Buffalo City, like Minnesota City across the river, is a place that began with the grand ambitions of folks from the East, that (again like Minnesota City) failed to materialize, leaving us with a pleasant river town instead.
Arriving in Town
County Road OO loops around from the River Road and into Buffalo City. It snakes along the river for much of its length, so naturally it is called River Road. Tenth Street (County Road O) will also get you to Cochrane and back to the River Road.
If the village clerk’s office (608.248.2262) isn’t open, just ask around town.
Buffalo City owes it origins to the Colonization Society of Cincinnati, a group of Germans who were looking for places to resettle newly-arriving immigrants from their home country. In 1854, they looked to Kansas for a new settlement, but violence between abolitionist and pro-slavery forces persuaded them to look further north. In 1856 they bought land in western Wisconsin and platted a village they called Buffalo City.
At first, the new village attracted a good number of settlers, including many from Cincinnati. It soon became apparent, however, that river access was only going to be possible during periods of high water; the rest of the time, the main channel was too far away or simply inaccessible from the village. The town didn’t attract much business, and many settlers left in disappointment. Folks plodded on.
Buffalo City incorporated in 1859, when it had fewer than 200 residents. With incorporation out of the way, local folks made an effort to get the county seat in 1862 by erecting a small building that could be used as a courthouse; their effort failed, so the building was used for a while as a jail and city office. The building is still around (in Buffalo City Park) and is the oldest existing jail in Wisconsin. Buffalo City never attracted much business. Once the early grand plans failed, the city developed into a residential community of retired farmers and seasonal residents, and that is still pretty much the case today.
Buffalo City is included in these products:
Sports and Recreation
Whitman Dam Wildlife Area (608.685.6222) is a diverse backwaters area that is popular with birders. An easy walk along the two-mile long dike will give you a good sense of the area. To get there, follow the signs to Buffalo City; when County OO makes a sharp turn at the south end of town and you see a dead end sign, continue south on River Drive for 1.2 miles to the parking area for the lower Spring Lake boat ramp.
The Cove (175 S. River Rd.; 608.248.2683) is a popular restaurant near the Mississippi River. Breakfast is served until 2pm with the standard egg and pancake options. Dinner entrées include pasta, shrimp scampi, walleye, and steaks, with a selection of the usual burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
Ward’s Riverside Cabins (389 W. 20th St.; 608.248.3702) are surrounded by peace and quiet (there are no railroad tracks nearby) and have been through an expert top-to-bottom overhaul. The six cabins are bright, cozy, and comfortable; each has a kitchenette and most have screened porches; they share a common area that is equipped with a sheltered picnic area and gas grills.
Heading upriver? Check out Alma.
Heading downriver? Check out Cochrane.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011