Wisconsin April 04, 2019
This Unique Trail Takes You To Some Of Wisconsin’s Most Fascinating Abandoned Buildings
About 50 miles west of Milwaukee is a totally unique hiking location that has a fascinating history you’ve probably never heard of. Part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit near the town of Eagle, Paradise Springs State Natural Area features some easy hiking and an interpretive trail and was once a place that was chock full of casual hikers most days, but now seems to only be investigated by urban explorers. Home to a natural spring, this beautiful, serene spot is the perfect place to spark an interest in abandoned buildings.
This unusual spot is home to a natural spring that was once host to a number of things, from a horse track to a resort hotel. Until recently, this area was very popular with trout fishermen, but when the dam broke, the fish were washed downstream, leaving just the spring behind. The horse track was built here in the 1920s and this area was close enough to Milwaukee but far enough in the country to serve as a "getaway."
Most everything here is abandoned, but this is also a quiet, serene spot. There's something really beautiful about the overgrowth and how nature has sort of reclaimed the area. It was once the playground for Milwaukee's biggest names, like Petit's and Pabst's.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "Paradise Springs is about 5 feet deep and maintains a temperature of about 47 degrees F. year-round. Over 30,000 gallons of water flow from this spring each hour—that’s 500 gallons each minute. Paradise Springs sits in a bowl-shaped depression where the water table reaches the surface."
The abandoned building that you approach on this trail is the old spring house. Spring houses were used to protect the water and give people access. Though they were usually just functional buildings, this one was also beautiful, with gorgeous fieldstone walls and a wooden and copper dome roof. The spring water here was bottled up until the 1960s.
This building is about all that's left of an area that had shuffleboard, tennis courts, the horse track and even a massive two-story hotel that was removed in the 1970s. In some ways it's a sad reminder of a time gone by, but there's also a sort of gothic beauty and charm left here. You'll likely find yourselves the only people here and it sort of feels like walking into a painting or even a slightly wonky fairy tale.
There truly is an ethereal, otherworldly feel to this place and you'll find yourself mesmerized by the play of the walls and the water and the reflections. In every season, it's a new look and feel and something you will want to take the time to check out.
It would be impossible not to let your mind go wild coming up with all kinds of stories set right in these stone walls. Unfortunately graffiti covers some of the walls, but there's still a really wild feel to this stroll through Paradise Springs, even if it's hard to imagine it as paradise anymore.
While you're there, make sure you take the time to check out the Gotten cabin. Built by Prussian immigrants in the 1850s, it's been restored and put back on its original location here on state lands. It's not regularly open for tours, but the state does give an open house here a few times a year. The log cabin is an important and still-standing part of state history.
Paradise Springs State Natural Area is located at W374 S8640 County Rd N, Eagle, WI 53119.
It’s not far from Old World Wisconsin and you should definitely check out one of the best places in the state to connect with our history.