Perrot State Park History
How did the park get its name?
When donating the land to the State of Wisconsin, John Latsch asked that the new park be named after Nicholas Perrot, a French explorer who was one of the first Europeans in the upper Mississippi River valley. A trapper and fur trader, Perrot helped develop trade and forged treaties with many tribes that lived here.
While working his way up the Mississippi River in the fall of 1685, Perrot and his men needed to find a place for a winter camp. Perrot’s group chose a place where there was plenty of wood to build, was surrounded by bluffs to protect them from the winter winds and had large prairies where game was abundant. The site was near the confluence of the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers. They stayed in this campsite for the winter of 1685-1686, moving up the river in the spring.
This would not be the only time the French used the area. In 1732, a French fort was built on Perrot’s winter camp and was used until 1737. Today, the approximate location of Perrot’s first camp is recognized with an historical marker near the park’s entrance.
As important as the French were to the area’s exploration, Native Americans had been here long before that. The Mississippi River and surrounding lands were important travel and trade routes for many different native cultures including Archaic, Early Woodland, Hopewell and Effigy Mound groups. Research shows that Archaic period tribes were in what we now call Perrot State Park as early as 7,000 years ago.
Remnants of these cultures remain in the form of mounds found throughout the park. These mounds have been researched and documented by archeologists in several studies through the years. Unfortunately, the elements, time and the hands of humans have disturbed and destroyed many of the mound sites. For more information on the cultural history of the park, consider a visit to Perrot’s nature center.
Camp Perrot – CCC 2606th Company
A sign marks the place where the CCC camp stood in the 1930s.
In the summer of 1935 construction began on the new camp at Perrot State Park. By October of the same year, the final personnel were stationed at the camp. The company’s first project was transplanting trees from an area of the park which was to be flooded due to the construction of the lock and dam in Trempealeau. The trees were used in other areas of this and other state parks.
At Perrot, the company constructed the trails to the top of Brady’s Bluff and Perrot Ridge. The men transported the rock from a quarry in the bluffs closer to Trempealeau. They also constructed the shelter on top of Brady’s Bluff. The Corps also worked on projects at Merrick State Park. The log and round shelter were constructed along with many of the bridges and retaining walls in the south campground. Projects at the adjacent Trempealeau Refuge were also completed. The company left Perrot in 1938 and moved on to establish another camp.