are frequently seen soaring on the thermals that rise from the rocky outcroppings.
There are unmarked logging roads and firelanes that loop around the bluff to use for hiking or cross-country skiing. Maps and other information are provided in the kiosk adjacent to the parking lot. To find the Quincy Bluff Area, take Cty. Hwy Z south from State Hwy. 21 or north from Hwy 82 to Edgewood Ave.. At the end of Edgewood Ave. turn right on 16th Drive to the parking lot.
Back to top
Museums and Historical Sites
McGowan House Museum
Rebuilt after a fire destroyed much of the original structure in 1889, this Gothic Revival style home incorporates several unique decorative elements rescued from the blaze. Fully restored, partly-furnished and decorated with exceptional period pieces, including an impressively grand pedal-powered harmonium and art works, the home was built by village physician, Dr. Emmet McGowan, and houses the Adams County Historical Society offices, library and archives. The museum is open from 10 am. to 4 pm. on Sundays, from May through October.
State Hwy. 13, North of Friendship
Located in 425-acre Roche-A-Cri State Park, just north of Friendship on the west side of State Highway 13, Roche-A-Cri Mound is a 303-ft. high rock formation that contains one of the earliest records of human habitation in the Midwest. Once used as a direction finder by prehistoric travelers, the mound is decorated with rare pictographs and petroglyphs painted and carved on its walls 1,000 years ago. These prehistoric art forms, which can be viewed from a surrounding path, have earned Roche-A-Cri Mound a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Points of Interest
Rockhounds will enjoy the many interesting rock formations that spring up from the Adams County landscape. Among the most notable are Ship Rock on State Hwy. 21 east of Hwy. 13, Rabbit Rock, on Hwy. 13 north of Friendship, and Rattlesnake Bluff, in the Town of Quincy. Tree covered Pilot Knob, once used as a guidepost for early travelers, and Spring Bluff, can be seen from afar and admired in the Town of Lincoln.
Petenwell Hydroelectric Plant
The largest hydroelectric plant in the area, the Petenwell Hydroelectric Plant generates enough electricity during peak demand to power 40,000 homes.
Special Things To Do
Dyracuse Motorcycle Recreation Area
Town of Rome
715-325-8014 / 715-325-8013
Ride or watch motorcycles and ATV's compete in thrill-a-minute Motocross, Hill Climb, and Mud Bog racing events at the Dyracuse Motorcycle Recreation Area. Located 13 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids off State Hwy. 13 on Archer Drive, the 240-acre recreation area offers 8 miles of dirt-bike track, an 8-mile enduro trail, a Motocross track, 2 ATV tracks, a shelter house, picnic tables, a children's playground area, and restrooms with running water.
Canoe through the backwaters and mainstream of the Wisconsin River and navigable streams where Native Americans and French voyageurs plied their way to the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico. Adams County has 22 trails, winding through more than 100 miles of unsurpassed scenery full of all kinds of wildlife discoveries.
Shermalot Show Team
Thrill to the roar of the mighty ski-boats, the daredevil jumpers and precision acrobatics of the fifty-member Shermalot Show Team performances held at the west end of Lake Arrowhead beginning at 6:30 pm. every Saturday evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lake Arrowhead is located in the Town of Rome.
Castle Rock Lake
Horseback riding along the eastern shores of Castle Rock Lake is great fun. The 2,500 acres of land owned by the Wisconsin River Power Company provide miles of gently winding trails for horseback riding. The trails range from woodland bridle path to wide, sandy trails that wander through pine plantations, prairies, marshes and the Wisconsin River. The trails are open all year round and don't allow motorized vehicles. The trailhead is located on State Hwy. 21 between Necedah and Arkdale on 22nd Ave. Call for trail map.
Snowmobiling and ATVing
Adams County has over 230 miles of state-funded county-sponsored snowmobile trails and dozens of miles of age-old timberland ATV trails. A 2,400 acre site, is located off Badger Avenue between State Road 13 and 15th Avenue in Town of Rome. Call for maps 608-339-4230 or the Adams County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism 888-339-6997.
Visit Play Stay
Adams County is home to thousands of residents who have come here to get away from the big city life, for quiet walks through our many woods, have good times fishing on all of our lakes & streams, camping, hiking, biking, relaxing, enjoying beautiful scenery and friendly people. Take time to shop in our local stores that feature all that we really need. Come and enjoy the friendly hometown atmosphere of Adams County.