Southern terminus: Rock County, at the Illinois state line just east of Beloit
Northern terminus: Manitowoc County, at the junction with U.S. Highway 151 seven miles north of Kiel
Mileage: about 160 miles
Counties along the way: Rock, Walworth, Waukesha, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Manitowoc
Sample towns along the way: Sharon, Walworth, Williams Bay, Elkhorn, Eagle, Oconomowoc, Mayville, Lomira, Campbellsport, Plymouth, Elkhart Lake, Kiel
Sample sites along the way: Old World Wisconsin, Kettle Moraine, Elkhart Lake Race Track
Bypass alternates at: Elkhorn, Oconomowoc
Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 67 winds through eastern Wisconsin on a path that grazes the Illinois line, swings by the western edge of Geneva Lake’s resort communities, twists through the heart of both units of Kettle Moraine, serves as a main street for towns like Elkhorn, Oconomowoc, Mayville and Plymouth, and provides access to Elkhart Lake and its racing facilities before ending in the middle of nowhere between Chilton and Manitowoc.
The Wisconsin Highway 67 Road Trip
The Drive (South to North): We start at the Illinois state line from Illinois Highway 75, just east of the interchange with I-90 on the eastern outskirts of Beloit. You may run into people kissing in two states at once, who knows?
This part of Highway 67 is a recent extension, connecting South Beloit, Illinois and far southern Rock and Walworth Counties with the western Geneva Lake area and Kettle Moraine. Over the next few years, the Beloit area will likely grow eastward and spread east along the highway, which is very much rural at this point.A lot of open territory – and small two airports – adorns this stretch before entering Walworth County and grazing the northern part of Sharon (pop. 1,549), the first actual town along Highway 67. Most of Sharon is wedged between Highway 67 and the Illinois state line, which along this stretch lies one mile south of the road. If you’d like to check out Sharon, which has a little triangular crossroads area to parallel the diagonal railroad in its center, head south on County C.
Otherwise, continue east and you reach U.S. Highway 14, fresh from its own trip from the Illinois state line and its beginnings in Chicago. Highway 67 follows U.S. 14 northward for about two miles into the county’s namesake, the Village of Walworth (pop. 2,304). Walworth’s name adorns almost every Chinese restaurant’s tables, since this is where Kikkoman Soy Sauce is brewed in the United States. The plant itself is on the northwestern side of town and yes, you can smell the sauce brewing.
Walworth features a little town square, where U.S. 14 branches off to head northwest. Jump off for a mile and follow your nose to the soy sauce scent. In 1972, Kikkoman branched out into North America and chose Walworth, in the heart of the wheat and soybean fields of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, for its first plant in the Western world. Since production began in June, 1973, output has kept growing to accommodate demand, and it all goes either by rail or by truck down U.S. 14 and Highway 67 to points everywhere.
[highlight] State Trunk Tour Tidbit:
The Kikkoman plant in Walworth produces over 25 million gallons of soy sauce per year, and has been expanding capacity to reach beyond 34 million gallons. Kikkoman opened the plant in 1973, the company’s first foray into the U.S. [/highlight]
Highway 67 turns off U.S. 14 in downtown Walworth and starts heading toward the western edge of the Geneva Lakes area, including the popular vacation (and often second home) locales of Fontana (pop. 1,754) and Williams Bay (pop. 2,415). This is a major resort area and has been since the 1800s. Watch for Cubs and Bears fans… this is a popular area with Flatlanders.
Williams Bay is also home to Yerkes Observatory, known as the “birthplace of modern astrophysics.” Part of the University of Chicago, the observatory was founded in 1897 and its refracting telescope was the world’s largest for quite some time. The facility is more than just a telescope, though; physics and chemistry research relating to things like the interstellar medium, globular cluster formations, near-Earth objects and other potentially mind-boggling things take place in here. It’s right along Highway 67 in town (373 W. Geneva Street), accessible via a long driveway. They offer tours on select days… call (262) 245-5555 for information or visit their website.
From Williams Bay, Highway 67 stops following Geneva Lake and the parklands along it to head straight north, past Highway 50 (which provides a direct connection to Lake Geneva) and I-43 to head into Walworth’s County seat.
