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7 Man-Made Wonders of Central Wisconsin

By Amy Bayer
Staff Writer

Considered the heart of Wisconsin, the central region is known for its friendly communities. Generations have enhanced the small-town scenery with unique art, historical sites and heart-warming memorials.

The next time you find yourself headed to Wisconsin’s heartland, stop by one of these man-made wonders and experience the welcoming atmosphere and artistic contributions that are supported and beloved by the local residents.

1. Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum – Wausau

Located in an English Tudor home that was donated to the community in the 1970s, The Woodson is the only art museum in the region. Over time, the home was renovated and several galleries were added to expand the building.

The museum is free and hosts a variety of changing exhibits, educational programs and a permanent collection. With a mission is to “enhance lives through art,” the museum is dedicated to the love of both nature and art and is filled with man-made wonders to inspire visitors.

2. Shawano County Barn Quilt Driving Tour – Shawano

The origin of barn quilts dates back hundreds of years when the Pennsylvania Dutch began painting geometric patterns on 8x8-foot squares placed on farm buildings.

In the last several years this art form has had a resurgence in farming communities around the Midwest, and Shawano County has encouraged the agricultural industry in the area to create and display barn quilts on their own structures. Totaling more than 300 pieces of folk art, there is a self-guided driving tour to visit the various barns and agriculture-related business that proudly display this revitalized art form.

Head to Shawano County to see the artistic side of agri-tourism. 

3. The Highground Veterans Memorial Park – Neillsville

This Memorial Park was once just a field with a beautiful view and has since been transformed into a thought-provoking site that honors veterans from multiple wars. Located on 140 acres, the site has several monuments, in addition to a dove effigy mound, meditation garden, hiking trails, and a living tribute called The Gold Star, which recognizes the sacrifices made by families of fallen soldiers.

Next to the outdoor memorial is a Learning Center which encourages veterans and families to share their experiences through a variety of media. Open year-round, this moving tribute is an excellent opportunity to learn about the sacrifices made by Wisconsin veterans.

4. Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial Park – Wisconsin Rapids

In 1996, Wisconsin Rapids was chosen as the site for a memorial to pay tribute to all the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to battle fires throughout the state. Located in Ben Hansen Park on the southwest end of the city, the memorial emphasizes an atmosphere of tranquility.

Benches throughout the park offer opportunities to take in panoramic views of the memorial. There is a visitor center open seasonally and outdoor tributes available year-round. Take time to visit this thought-provoking monument for reflection and inspiration.

5. Walls of Wittenberg Murals and Art Park – Wittenberg

In 2005, a group of residents banded together to rejuvenate the downtown community with a mission to “bring out the beauty and unique character of the Wittenberg area in a way that revitalizes the downtown, honors the history of the area, and attracts visitors.”

Together they supported the painting of 18 vibrant murals and created an art park with seven sculptures, along with forming a downtown indoor space for art shows, concerts and community events. Stroll through downtown and marvel at these man-made wonders created and supported by a community that transformed the area into a work of art.

6. Springwater Volunteer Covered Bridge – Springwater

Located midway between Wild Rose and Saxeville in Waushara County, this man-made wonder is an impressive example of what one small community can achieve by working together. In the 1990s, when a bridge over the Pine River was condemned and the state announced it would be replaced with a traditional concrete structure, the community banded together, raised funds and built a beautiful wooden one-lane covered bridge entirely on their own.

They wanted a structure that could serve as a strong heritage point and source of pride for the residents. The construction was done completely through the work of volunteers, and the finished bridge is 44 feet long, 15 feet wide and 12.6 feet high. Drive, bike or walk over this incredible labor of love.

7. Petenwell & Castle Rock Lakes Adams, Juneau and Wood counties

The state’s second- and fourth-largest inland lakes are actually man-made. A power company formed Petenwell Lake in 1948 by constructing a dam on the Wisconsin River just west of Necedah. Castle Rock Lake was formed shortly thereafter when a dam was built approximately 15 miles south along the river.

The creation of the lakes helped to control the intensity of the Wisconsin River, previously known for its devastating floods. Combined, the lakes cover over 39,000 acres and have numerous recreation areas from boat landings to hiking trails.

The Castle Rock Dam has a walking trail over the dike, and the Petenwell Dam, which is a wintering site for bald eagles, has an observation tower for a birds-eye view of the massive waterway and dams.


Check out Wisconsin's top man-made wonders statewide, and keep an eye on TravelWisconsin.com as we highlight more regions in this series.

This entry was posted in History & Heritage Local Parks