My boyfriend Gary and I love to go camping – especially in places where communing with nature is the focus and not socializing/people. Not that we don’t like socializing/people, just that when camping we prefer a little space & tranquility. Yesterday was going to be one of the best nice days left of the year here in Stoughton, WI with sunshine and temperatures near 60 degrees F, falling into the 40’s for the rest of the month, so we decided to go for a drive to check out some places to camp. Gary had stumbled upon a place called Blackhawk Memorial Park near Argyle, WI when doing a google search on free camping. It was only about an hour away and the area is beautiful, so we decided to go check it out. Here’s what we discovered.
Blackhawk Memorial Park is a 120-acre county park located on the Pecatonica River in Lafayette County, WI. This peaceful park is the site of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (aka Bloody Lake Rendezvous or Battle of Pecatonica), a skirmish of the Blackhawk War. The war represents a conflict between the Sauk leader Black Hawk and the United States that started when Black Hawk and a group of Sauks, Meskwakis, and Kickapoos (aka the “British Band”) crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois to reclaim land that had been ceded to the United States in the disputed 1804 Treaty of St Louis. The Battle of Horseshoe Bend occurred on June 16, 1832 after the defeat of the U.S. at the Battle of Stillman’s run as well as several settlement attacks in the area. The small victory (all 11 Kickapoo warriors and 3 of 21 militia died) won by the U.S. militia at Horseshoe Bend helped restore public confidence and was a major turning point in the war. Initial accounts of the war accused Black Hawk of aggressive hostility, while more recent investigations uncovered evidence of the intent for peaceful negotiations and attempts to withdraw and avoid bloodshed. I’m sure, as in most conflicts, there is some truth to both sides of the story. A fact that is lost on most history book writers…
Things to Know:
This park does not accept reservations, but campsites are usually available even on the weekend (site 15 is highly coveted). It offers primitive camping (no electricity, no picnic tables, no official fire rings and seasonal port-a-potties), canoeing & kayaking launches, fishing, a shelter, and a playground. The toilets in the picnic/shelter area are pit toilets, but they did not smell bad when we were there. Firewood was available (20 pieces for $5), but reviews note that sometimes it’s not. Camping is “on your honor” fees of $5/day during the week and $10/day on weekends. While a few of the sites are large enough (and firm enough) for a camping trailer, this campground is much more suited to tent camping. The water levels are high this year and a drive through the campground indicated that heavy trailers and driving off the road could sink into the ground quite far – so beware and stay on the road with your vehicle! Given the moistness of the ground, I would recommend tarps and air mattresses to keep you high and dry in your tent. I would also bring plenty of bug spray during the summer months.
The park provides one shelters a few picnic tables, and a playground near the entrance. It also has pit toilets, and a relatively small parking lot. A well with an attached faucet & hose provides a fresh water supply and firewood is sometimes for sale on site.
The website claims to have trails, but we did not find any. Presumably, you could walk the campground road for a trail ‘experience’ and to get a good feel for the park atmosphere. The road winds through largely wooded marshland between Horseshoe Lake, Bloody Lake, and the Pecatonica River.
How to get there:
From Madison, Take US-18 W to exit 79. Turn left onto County Hwy Pb and follow about nine miles to WI-92. Turn right on WI-92 and turn right on County Hwy Nn after New Glarus. Turn left onto County Hwy N and go about 4 miles to County Hwy C. Turn right on County Hwy C and follow about 8 miles before turning left on County Hwy M. Go about 2.5 miles and turn right on WI-81 for 2.2 miles going past the Toy Train Barn Museum. Turn onto Trotter Rd and follow until it turns into Sand Road and then you will see the park as the road turns to the left.
Fees: Admission is free. Camping is $5/night for weekday and $10/night for weekend.
Time to enjoy: 1-2 hours or longer if camping
Roadtrip: Day-trip, Madison-WI-Dubuque-IA-segment
Tags: camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, playground