Brice Prairie is both a natural feature and a small, unincorporated community that bends around Lake Onalaska. It is popular with recreation seekers.
Arriving in Town
The main route through the area is County Highway Z, but County Highways Zb and Zn also provide access to some areas. None of these roads connect to State Highway 35, so you’ll need to backtrack to get to the River Road.
Direct your questions to the Onalaska Center for Commerce & Tourism (1101 Main St.; 800.873.1901/608.781.9570).
Brice Prairie was home to a Ho Chunk winter camp in the 1800s known as White Oak Spring; they made a living by trading furs and selling maple syrup. Logging along the Black River generated some commerce, but the area was mostly home to dairy farms. Alexander and Lucy Brice moved to Wisconsin in 1843 from New England and settled in La Crosse County in 1855. Alex was a veteran of the War of 1812. They had 10 children, one of whom, George, went on to some success selling farm implements and in local politics. The prairie once had a track for training sulky racers and an airfield used to train pilots during WWI. Today, the area is dotted with subdivisions but no incorporated community.
Getting on the River
Schafer’s Boats and Bait (W7221 N. Shore Lane; 608.781.3100) sells bait and tackle year-round and rents boats after the ice melts: pontoon boats, canoes, rowboats, tandem and single kayaks, and 16’ fishing boats. In winter, they are a good resource for the latest news about ice conditions and the quality of the fishing.
Entertainment and Events
Brice Prairie Time Trials (last Saturday in June) is a 40-kilometer bike race around the prairie; indulge in a carb-fest the Friday evening before at the all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner. The event actually began as a canoe race; you can still paddle around with fellow canoeists the morning of the bike race; meet the group at Lytle’s Landing at 6:30am prepared for a 2-3 hour paddle through the backwaters of the Black River.
Sports and Recreation
The Great River Trail passes through Brice Prairie.
Eating and Drinking
Red Pines Bar & Grill (W7305 County Road Z; 608.779.2800) sits along the backwaters with a good view of the lake; dine on the patio and enjoy walleye cheeks (chunks of deep-fried walleye), stringer of sunfish or catfish, or pizza. On the lighter side, get a sandwich and pair it with chips made on-site.
Heading upriver? Check out Midway.
Heading downriver? Check out Holmen.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011
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