Silent Sporters can pedal back in time Exploring Portage, WI

Biking Back In Time

Silent Sport enthusiasts can pedal their way back in time in Portage, Wisconsin

Explore Portage while recharging your social battery!  Explore 2 historic buildings and trek along 3 optional loops

Bike back in time in Portage

If you are a silent sports enthusiast, add Portage, WI to your list of must-visit locations. Portage is rich in history, filled with preserved nature, and home to several bike trails that span across the breathtaking countryside of Columbia County. 

Two Historic Buildings at Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters 

The site features two historic buildings: the Surgeons Quarters, where the U.S. Army Surgeons of Fort Winnebago resided from 1834 to 1854; and the Garrison Schoolhouse, a one-room school that served the local population from 1850 to 1960.

Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters and Garrison School

Fort Winnebago was one of the original three forts in Wisconsin. Built between 1816 and 1819, a fur trader’s cabin was sold to the Army in 1828 and became the Surgeons Quarters of Fort Winnebago, now the last remaining building of that fort.

Love history? Enjoy a guided tour at the Surgeons Quarters, which features many interesting period documents and artifacts including medical equipment, books, blacksmith items, clocks, crockery, whale oil lamps, glassware, early children’s toys, and more. The Surgeon’s Quarters is open to visitors 10 AM – 4 PM, Wed – Sun, May 15 – Oct 15. You do not need to arrange your tour in advance, but if you would like to do so, call 608-742-2949 or visit

If you have a little extra time and some money in your pocket, plan to pop into their gift shop and purchase a keepsake to remember your trip. The Surgeon’s Quarters is also a great place to enjoy a snack or picnic lunch to keep you fueled during your journey back in time. 

Let’s Begin Biking 

Begin your journey to Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters at Riverside Park, where there is plenty of parking and three of the Columbia County Bike Loops originate. A mouth-watering smell oozes from local favorite Tamarack Pizza right next door! For those interested in paddling or running, the park provides access to the Wisconsin River and the levee walk.  

Tamarack Pizza in Portage, Wisconsin

Along Wauona Trail you will pass by the Columbia County fairgrounds, home to the Columbia County Fair. The historic art-deco grandstand was built in 1935. A local organization, Save The Grandstands, is working to restore the grandstand.    

Further along Wauona Trail, deer and sandhill cranes are known to linger by the Canadian Pacific Railway crossing. This mainline also serves as Amtrak’s Empire Builder route. If you’re lucky, you might catch a quick glimpse of that glimmering silver train and its passengers rushing to or from Portage. Unlucky? Wait for that long freight train to slog on by. 

Make a right turn off Wauona Trail on to Highway 33 East through the last section of a gentle S-curve, over the Fox River, and there lies the entrance to the ‘Jewel on the Hill,’ Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters.

Though the ride from Riverside Park to Surgeons Quarters is loaded with miles of history, you really have not physically traveled very far. Resume your journey along County Highway F or County Road EE by choosing one of the three routes.

The Three Loops 

The three Bike Loop routes take you along the actual portage, from which our city’s name is derived. The portage is a mile and a quarter stretch made famous by explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, who portaged (carried) their canoe between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers.

Columbia County Bike Loop map

Loop #1 is 12 miles and is the simplest of all the loops, touring the beautiful countryside. Add a little extra to this loop and stop at John Muir Park, the boyhood home of this famous naturalist. 

Loop #2 is 29 miles through farmland highlighted by a trip through the Amish community. Chances are you will hear the familiar “clip-clop” sound as you come upon one of their horse-drawn, black buggies. You may possibly see Amish children playing games in the front yard as the family’s washed clothes hang on the line to dry. Take a rest and grab a snack at the Amish bakery or their country store.

Loop #3 is 27 miles highlighted by the ride around Pardeeville’s Park Lake. Break for a sweet treat and some great bar-b-que while you are in town. These routes link with ten more loops plus connecting routes through Columbia County, including cities such as Wisconsin Dells and Columbus.  

View the Columbia County Biking Map here on

Why Explore Portage? 

Meet your next adventure! 

Exploring Portage isn’t only for silent sports enthusiasts. The Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters also makes a great family trip. Load up the kids, pack a picnic lunch, and learn about the fascinating history of the Surgeons Quarters. Add even more value to your trip by visiting when there are additional events scheduled. From historical re-enactments and period encampments to apple picking and special tours, there’s always something going on at Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters! Check out a full list of events here

Explore Portage, Wisconsin - Meet your next adventure

We can’t wait to see you Exploring Portage! For more ideas on how you can explore our community, sign up for our tourism newsletter for seasonal highlights delivered directly to your inbox. 

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