That would be Elkhorn (pop. 7,305), named during the founding years by Colonel Sam Phoenix when he spied some elk antlers in a tree. Ten years later by 1846, Elkhorn was designated the Walworth county seat; five years later, it started hosting the Walworth County Fair, one of the largest and oldest in the state (the grounds host a popular flea market four times a year too, which draws over 500 vendors.) The historic Webster House Museum, just south of downtown one block off 67, showcases the home of the famous 19th century composer Joseph Webster and offers a great look at life and original items from the mid-1800s.
Highway 67 ducks south and west around the Walworth County Courthouse in a junction with Highway 11, going past a series of downtown buildings including the facade of the First National Bank. Yes, it’s just the facade; the bank itself is gone, but you’re free to step through the doorway into the grassy little park. It would be funny, however, if some pens were chained to a park bench in there somewhere for that true bank feel.
Highway 67 used to have U.S. 12 join it through Elkhorn (where County H comes in today), but since 1973 the junction is north of town where U.S. 12’s freeway that began at the Illinois state line in Genoa City comes to an end – for now. The plan was always for U.S. 12 to continue as a freeway all the way to Madison and it’s still on the drawing board. Since 1947, U.S. 12 and Highway 67 have combined for about 7 miles. The old Highway 15, which was replaced by today’s I-43 from Beloit to Milwaukee, also ran this route from Elkhorn to Abell’s Corners. While it’s still a busy stretch, this used to be the main way through the area; travelers and truckers on long-distance routes would come through here. At Abell’s Corners, County ES (the former 15) heads toward East Troy and Milwaukee (you end up on National Avenue eventually) while Highway 67 and U.S. 12 continue north.
A popular biker stop is C&J’s Crossroads, which has welcomed riders and drivers for decades in one form or another. A classic old sign with a “U.S. 12/Wisconsin 15” directional sign once adorned the roof; I asked Joe, one of the owners of C&J’s what happened to it when I stopped in. Sadly, he informed me that crews updating the building simply threw the sign away a few years back, although he’d wanted them to save it.
Past Abell’s Corners and a small lakes, U.S. 12 branches off to the west to hit Whitewater, Fort Atkinson and Madison… and Washington State, eventually. Highway 20 heads east from this intersection toward Racine. Meanwhile, Highway 67 veers into the southwestern corner of Waukesha County.
A major stop along Highway 67 is Old World Wisconsin, the largest museum of outdoor life in the United States. Almost one full square mile nestled in a corner of Kettle Moraine, Old World Wisconsin opened in 1976 after a long project where researchers scoured the state and brought back buildings and their contents to replicate the lives of immigrants who came to Wisconsin. German, Polish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Yankee, African-American and other representations are all here amidst over 60 historic structures. Demonstrations of crafts, wood stove cooking, blacksmithing, 19th century gardening, workshops and more happen daily. Special events take place throughout the year; call (262) 549-6300 for details.
Just past Old World Wisconsin lies Eagle (pop, 1,707). Awash in history, Eagle sits in a valley along a railroad at the junction with Highway 59. A popular stop with bikers, Eagle features a series of taverns that surround a small valley where the railroad comes through – and has since the 1850’s. Knuckleheads and Coyote Canyon are along the south; a more historical stop is Suhmer’s Saloon (262-594-3006), built in 1854. Suhmer’s Saloon began as a boarding house and tavern for workers building the railroad. It was originally called the Diamond Inn and Eagle Hotel back when Abe Lincoln stayed here during a trek to find Chief Black Hawk in the days before his presidency. Heading into the 20th century, it changed its name to the Pall Mall; from 1933 to 1993 it was called Sasso’s and from 1993 until last year it was called the Stumble Inn (and with the aged steps going down into the bar, you need to be careful not to stumble.) Suhmer’s still has horse corrals and a few motel rooms available for rent next to the bar. Along with beverages for thirsty drivers and riders, Suhmer’s features live music and a restaurant on the upper floor. Check out the wrap-around upper walkway; its architecture beckons images of the wild west.
