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Roche-A-Cri State Park History

Flat-topped and cliff-sided, Roche-A-Cri Mound is really a rock island in what was once Glacial Lake Wisconsin which covered much of central Wisconsin about 15,000 years ago. After the glacial lake disappeared, this rocky island, composed of Cambrian sandstone, stood above the surrounding countryside.

The weathering that helped fashion the Roche-A-Cri Mound continues at the edges of the rock. The sandstone slowly breaks and crumbles along its joints and outer edges and is blown away. A marker describing the park's glacial history can be found on the west side of the mound.

Rock art

The abundance of rock art suggests that this place had special significance to the ancient inhabitants of the region. It is estimated that the petroglyphs were carved before A.D. 900 and pictographs appeared only 400-500 years ago. The artists are believed to be ancestors of the Ho-Chunk people. Interpretive panels present interesting facts, drawings of the art and a map to help visitors locate carvings and paints on the mound.

Explorers

French explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries called the mound "Roche-A-Cris" or "Crevice in the Rock," referring to the large cleft in the rock structure that is visible from some distance from various vantage points.

Government survey notes taken in 1851 refer to "hieroglyphs of antiquated appearance" on the side and in a cave at Roche-A-Cri. The surveyors surmised that "from the appearance, they must have been written centuries ago."

The state park era

The State Highway Commission acquired Roche-A-Cri as a roadside area, a 300-foot-wide strip on each side of State Highway 13, in 1937. While the property was controlled by the Highway Commission, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from the Necedah Camp did considerable work at the property.

The park was transferred to the Conservation Commission and established as a state park in 1948. During the summers of 1982 and 1983, the Adams County Chamber of Commerce operated the park because of an inadequate operating budget for the Department of Natural Resources. In 1992-1994, a stairway to the top of the mound and observation platforms were built and interpretive panels about the rock art paintings and carvings were also installed. In 2012, a new stairway was installed

Last revised: Friday October 17 2014