Things to Do| Portage Area Chamber of Commerce
 

Things To Do

Portage Park & Recreation Department

The Portage Park & Recreation Department provides year-round activities for the whole family, including fitness classes, softball, baseball, volleyball, basketball, martial arts, soccer and tennis. Plus, 15 City parks offer a variety of amenities, such as athletic fields and courts, spaces for picnicking and grilling, playground equipment, boat landings, nature walking and plenty of open play areas. For more information about their programs, call 608-742-2178.

Golf Portage

The most avid golfers will find all the challenge they need at a couple courses in the Portage area. You can try your luck at the 18-hole course at Portage Country Club or the nine-hole course at Saddle Ridge Golf Club. These courses will provide golf enthusiasts with hours of recreation.

Hike

The Wisconsin River Levee Trail is a smooth 2.8-mile asphalt path along the Wisconsin River perfect for walking.

The Ice Age Trail is one of eleven Congressionally-designated National Scenic Trails located throughout the U.S. The trail meanders through 31 Wisconsin counties, along the terminal moraine left by a glacier over 10,000 years ago. The Heritage Trail Chapter in Columbia County maintains more than 12 miles, boasts 21 hand-built bridges and showcases the intersections of prairie, wetlands and waterways.

The grounds of the Historic Indian Agency House in Portage offers hiking with a dash of education. The Agency House sits on 233-acres of Ho-Chunk ancestral land that is filled with scenic beauty and abundant wildlife. Hike along the Stories of the Land Interpretive Trailway, engaging hikers with the fascinating history that happened on the soil beneath their feet, and the Marquette Trail (part of the Ice Age Trail), offering a primitive walking path of a higher difficulty level featuring the beauty of the Fox River.

Other Attractions

  • Church Hill District. Containing six early churches and many prestigious homes built between 1855 and 1930, the Church Hill District is only two blocks from the downtown area.
  • Society Hill, a residential district of 138 buildings, was home to the city’s early prominent citizens. Many of the buildings are made of yellow Portage brick and were constructed between 1870 and 1910. Society Hill contains the homes of two Pulitzer Prize winners; playwright Zona Gale and historian Jackson Turner.
  • Downtown Retail District. As a trade center for central Wisconsin, the downtown retail district was a beehive of activity as early as the 1860s. Many of the buildings have been preserved in their original Victorian architecture, providing a colorful background for the busy retail area today.
  • Barn Quilts of Columbia County celebrate the agricultural heritage of our county through the beauty and warmth of quilting art.

Fun in Winter

When the air turns chilly, skiers and boarders in Portage are lucky to have the highly rated Cascade Mountain just four miles from town. Offering free skiing to kids 12 & under accompanied by a paid adult, Cascade’s north-facing slopes offer real skiing variety. Some of the 36 trails are steep and challenging to any skier, while others are over a mile long and fun for beginners. Getting to the top of the mountain is fast and easy with ten lifts, including the high-speed quad Mountain Top Express chairlift.

Outdoor ice-skating is enjoyed on Bridal Pond in Pauquette Park and snowmobile trails are available around the county. One has not really experienced winter in Portage until they have become familiar with the Scottish game of curling. The Portage Curling Club offers leagues and tournaments in winter. Played on a level sheet of ice, the object is to “throw the stone” closest to the center of the “house target” on the opposite end of the rink. A broom is used to sweep the ice in order to lessen resistance on the ice so the stone travels farther.

Bike Portage

Biking enthusiasts have a great reason to come to our area and explore Columbia County. We have a bike loop map featuring 14 different bike loops that use the scenic roads of our county to offer bicyclists a wealth of natural views of wetlands, valleys, rivers, lakes and wildlife areas. The routes were developed with the cooperation of the Columbia County Silent Sports Trails Committee and the Columbia County Highway Department. Please note the routes are traffic routes, not designated biking trails, and we urge bicyclists to wear helmets and ride with caution. Click here for the bicycle loop map.

Another option, the Wisconsin River Levee Trail is a smooth 2.8-mile asphalt path along the Wisconsin River perfect for biking.

Shoot

The Portage Rod & Gun Club offers members full use of its outdoor pistol and rifle ranges, archery range, 4 trap stations, skeet station and 120 acres of hunting land. The clubhouse is well equipped for meetings, weddings and other functions, with central air conditioning, ample seating for large groups, and a separate bar area complete with two wide-screen televisions.

Located just west of Portage on Hwy 16 with easy access from Interstate 39 (Southbound exit 89B; Northbound exit 89C ), they invite you to stop by to take a look.

Water Fun

Boaters can hit the waters of the Wisconsin River (access at Sunset Park) and nearby Swan Lake. Swimmers can enjoy a day at Silver Lake Beach in Portage, which offers a wide, sandy beach, wading, swimming and diving opportunities for the whole family. An indoor pool is located next to Rusch Elementary School at 117 W. Franklin Street. The Splash Pad, located next to Rusch Elementary at Goodyear Park, keeps youngsters cool from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Canoe or kayak the Fox River, part of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway. Drop in at the Agency House and paddle up to Governors Bend and points farther north for a great summertime adventure. Or plan a trip with the Sand County Water Trail guide as your companion. Trips depart at Indian Trails Campground where the Fox River meanders through the south end of the campground. Paddle a canoe, solo kayak or tandem kayak on a 1 ½ – 2 hour trip to the DNR landing on the south shore of Swan Lake or a 3 – 4 hour trip to the spot near Portage, where in 1673 explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet made the short portage from the Fox River to the Wisconsin River. Their shuttle service will bring you, your gear and boat back to Indian Trails. Call ahead to reserve your paddling trip when you make your camping reservations at 608-429-3244.

Amish Community

Located to the northeast and east of Portage is a fairly large Amish community. Amish are well known for their beautiful handmade quilts, baskets, furniture and many other items. Amish businesses in this region include bakeries, furniture and cabinet making shops, quilt shops and general stores.

From Portage: Head east along State Highway 33 to 4-way stop at intersection of Hwy 33 and Hwy 22. Turn left onto Hwy 22 (north).
Proceed roughly 5 miles to right on Barry Road. Click here for a map.

Please note when visiting, some Amish businesses are closed on Thursdays and all Amish businesses are closed Sundays and Church Holidays.

canoe on canal

The Portage Canal

The Portage Canal, a connector of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, was finished in 1876 and at its peak for recreational boat traffic in 1908. By 1950, the number of lockages had dwindled, and the following year, the Portage locks were welded shut.