After carefully navigating the junction with Highway 59, Highway 67 heads northward past Eagle through some beautiful territory in Kettle Moraine. Some curves are tight through this stretch, so watch your speed; why hurry through scenery like this, right? Parts of this stretch are on the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, which Highway 67 picks up again in the North Unit between Campbellsport and Plymouth – but that’s a ways off. Coming out of Kettle Moraine, you reach Dousman (pop. 1,584), “Home of the Wisconsin State Frog Jump”, according to the village’s website. No frogs were present on the particular day I drove through, but I shall return.
Not too long past Dousman you’ll find a mushrooming area. The Town of Summit, heading into Oconomowoc, is expanding at a torrid rate. New distribution centers, hospitals, a Harley dealership and more greet you at the intersection of County DR, which is also the Old Highway 30 between Milwaukee and Madison. The proximity of this location, about halfway between Wisconsin’s two largest cities, means it will keep growing for a while and I’ll probably have to update this section numerous times to keep up.
A few blocks north you reach the crossroads of I-94 and Highway 67, one of the fastest-growing intersections in Wisconsin. The land east of Highway 67, once the rural domain of the Pabst family of brewing fame, is now home to Pabst Farms. A 21st century master-planned, mixed-use development pre-wired for fiber optics and all the technological advances, Pabst Farms is designed to be a community within a community, although it lies in the City of Oconomowoc.
Heading into Oconomowoc (pop. 12,382) itself, you’re entering the only city in the world with a 10-letter name where every other letter is an “o”. Native American for “gathering place of the beaver” (according to one translation), it’s probably also the only Oconomowoc in the world, too, just like Ixonia. And Waunakee. And a bunch of other Wisconsin places.
The Olympia Resort & Spa, a 256-room resort along Highway 67 north of I-94, still provides the city with a resort. Olympia, by the way, has been named such since 1976 (it was previously called “Scottsland”) because of the five rings in the Olympic games. They match the 5 o’s in Oconomowoc. Yes, “O-Town” has many interesting stories.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|The first premiere of Wizard of Oz was in Oconomowoc, at the Strand Theater on August 12, 1939, thirteen days before it opened nationwide.|
Oconomowoc, built around and along portions of Lac La Belle, Fowler Lake and Oconomowoc Lake, is at the western edge of Waukesha County’s “Lake Country”. The city served as a resort town for wealthy Americans as far back as the 1870’s, earning it the nickname “Newport of the West”. A host of American presidents throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s visited Oconomowoc, and some of the mansions where they stayed can be seen on walking tours around town.
*** BYPASS ALERT ***
Highway 67 now officially runs on a new bypass (planned since 1960, completed in 2006) that runs around the east and north side of Oconomowoc. Portions of it also make up part of Highway 16. You can follow the new bypass, which shaves about 5-7 minutes off the trip, and rejoin Highway 67 at the north end of town. However, to make it a true State Trunk Tour experience, follow the traditional Highway 67 through town as indicated below. In the picture (right), the sign for Summit Avenue is the way to go!
At the bypass split, you can follow Summit Avenue into town, where it descends into a neighborhood where you can see the homes getting older as you approach the downtown area. Just before the first stoplight to your right is the Brownberry Ovens plant, home to delicious baking bread smells since Catherine Clark opened her first bakery there in 1946. Brownberry Ovens is now a subsidiary of Canadian conglomerate George Weston Limited, the same company that provides Entenmann’s, Thomas’ muffins and Boboli pizza crust. They still, however, furnish that part of Oconomowoc with the smell of baking bread and you can buy it at the source in the store along Summit Avenue right in front of the factory.
