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Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

Green "acorn" signs designate the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive and are posted along the route.

Contact information
For more information, contact:
Wisconsin State Parks

Wisconsin State Park System Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

Enjoy the beauty, variety and geology of southeast Wisconsin by driving the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. The 115-mile drive traverses six Wisconsin counties. The northern end begins near Elkhart Lake in northern Sheboygan County, and the southern end begins at Whitewater Lake in southeastern Walworth County. There are numerous places to picnic, hike, camp, bike, swim, fish, visit historical sites, shop and find lodging along the way.

Directions

A handout with driving directions for the scenic drive is available at all Kettle Moraine State Forest offices. The handout provides road names and distances between major crossroads, communities, developed recreational areas and historical landmarks on or near the scenic drive.

Geological landmarks

Wisconsin lent its name to the most recent series of glacial advances and retreats: the Wisconsin Glaciation that lasted from about 100,000 to 10,000 years ago. Massive lobes of ice (up to two miles thick) collided here, causing tremendous pressure, friction and buckling of the land surface. As the glacier retreated, moraines, drumlins, kames and eskers were formed. Many lakes, bogs, wetlands and potholes are also a direct result of glacial activity. Glacial terminology [exit DNR]

Explore and enjoy the many state natural areas and geological landmarks on and near the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. These features listed from north to south along the drive, include:

Kettle Moraine State Forest—Northern Unit

Kettle Moraine State Forest Units

Kettle Moraine State Forest—Southern Unit

History

In the early 1940s the Kettle Moraine Committee of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Izaack Walton League championed the development of the Kettle Moraine State Forest under the leadership of the late Attorney Raymond T. Zillmer. It is believed that the first discussions about the possibility of a scenic drive through the length of the Kettle Moraine area were in this committee. Some of the other interested people who urged the development of the drive included J. Walter Strong, Ralph Brown and Charles Broughton.

Dundee Kame in 1962The objective of a drive of this kind was to provide the most effective and scenic highway route which people could use to spend a day or possibly two, seeing the best in the way of natural features in the Kettle Moraine region. Furthermore, it was to be easily accessible from as many large cities as possible and lead past or near as many developed state parks and forests as possible.

It was not until 1946 that an actual study and survey of possible routes was started. At the direction of C. L. Harrington, Lowell G. Hansen and Clyde T. Smith began a careful examination of the entire district. In an effort to find the route with the most scenic beauty, every north, south, east and west road in the entire Kettle Moraine area was driven. Aerial photographs were also used.

After approval of the proposed route by the Conservation Commission in late 1946, the whole proposal was submitted for approval to the Wisconsin Highway Commission. In 1948, the Wisconsin Highway Commission approved the idea and route in principle. The Highway Commission joined with the Conservation Commission in designing the green acorn sign to be used to mark the drive, but the actual erection and maintaining of the signs fell to the Conservation Department (now the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). The first paving project was completed in 1950.

Historic sites

Explore and enjoy the historical sites on or near the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive:

Communities

Communities on or near the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive (from Department of Tourism):

More in the area

Last revised: Friday July 26 2013