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Cultural resourcesHistorical structures

Many historic structures, some over a hundred years old, are found on many DNR properties, and often relate to the historic development of the property itself. Many of them are still being used for their original purposes and maintain their original appearance, while others have seen better days. Some are large and imposing, while others small and noticed only in passing. These and other structures contribute to the rustic "look and feel" that is so much a part of the DNR experience.

on the Elroy Sparta Trail

Old railroad tunnel on the Elroy Sparta State Trail, DNR photo

Eagle Bluff lighthouse at Peninsula State Park
Eagle Bluff lighthouse at Peninsula State Park


Wisconsin's location on two of the Great Lakes assured that shipping would become an important part of the state's history. A number of historic lighthouses, some de-commissioned and some still functioning, dot the margins of our lakeshores. A number of these historic lighthouses are found on DNR properties.

Railroad depots and tunnels

Kendall Depot on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail
Kendall Depot on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail

Wisconsin began the trend toward converting "rails-to-trails" with the development of Elroy-Sparta State Trail in 1965. Since then, DNR has converted a number of abandoned railroad corridors into an inter-connected, state-wide system of bike- and hike-friendly trails. Historic tunnels, trestle bridges and restored railroad depots are associated with several of these trails, some of which have been designated a part of the National Recreational Trail system.

WPA & CCC-era structures

The Depression saw the creation of many Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) related facilities and structures in Wisconsin. Many of our earliest parks and forests were built, in part, by CCC and WPA crews. Related structures include rustic headquarter and maintenance buildings, cabins, ranger stations, retaining walls, stone stairways and other features.

Wild Rose Fish Hatchery 1920
Wild Rose Fish Hatchery in 1922 (postcard)


Fishing is a big part of our history (and prehistory, too!), and the Wisconsin DNR has long been an internationally-recognized leader in fish rearing and fish management. Some of the state's earliest fish hatchery buildings and related structures (such as rearing ponds), still functioning, date to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Frank Lloyd Wright / the Seth Peterson Cottage

Seth Peterson Cottage at Mirror Lake State Park
Seth Peterson Cottage at Mirror Lake State Park,
© Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy

The "Seth Peterson Cottage" may very well be the crown jewel of the many historic structures found on DNR-owned lands. Designed in 1958, and among Frank Lloyd Wright's very last commissions, the intimately-scaled cottage is one of very few Wright-designed homes available for overnight rental by the public.

Last revised: Tuesday March 03 2015