Wisconsin October 13, 2017
You’ll Absolutely Love A Fall Trip Down Wisconsin’s Cranberry Highway
Did you know that Wisconsin produces more than half of all the cranberries IN THE WORLD? Three quarters of the world’s cranberries are grown in the US and 62% of that crop is grown here in Wisconsin.
Most of Wisconsin’s cranberries are grown in the mid-central part of the state near Wisconsin Rapids. Up there, they’ve created a Cranberry Highway which stretches for almost 50 miles along century-old cranberry beds from Wisconsin Rapids to Warrens, and between Pittsville and Nekoosa. Not only will you see bog after bog of cranberries, if you visit in fall you’ll see them harvested and get to enjoy them at their best.
Aside from the peak at a unique Wisconsin industry, there’s a ton to see and do in this area of the state that you probably don’t know about. The area is especially beautiful in fall when the bright red berries mix with yellow and orange leaves to create a gorgeous fall landscape. If you’ve never been to this part of the state, now’s a great time to check it out.
Most of this area is along the Wisconsin River and is kind of smack dab in the middle of the state. There's a ton to see and do in this part of the state when you visit to learn about the cranberry harvest.
The Cranberry Highway sort of splits out in two directions, but no matter where you head, you'll find something to do.
Cranberries are one of just three fruits native to North America. The hearty cranberry vine thrives in conditions that would not support most other crops – acidic soil with few nutrients. The cranberry can also withstand low temperatures. Some marshes in the state have been successfully producing a crop for over 100 years.
One thing you might not know about cranberries is that they aren't grown in water. They are actually grown in sandy bogs - the flooded pictures you're used to seeing like the one below are actually at harvest time. Cranberries float, so many growers flood the bog, use a machine to loosen them at the bottom and then collect them from the top of the water.
Whether you're on a day trip or just passing through, fall is the perfect time to check out this part of the state. This list is by no means comprehensive, nor does it need to be done in order. Here are just a few of the great things to see and do along the Cranberry Highway.
1. Cranberry Discovery Center
The best place to learn about cranberries and to get your trip up here off to the right start is the Cranberry Discovery Center. The one-of-a-kind spot is located at the historic Union Cranberry Warehouse in Downtown Warrens. There's a museum, store, interactive exhibits and so much more. It's located at 204 Main Street, Warrens, WI 54666.
2. Splash of Red Cranberry Tours in Pittsville.
Run and supported by the Pittsville FFA and FFA Alumni, the tours are given by Pittsville FFA Members and students, who are part of the only Cranberry Science Class taught in the nation. The all-inclusive tour is just $20 and includes a cranberry-laden lunch According to their website, "The tour will meet at the Pittsville School Auditorium located on Elementary Avenue just off First Avenue in Pittsville at 9:15 AM, with an introductory video for early arrivals. The tour includes the following: touring a current marsh under construction, new beds not yet in production, producing beds with the tourists given the opportunity to pick fresh fruit from the vine, as well as observing the harvesting, testing, cleaning and freezing of the berries."
3. Stone Cottage at Glacial Lake Cranberries
Plan to stay overnight and immerse yourself further in cranberry culture by staying right on a farm. Glacial Lake Cranberries isn't doing marsh tours in 2017, but you can stay right on their property in their charming stone cottage. The land here has been producing cranberries since 1873. The 6,000 acres they have west of Wisconsin Rapids on the shores of an old glacial lake that has since disappeared, leaving behind a high water table, available sand, and acid soil perfect for growing cranberries. Located at 2480 Co Rd D, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495.
4. Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
The same conditions that are perfect for growing cranberries are the ones that attract varied and unusual wildlife. The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is run by the US Department of Fish and Wildlife and is home to more than 110 species of migratory and resident wildlife.According to their website, the refuge hosts plants and animals that have nearly vanished from the state. It contains two State Natural Areas and harbors the world’s largest population of endangered Karner blue butterflies. The refuge boasts the most abundant red-headed woodpecker population in the state and is home to whooping cranes. Necedah is designated as an Important Bird Area. Necedah is located at N11385 Headquarters Road, Necedah, WI 54646.
5. Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum
Housed in a gorgeous 100-year-old mansion, this museum tells the story of how this area of the state was settled and came to be so important to the upstate logging trade. There's photos and history of the development of the dam on the River in Wisconsin Rapids as well as the beginnings of Consolidated Water Power & Paper Company. Located at 730 First Ave S - Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495.
6. Rubi Reds
When you're ready to stock up on all the delicious cranberry products you need to take home with you, Rubi Reds is the place to stop. This market is chock full of locally-grown and made products. Located at 4081 8th St S, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494.
7. Sandhill State Natural Area
In addition to being home to its namesake crane, this awesome spot that feels like an escape from the much busier towns is also home to a bison herd, Canadian geese, deer, owls and more.
One of the best parts is the 14-mile auto trail which allows those who might not otherwise be able to get out and access nature to enjoy this tranquil spot. Mid-October is prime viewing time for cranes in the area. Located at 1715 County Hwy X, Babcock, WI 54413.
8. Rudolph Grotto Gardens
This unique spot is a religious site home to numerous shrines, beautiful gardens and ornamental and devotional artificial grottoes. There's the Wonder Cave, an above-ground tunnel constructed of vernacular stone in the twentieth century. Located at 6975 Grotto Ave, Rudolph, WI 54475.
9. Dairy State Cheese Company
While you're in Rudolph, get some local cheese to accompany your dried cranberries on a cheese board. These folks have more than 50 varieties of cheese as well as another 17 different cheese spreads. Located at 6860 WI-34, Rudolph, WI 54475.
No matter the reason you go or how you fill your time, you won't regret checking out this part of the state that's really one of the most unique in the country - few others have the access to the growing and harvesting of one of the USA's native species like we do.
Looking for more fall fruits in Wisconsin? Check out
The 11 Most Charming Apple Orchards To Visit In Wisconsin This Fall.