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Lafayette County

Lafayette County is where you'll find peace and quiet, history and heritage, nature and recreation. And some surprises along the way. The past comes alive today and every day. The county is home to the First Territorial Capitol, the scene of a battle in the Black Hawk War, museums that celebrate times gone by, and a one-time top inland pearling river. In fact, Wisconsin's nickname, Badgers, traces its origin back to Lafayette County's early miners.

There's also plenty to do in the here and now. You can discover abundant parks, travel down rustic roads or recreational trails, shop in one-of-a-kind stores, visit eateries for high-quality meals at affordable prices, take part in a celebration of community pride, or just relax with a fishing pole and drop a line in the water.

The sheer natural beauty that convinced people to settle in Lafayette County early in the state's history is still evident. Rivers, ridges and valleys are unspoiled, unassuming, unglaciated and undeniably stunning. You set the pace for your visit. Take time to amble, meander and explore Lafayette County.


Darlington grew up around the Pecatonica River, and the river runs through its history. For some, the river was a way to make a living. The community slogan, "the Pearl of the Pecatonica," harks back to a time when people harvested clams for the pearls and button blanks were made from the shells. The blanks, minus the holes for thread, were turned into buttons, and you can still find blanks near the river.

Now the river provides more vacation than vocation. A walking path takes you right beside the river bank, or you can hit the Cheese Country Recreational Trail, a 47-mile multi-use recreational trail that runs where the trains once did. You can camp at a riverside park, a place to canoe, fish and relax. The river also takes center stage the second weekend in June for the Darlington Canoe Festival, the city's largest celebration.

At the top of the Main Street boulevard stand the Lafayette County Courthouse, with a Tiffany glass rotunda, marble and other ornate furnishings that reinforce its 1905 cornerstone date. Visitors are welcome during business hours.

The Carnegie Free Library, across the street and in the shade of a park, shares that 1905 construction date. After nearly a century of use as a library, it is now the Lafayette County Historical Society Museum. (A new state-of-the-art library is right next door.) The museum's shelves hold memorabilia from stores that once welcomed visitors on Main Street. Other stores now open their doors to shoppers along the city's historic divided main thoroughfare, offering everything from necessities to niceties.

The Lafayette County Fair is an annual slice of Americana that takes us back to a more tranquil and genial time; an era of blue-ribbon livestock and prize-winning preserves, rides on the Ferris wheel and good-natured socializing. But the second full week in July also brings people to the fairgrounds in Darlington for stock car racing, tractor pulls, auctions, a real western rodeo, top-notch musical entertainment in the grandstand, and much more.

Cheese County Recreation Trail

This 47-mile multi-use trail traverses from Monroe to Mineral Point, passing through the Lafayette County communities of South Wayne, Gratiot, Darlington and Calamine along the way. The all-season trail, which follows the Pecatonica River along an abandoned railroad corridor, is open to bicyclists, horse riders, ATVers, snowmobilers, hikers and cross-country skiers. Local ATV and snowmobile clubs help maintain the trail, which meanders through oak and maple woodlots, past farmsteads and terraced fields of grain, and along gorgeous stands of native prairie wildflowers (the same ones that inhabited the region when the first settlers arrived more than a century and a half ago). Visitors can rent ATVs or snowmobiles, depending upon the season, in both Darlington and Gratiot.

Yellowstone Lake State Park

This 970-acre state park-with an additional 455-acre man-made lake - plays year-round host to visitors who enjoy outdoor recreational experiences and want to learn about the area's natural surroundings. It offers guests ample space to enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, boating, nature interpretations, hiking, biking, picnicking, canoeing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The park has 150 campsites that range from primitive to modern.

Pecatonica River

If you're interested in relaxing and enjoying a quiet, peaceful outing through the Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin, the Pecatonica River is just the ticket for a day of canoeing or tubing. The west branch (with boat launches in Calamine, Darlington, Gratiot and South Wayne) and the east branch (with launches at Blanchardville, Argyle and Woodford) offer tranquil "floats" through woods, prairies and farmsteads with views of bluffs and rock outcroppings. The panoramic vistas only enhance the outdoor experience as you get away from all your troubles and worries, enjoying the leisurely journey downstream.

Roelli Reliable Realty, LLC home base is in Darlington. Come to visit or come to stay a lifetime - Roelli Reliable Realty will help to make your dreams come true.


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