10. Tower Hill State Park

10. Tower Hill State Park

There are a couple miles of trails at Tower Hill State Park, all going up and down the hill. The small park, 77 acres, near Spring Green is all about Wisconsin’s lead mining history. When I visited on May 5, the leaves were starting to pop, and it was a beautiful day. There were a couple other people on the trails.

The hike up Tower Hill leads to the reproduction of the smelter house, where molten lead was poured through holes in the side of a ladle. The lead would fall down a 180-foot hand dug shaft, cooling along the way and solidifying into lead shot when it hit the water at the bottom of the shaft. That’s the building in the photo at the top.

The tunnel at the bottom of the shaft below the smelter house

The length of the shaft is a pretty good indication of the elevation change at the park. The hill in Tower Hill State Park is about the height of the shaft, which runs from river level to the top of the hill.

At the bottom of the shaft, there’s a hand-dug tunnel out to the edge of the Wisconsin River. According to the sign at the tunnel, after the lead was sorted and graded, it was sacked and loaded on barges for shipment to St. Louis and other river towns.

Both the shaft below the smelter house and the tunnel to the river were dug with just hand tools and without surveyor instruments. The tunnel had to meet the shaft — without any modern tools to map the route. Pretty amazing.

And, couldn’t fail to mention the importance of lead mining in southwestern Wisconsin to the state’s image. The “badger” nickname didn’t come from an animal. It refers to the early miners, who dug underground like badgers.

Overall, it’s an interesting park, with a bit of nice hiking up and down the hill. There’s a gazebo along the trail, which is a nice place for a little stop — although with just a couple miles of trails, hiking here is not so strenuous a rest is needed. The park provides some nice Wisconsin views, particularly along the river, and adds a good amount of history.

River view
Springtime river view at Tower Hill State Park


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