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Straight Lake State Park History

During European settlement, beginning in the mid-1800s, the two largest industries to come to this area were logging and land speculating. An old logging dam can still be seen off the Ice Age Trail in the Straight River. The dam was opened to allow harvested timber to go downstream with enough water to make the journey to the mill.

The land speculators came with the Railroad Act of 1856, when railroads were granted the odd-numbered sections 6 miles on each side of a proposed rail line for $1 per acre. The land in these odd-numbered sections were to be sold by the railroad in order to finance the construction of the line, but the line had to be constructed within 15 years of being laid out. The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Omaha Railroad Company (C.S.P.M. & O.) was the railroad that wanted to build a line from Hudson to Ashland; however, it was never started. Section 13 of Luck Township was one of the odd-numbered sections granted to the C.S.P.M.& O. Railroad. The body of water known as Straight Lake is in this section. The plat books of 1888 and 1914 still showed the C.S.P. M.& O. as owners of the lake bed.

The apparent route the railroad would have followed the Clam Falls Trail. The Clam Falls Trail was not only an ox cart and pioneer trail, but, according to local history, the trail that the local Ojibwa (Chippewa) tribe used when traveling to and from the Lake Superior tribes. In 1875 the Clam Falls Trail was designated as a State Highway. Sections of the Clam Falls Trail still exist in the western sections of the park.

Through the years, Straight Lake has been sold as a block of property, pretty much as it is today. Past owners of the property included Dewitt Wallace, the founder of Reader’s Digest magazine. It was then owned by the Boy Scouts of America and used as a camp for scouts from the Mankato and Albert Lee, Minnesota area. The property was then to be developed as a golf-equestrian community, but when that failed, the land was purchased again for timber. In 2005, the property was sold to the State of Wisconsin and became Straight Lake State Park and Wildlife Area.

Last revised: Wednesday December 13 2017