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Highway 55 Trunk Tour

  • Southern terminus: Calumet County, at the junction with U.S. Highway 151 near Quinney
  • Northern terminus: Forest County, at the Brule River bridge on the Michigan state line (connecting to M-73 in Michigan)
Distance: 175 miles

Counties along route 55

  • Calumet
  • Outagamie
  • Shawano
  • Menominee
  • Langlade
  • Forest

STH-055“High Cliffs, Hamburgers and High Up to Michigan”

 

WisMap55Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 55 starts on a picturesque overlook above Lake Winnebago, cut through the eastern edge of the Fox Valley and becomes a winding highway through Seymour, birthplace of the hamburger and home to the world’s largest burger, both the Menominee Indian Reservation and the Nicolet National Forest, with excellent access to campgrounds, fishing, hunting and a variety of summer and winter up Nort’ activities.

The Wisconsin Highway 55 Road Trip

The Drive (South to North): Highway 55, which once began all way down in Milwaukee, begins today where U.S. 151 veers away from Lake Winnebago on its way to Chilton. Where 151 goes east, 55 continues north, running close to the east shore of the “non-cityed” side of Lake Winnebago. While not always visible from this stretch of Highway 55, Lake Winnebago is the third largest freshwater lake in the U.S. (Okeechobee in Florida was first, in case you were curious) and is visible from space. While the lake’s west side is heavy with reefs and cities like Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Menasha, and Neenah, the east side is characterized with serene shorelines and rocky cliffs.

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Highway 55, which once started in Milwaukee, now begins where U.S. 151 veers east toward Manitowoc. The highway runs up the barely-developed east shore of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest inland lake.

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Lake Winnebago is about 30 miles long and expands to 10 miles wide. It’s quite visible from Highway 55 for quite a while.

dubspub_lgBy the way, our award for “Best Tavern Name of the Day” was Dub’s Pub Suds & Grub”. That’s rhyming on the level of old-school rapper right there…

High Cliff State Park is the best place for viewing Lake Winnebago. Perched atop the limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment, which runs from this point to Door County and then to Niagara Falls, you can picnic, camp, walk the Indian Mound Trail, check out the nature center, or climb the 40-foot observation tower and get a look across the lake to Appleton, Oshkosh and even north to Kaukauna, which Highway 55 cuts right through on this Tour.

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Several cities line the western shore of Lake Winnebago. From Highway 55, you can see the tops of buildings in Oshkosh (b’gosh), slightly visible in the distance in this picture.

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From the “You Never Know What You’ll Find on the State Trunk Tour” Department: this thing. No idea what this is… something resembling an old-style train or tractor. Just saw it by the roadside and decided it’s worth a picture.

After a brief combo with Highway 114, which heads west toward Appleton, you enter Outagamie County, crossing U.S. 10 and going past the Wisconsin International Raceway into Kaukauna (pop. 12,983). Known far and wide for the tasty cheese spread brand (now technically made in Little Chute), Kaukauna is considered the easternmost of the Fox Cities. One of the first communities in Wisconsin, Kaukauna was explored by Father Claude Allouez in 1670 and a fur trading post was established at KeKalin Falls in 1760. Back then, travelers moving by canoe had to detour by land around three waterfalls on the Fox.

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Just south of the Highway 55 & 96 junction in Kaukauna, you can see the Veterans Memorial Bridge, one of five that span the Fox River in Kaukauna. The city essentially has two “downtowns”, one for the north side and one for the south side. Highway 55 heads through both.

The numerous small waterfalls on the Fox made Kaukauna a natural choice for hydroelectric power generation, which dates back to the 1880s. With several plants and some of the lowest power rates in the state, Kaukauna embraces the nickname “The Electric City”. They weren’t using electricity in 1793, when Dominique Ducharme secured the first land deed granted in Wisconsin along portions of the Fox River in Kaukauna. On part of that land now stands the Grignon Mansion, built in 1837. Parkland surrounds the mansion; paper mills (and when the wind is right, their essence) dominate across the street.

State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The first land deed in Wisconsin was granted to Dominique Ducharme in 1793. The initial payment? Two barrels of rum.

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(Above) The Grignon Mansion, built in 1837 on the site of Wisconsin’s oldest deeded land. To the side is the mansion’s outhouse… and yes, they cut crescent moon shapes into the door for ventilation. And because that’s how outhouses always seem to look. It’s not available for public use, but then, why would anyone want to use it?