Turning right from Summit onto Main Street and over the busy railroad tracks (it’s the main line connecting Minneapolis and Milwaukee) brings you through Oconomowoc’s downtown strip. At the intersection with Wisconsin Avenue, you cross old Highway 16. The headquarters of five-state pizza chain Rocky Rococo is also at this intersection, though you have to go back to 1075 Summit Avenue to imbibe in their deep-dish slices. The main shopping district for the city is east along Wisconsin and further north along Main, where you’ll find old timers like Boelter’s Shoes . Heading north you’re flanked on both sides by lakes, the kind of landscape that gave rise to a bustling resort community in the 1870s. Fowler Lake is to your east, Lac La Belle to the west; either way, the view in summertime is of tree-lined shores, beautiful homes and often happy swimmers and boaters. Lac La Belle is the larger of the two and boasts numerous mansions around its shores, including a few right along your route on Main Street. One of the mansions was a home for the Montgomery Ward family; others included barons from industry from Milwaukee, Chicago, and old Southern U.S. cities. Some were just lucky enough to sell short on Enron in 2001.
North of Oconomowoc, the new bypass rejoins Highway 67 to the original highway for the ride north into Dodge County, where it meets the first of two Ashippuns. Really. First, you arrive in the “new” Ashippun. About a mile later, you reach Old Ashippun. The Old Ashippun is – you guessed it – the original town, but they moved the whole shebang south one mile to be right along the new railroad when it came through in the late 1800s. It’s also home to Honey Acres, a “Honey of a Museum”, as it bills itself. Honey Acres started up in 1852 and has been working on beekeeping and honey-making ever since.
Further north, you reach Neosho (pop. 592) and cross Highway 60 on your way to Iron Ridge, a small burg that spreads up hills to the east of Highway 67, which runs the edge of the town; County WS cuts right through it if you wanna take a look.
Past Iron Ridge, threads its way through railroad crossings and creeks to Mayville (pop. 4,902) started early; it incorporated as a city in 1845, three years before Wisconsin became a state. Big on manufacturing, Mayville is home to a number of industrial facilities and maintains a pretty steady employment base. One of the old manufacturing buildings, the former Hollenstein Wagon & Carriage Factory, is maintained by the local historical society and offers wagons on display in what is now a museum-like setting. Mayville also sports a very nice “Main Street” downtown; Highway 67 meets up with Highway 28 for the ride through it, past a variety of handsome old structures offering everything from antiques to food to collections of rural pictures in the White Limestone School, right on Main Street.
Highway 28 joins 67 for the ride east into the village of Theresa (pop. 1,252). Theresa holds the distinction of being named after the mother of Solomon Juneau, who’d founded this other place called Milwaukee years earlier, moved out, established Theresa, and therefore was the first European settler to begin urban sprawl in Wisconsin.
*** Cheese Factory Alert ***
Theresa is home to Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, which has been making brick, cheddar, and colby varieties in this location since 1922. They still use many of the original cheese vats and you can stop in and buy their cheese in their store, right from the source.
In Theresa, Highway 67 – as well as 28 – hooks up with Highway 175 and heads north out of town. About a mile later, Highway 28 breaks east toward Kewaskum; 67 & 175 stay together a few more miles to Lomira (pop. 2,233), which is one example of a town that was once focused on this road when it was U.S. 41, but now most of the activity and development lies further east along the busy freeway that is today’s I-41. Highway 67 goes east through Lomira to an interchange with I-41 and then makes a beeline into Fond du Lac County, passing from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes watershed.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|The massive Quad Graphics plant in Lomira is the largest single printing facility in the Western Hemisphere.|
Just past Ashford (one of those “don’t blink” places), Highway 67 winds over the beginnings of the Milwaukee River and heads into Campbellsport (pop. 1,913). A quiet, pleasant town, Campbellsport primarily serves as a gateway to the Kettle Moraine’s Northern Unit area and is the hub for everything in Fond du Lac County’s southern section. Highway 67 zigzags through town, briefly following County V, which many years ago was U.S. 45.
Past Campbellsport, Highway 67 begins heading north again, passing the Henry Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center. The Center features interactive displays, forest information and a film on the Ice Age that created much of Wisconsin’s topography. A series of hiking trails are a nice break from the drive, too. While you’re up there, get a look at Dundee Mountain, which rises 1,201 feet above sea level. Not impressive if you’re from, say, Colorado, but it certainly dominates the area landscape.
