Local History Highlight, Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center
Columns, Bimonthly Newsletter of WHS, Vol. 29, #1, Jan/Feb 2008, p. 6
Wisconsin Historical Society
Original Date

The text of this article is used as the main enter for the topic "Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center."

  • Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, located west of Ashland, Wisconsin on US Highway 2, is not your run-of-the-mill visitor center. Maybe it's the location on Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay; or it could be the visually commanding building with the tall tower that gives visitors spectacular views of the area; or perhaps it is the Center's 180 acres with ponds and trails; but more than likely it's the friendly folks who work at the Center that make it more than just a place to find travel information.

Travelers and area residents who stop by the Visitor Center are pleasantly surprised to find the wide variety of services, programs, and exhibits that are available free of charge. Travelers can find information and maps for Northern Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Minnesota's north shore. Visitors also have the opportunity to walk through the 2,500 square foot exhibit hall and discover the rich history of the region, from the earliest geological beginnings and Native American pursuits, through the fur trade, logging, mining, fishing, farming, and tourist recreation.

In addition to the main exhibit area, there is also a changing exhibit space that thematically focuses on the cultural identity of northern Wisconsin. Recent exhibits have introduced ideas on global climate change from both an artistic and scientific perspective, historic agriculture practices of the region, and cultural concepts of forests. The current [January, 2008] exhibit, "Color of North," explores the regions beauty as interpreted through protographer Jamie Young's panoramic photo images.

Visitors can also take a break from the road and relax in the 100-seat theater to watch one of the numerous movies available on request, or catch a 10-minute multi-media presentation that presents the story of the area in a uniquely artifact-highlighted manner. And for history buffs and genealogists, the Wisconsin Historical Society operated the History Center & Archives at the Center, which has archival materials for nine Northern Wisconsin counties and archivist on hand to assist with anyone's research needs.

For younger visitors there is a child-friendly nature exhibit where a kids can search for critters ranging from a lovely little wood frog to a majestic bald eagle; children can even win a prize for successfully finding the critters and crossing them off a bingo sheet. And for visitors who want some "real" nature, there are two interpretive outdoor trails on the Center's 180-acre property. The Center also operates the Spirit of the North store which carries locally-made items and books on a wide-range of regional topies. Visit for more information.