The self-described “Sportsmen’s Paradise” lives up to its billing, with fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities in abundance nearby.
The Ferryville Tourism Council (608.734.9077) is your best bet for information about town.
The settlement of Ferryville began with the arrival of Misters Sanborn and Stillwell who built a race track to train their horses. The village was first known as Humble Bush, a name with real character, if you ask me. The town became known as Ferryville when ferry service was established to Lansing, Iowa. Ferryville became an important shipping point for wheat when Charles Huffschmidt built a large warehouse. A tornado in 1873 destroyed the warehouse and much of the town. It took nearly a decade for Ferryville to recover. The arrival of the railroad in 1886 provided the usual economic boost, with Ferryville becoming a popular spot for railroad workers to pass the time.
Many early settlers were from Pennsylvania and New England, but a large number of Norwegians put down roots in the area, too. In 1939, Prince Olaf, the future King of Norway, made an appearance at the depot as his train passed through town, making the resident Norwegians very happy.
It snowed on June 2, 1929. Just thought you might like to know that.
Here’s a fun news item from November 29, 1932: “Last Sunday, John Nicholson and his fiancée, Ms. Mildred Seymour and C.C. Howard went hunting rabbits, just around the bend out of town. Howard sighted a rabbit near a brush pile, and both men got out to shoot. Nicholson bidding the young lady to stay by the car. Howard shot at the rabbit first and Nicholson on the other side of the brush pile also shot, neither one hitting the rabbit, but to Nicholson’s surprise he heard a cry from Miss Seymour who had followed along and was standing opposite him on the other side of the brush pile. The charge from his gun hit the frozen ground and rebounding, two shots hit her in the ankle. She was taken at once to the local doctor, who inoculated her for tetanus and the shot still remains in her limb without troubling her.”
Ferryville is included in these products:
Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area (Lagoon Rd.; 608.784.3606) has great views of the river valley from the top of the bluff. The hiking is moderately difficult, partly because of the incline and partly because the trail is only roughly cut through the forest. In summer, you will be hiking through thicket that can easily be waist-high, much of it with nasty thorns. Wear long pants or your legs will get cut up. You will also be much happier if you apply a fresh layer of bug spray before you start hiking. Give yourself at least 60–90 minutes for the round trip hike, longer if you want to linger at the top. The natural area is at the south end of Ferryville. Turn on Lagoon Street (across from Sugar Creek Park); go ¼ mile across the Sugar Creek Bridge and park along the road. About 100 feet down the gravel driveway is a sign for the trail.
Riverview Park (State Highway 35 across from the Sportsmen’s Bar & Grill) is a new spot for river or train watching (dozens of trains a day pass through here); the observation deck has a viewing scope for a closer look at birds and other critters in the river.
Rush Creek State Natural Area (Rush Creek Rd.; 608.785.9000) just might have the best overlooks along the Mississippi River. Two goat prairies atop the bluffs provide a wide panoramic view of the Mississippi Valley, from which you can see the river make a sweeping bend to the west. The hike is moderately strenuous, as you have a steady uphill climb via an old service road, sometimes through waist-high brush. The hike from the parking lot on Rush Creek Road (cross the road and walk east to the old service road) to the top will take 30–45 minutes; give yourself at least two hours to explore and enjoy. I would suggest you find somewhere else to hike during deer hunting season, though. You should also be aware that rattlesnakes nest in the area, although you aren’t likely to encounter them.
Entertainment and Events
From May 15 until the last Saturday in October, stop in to the Market in the Park, a farmers’ market at Sugar Creek Park (Saturdays) where you can purchase fresh, local produce, plus Amish products such as baked goods and handmade baskets and rugs.
The main event in Ferryville is River Bluff Daze (608.734.9077) in July; it includes an antique tractor pull and fireworks, if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Eating and Drinking
The Swing Inn (106 Main St.; 608.734.9916) was a popular watering hole for railroad workers in the late 1800s, perhaps because it counted a number of prostitutes among its customers. One of them, Blue Moon, was murdered at the tavern and many believe her ghost still haunts the place. The food is about what you’d expect: burgers and sandwiches, and steaks and fried stuff. Offer a toast to Blue Moon while you’re here.
End of the Rainbow Organic Farm (58138 North Buck Creek Rd.; 608.734.3400) is about three miles east of the River Road and is a good choice for fresh produce grown the all-natural way (roughly June–October); they also have organic poultry products but call ahead to find out what’s available.
There aren’t many places in the country where the local gas station advertises cheese along with the price of unleaded, but the Mobile Gas Station/Ferryville Cheese and More (163 Main St.; 608.734.3121) isn’t your typical gas station, and you are in Wisconsin, after all. The store has a cooler full of Wisconsin-made cheese and sausage; stock up for your next picnic lunch.
Sugar Creek Park (State Highway 35; 608.734.9406) has several primitive sites with firepits; all share a common water source and there are no showers.
Basic but cheap is what’s in store at the River’s Edge Motel (132 Main St.; 608.734.3621), with four rooms and a cabin/kitchenette. The Grandview Motel (14812 State Highway 35; 608.734.3235) is an exceptional place with nine well-kept, wood-paneled rooms, four of which have kitchenettes. Room 1 is a kitchenette with two queen beds, a wood-burning stove, and large picture windows to take in the expansive views of the Mississippi River.
The Scenic River Inn (194 Main St.; 608.632.3362) is a whole-house rental, with up to 3 bedrooms and 1½ baths, full kitchen, four-season porch, and off-street parking big enough for your boat trailer.
Mulqueen’s Cabin Rental (168 Main St.; 608.734.3456) is a five-bedroom, two-bath house with good views of the river; the house has a fish cleaning shed, cable TV, washer and dryer. You can rent the main floor with its two bedrooms for a very reasonable rate, or pay a bit more for extra rooms.
153 Main (153 Main St.; 608.317.1530) is a one-year old house on the riverfront with great views and loaded with modern amenities: Jacuzzi tub, full kitchen with granite countertops, flat-screen TV with digital cable, WiFi.
Knutson Properties (608.648.2569) offers three rental houses atop a ridge just outside of town: Secluded Grove, The Pines, and Secluded Valley. Each property is similar, with room to sleep 6–8, two full baths, hot tub, cable TV, and WiFi in a private setting.
Post Office: 158 Main St.; 608.734.3331.
Heading upriver? Check out De Soto.
Heading downriver? Check out Lynxville.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009