Shortly after, Highway 67 enters Dundee, an unincorporated community once visited by ABC’s Extreme Home Makover and, apparently, by aliens. Dundee, along with Campbellsport just a few miles back, lays claim to “UFO Capital of the World”. Just north of Dundee, Highway 67 hugs the western shore of Long Lake, so named because its long… and fairly narrow. And the UFO claims come to a head at Benson’s Hide-a-way (920-533-8219), which features photos and stories of UFO sightings. And perhaps Old Style, judging from the sign that leads you there:
After more twists and turns (this stretch of Highway 67 has a 35mph speed limit for the stretch along Long Lake), eventually the road begins to head east, plowing through the Kettle Moraine State Forest, including nearby Greenbush Kettle and a stretch of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. It’s back to open farmland for a little while before a turn northward again and the ride into the first incorporated place since Campbellsport.
That place would be the City of Plymouth (pop. 7,781), which is almost ridiculously charming. Site of Wisconsin’s first Cheese Exchange, Plymouth originally served as a stagecoach stop and transportation has played a big part in its history ever since. Nowadays, racing fans can enjoy dirt track racing in Fair Park in Plymouth throughout the summer (we’ll get to Road America in a minute.) If you prefer the arts, the Plymouth Arts Center on Mill Street downtown features an eclectic mix of exhibits. This is also a city where they drop a cheese at midnight as opposed to a ball, like in Times Square in New York.
A big cow in Wisconsin? You’re kidding! Nope. Plymouth features Antoinette, a large Holstein cow, as a local landmark to salute the area’s dairy industry. Erected in 1977 (perhaps while disco music played in the background), Antoinette stands 20 feet high and weighs 1,000 pounds. Can you imagine how much milk she’d give if she was real?
At the north end of Plymouth, you cross Highway 23, which offers access to nearby destinations, including Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan and the Wade House. The Wade House was built in the 1850’s by settler Sylvanus Wade (it was decided “Wade House” was easier than “Sylvanus’ House”) that served as a stagecoach inn for quite a while. Included on the Wade House grounds is one of the nation’s best collections of carriages and Civil War Reenactments.
Shortly past Highway 23, you reach Road America (800-365-RACE), which features of some of the best racing in North America. Billed as, among other things, the “world’s fastest permanent road course”, Road America covers a full square mile and has a road circuit track 4.048 miles long, with 14 turns. The track hosts over 400 events per year including in the SCCA Speed World Challenge Series, American Le Mans, ASRA and AMA Superbike series. You can drive on it, too, you know: the Road America Kart Klub features a 0.8-mile track known as the Briggs & Stratton MotorPlex. A variety of 2-cycle and 4-cycle motor go-karts can be rented for fun and competition.
Just north of Road America is Elkhart Lake (pop. 1,021), a popular village for tourism, recreation, shopping and well, we already covered the racing part. Elkhart Lake is known for its lake (yes, named Elkhart), resorts, B&B’s, eclectic shops and galleries. Museums include the railroad depot, with pieces and memorabilia from when most visitors to Elkhart Lake arrived by train. There’s also Henschel’s Indian Museum, which is actually on an archeological dig site. Indian artifacts, some dating back over 10,000 years, are on display.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|Elkhart Lake used to host road races on public county roads in the 1950’s. The original road course is actually on the National Register of Historic Places and is marked with signs around town. Eventually, they decided to move races to a dedicated road track, now known as Road America.|
Beyond Elkhart Lake, Highway 67 enters Manitowoc County, crosses Highways 32 and 57 and skims the eastern end of Kiel (pop. 3,450), which bills itself as the “little city that does big things.” What are those big things? I’m working to find out.
Highway 67’s northern end comes on a long, straight stretch of road that ends at U.S. 151, just short of the Killsnake State Wildlife Area – because the Killsnake River (one of our favorite names) is in the area. To the west is Chilton; to the east, Manitowoc. Follow either one and have fun!
Can connect immediately to: Illinois Highway 75
Can connect nearby to: Interstate 90, about 0.5 miles west; U.S. 51, about 2 miles west; Highway 81, about 2 miles northwest; Interstate 43, about 2 miles northwest