Wisconsin river towns

  • Playing the field in Wisconsin

    In April, the kooky courtship of prairie chickens brings out the bird watchers.

    It's a cold dawn on a Wisconsin marsh, but to a bunch of prairie chickens, it's a hot Saturday night on the town. They've come to see and be seen, and hormones are in charge. It's serious business, perpetuating a dwindling species. But to humans watching from a blind, it's high comedy. Whenever a girl chicken is nearby, the boys inflate neon-orange sacs under their throats, drum their feet and start scurrying around like, well, chickens with their heads cut off.

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  • Waupaca's Chain O' Lakes

    Around a historic Yankee town, visitors travel by water and by land.

    In the middle of Wisconsin, the village of Rural is just far enough off the beaten path. Founded by Yankees in the 1850s, it was the halfway point on the Stevens Point-Berlin trade route and once had a mill, an inn and a dry goods store. But when it was bypassed by the railroad in 1870, the village eased into a slow, genteel decline.

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  • Wausau's liquid assets

    In this sporty town on the Wisconsin River, just go with the flow.

    In Wausau, water is power. Sawmills were first to use the thundering rapids along the Wisconsin River, which have been working hard ever since. But these rapids generate more than the electricity that lights a bulb — they also draw world-class athletes for thrilling tournaments, such the world whitewater kayak/canoe championships for juniors and under-23 paddlers, some of them Olympics-bound.

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  • Winter in Wausau

    In winter, this modest paper town offers skiing, dining and sightseeing.

    The first time I saw Rib Mountain it was nighttime, and I was driving toward Wausau from the north. Looming over the Wisconsin town was a massive hulk lined with white lights, rising from the surrounding plain like a landing strip set on edge. It was a spectacular sight — and still is, day or night.

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