Finding Freedom – and a Drive-In!
Through Kaukauna, Highway 55 crosses Highway 96 and then heads north to cross I-41 and heads out of town into the rural portions of Outagamie County. That’s where, after several miles, you’ll find Freedom. Well, actually there are three towns in Wisconsin called “Freedom”, but THIS one is along Highway 55 AND Field of Scenes, one of only five active drive-in theatres in Wisconsin. Field of Scenes shows movies like any drive-in theatre, but it’s also a sprawling campus featuring horse-pulled wagon rides, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a game room, and basketball and volleyball courts.

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This scene isn’t very common anymore; a working drive-in theater! It’s right along Highway 55 in Freedom.

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Left: A clear summer day looks all the more awesome looking up at a cool church. This is in “downtown” Freedom.
Right: Since this is called “Freedom”, why not have a replica of the Statue of Liberty? Sure enough, here it is.

It’s a straight beeline through Freedom and most Outagamie County, where you cross through southwestern section of the Oneida Indian Reservation. You can connect to Oneida Casino and Green Bay by taking Highway 54 east when you reach it; otherwise, Highway 55 joins 54 going westward for a brief jaunt into the birthplace of one of the best road foods ever created.

seymourburgersign_500I speak of the hamburger, and Seymour (pop. 3,335) calls itself “Home of the Hamburger.” One of several places worldwide that lays claim to being the hamburger’s birthplace, Seymour grabs the title with a full embrace and hosts its annual Burger Fest every August. Burger Fest features hamburgers, a hamburger eating contest, kids’ games, music and a hot air balloon rally, no doubt tons of buns and a (what the…) ketchup slide. Don’t wear clothes you care about. But it sounds fun!Seymour also hosts the Outagamie County Fair every July, drawing tons of people from the Appleton area and beyond. Want some racing? Grab a burger and plop down in a seat at Seymour Speedway, a 1/3-mile clay oval on the fairgrounds. The speedway hosts Fastrak Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, Stock Cars, and Northern Sport Mods. And they all move pretty fast.

seymour_burgerstatue Seymour’s Version of the Hamburger Invention:
“In 1885, Charles N. Nagreen, a young lad of 15, came to the Seymour Fair to sell meatballs. When he realized people wanted to walk around the fair grounds and eat, he flattened a meatball between two slices of bread and called it a ‘hamburger.’ This was the first time the hamburger sandwich was produced and sold.”

 

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The Guinness Book of World Records noted that Seymour is where the “World’s Largest Hamburger” was cooked – right there on the Charlie Grill. In August of 2001, a 8,266 pound hamburger was cooked up and served to over 13,000 people.

Feature: Burger Fiesta
Seymour’s annual hamburger festival runs in early August. The State Trunk Tour was there; amidst the bands, the model railroad museum and hungry and thirsty festival goers milling about under the statue of Charles “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen (the hamburger’s inventor), was the main attraction: a 60-pound hamburger. Sure, it’s a fraction of the monstrous 8,266 pound record grilled in 2001, but it was still a monster.

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Left: The 60 pound mound of meat, hot off the grill. Right: It took some work, but the meat was successfully wedged within a gi-normous bun – even though part of the patty’s north side fell a bit!

North of Seymour, Highway 55 is a pretty straight shot to Angelica, where you get to hop the “express” by joining Highway 29 on a freeway for a while.

Around Bonduel, you also combine with Highway 47. There, right along the highway, you can check out Doc’s Zoo & Muscle Car Museum (715-758-9080), which features a variety of 60’s muscle cars, motorcycles, a classic 1930’s Standard gas station, and a whole line of unique autos, including one of the 1958 Plymouth Fury cars used in the Stephen King classic “Christine”. It’s hard to miss; part of Doc’s Harley-Davidson, Inc. of Shawano County, you’ll notice Bo & Luke Duke’s General Lee looking like it just leaped the building (yes, it’s one of the actual General Lee cars used in filming “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

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Shawano to Crandon to the U.P. is coming soon!

In Menomonee County, 10 miles past Keshena though, we want to note Big Smokey Falls. More than the whitewater rafting opportunity on the Wolf River is also coming soon!

CONNECTIONS
South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. Highway 151
Can connect nearby to: Highway 32 & Highway 57, about 8 miles east

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: M-73 in Michigan
Can connect nearby to: Highway 70, about 5 miles south

Events on this Tour

Route 55 Facts

  • • Highway 55 runs along the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, the third largest freshwater lake in the U.S.
  • • Highway 55 crosses the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in the U.S.
  • • Seymour, which Highway 55 runs through in Outagamie County, is the official "home of the hamburger." It was invented there in 1885.
  • • The Grignon Mansion near Kaukauna along Highway 55 sits on Wisconsin's oldest deeded land.
  • • Prior to 1955, Highway 55 continued south along today's U.S. 151, U.S. 45, and Highway 145 to reach downtown Milwaukee.

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