Willow River State Park, Hudson

4.5
#1 of 12 in Things to do in Hudson
Willow River State Park is a 2891acre Wisconsin state park located five miles (8 km) north of Hudson. The centerpiece of the park is Willow Falls, a powerful cascade in a 200ft deep gorge. Another popular feature is Little Falls Lake, a shallow reservoir on the Willow River. Because of its proximity to Minneapolis-St. Paul it is one of the most visited state parks in Wisconsin. In January, 2017 it was named the best state park in Wisconsin. Trilobite fossils found in the lower layers of the gorge indicate the rock is around 600 million years old.
Santee Sioux and Ojibwe tribes lived in the region and clashed over rights to wild rice lakes. European explorers witnessed one of their battles in 1795 at the mouth of the Willow River.
Settlers moved in, and by 1830 logging and wheat farming were common in the Willow River Valley. The river was invaluable for the former, as logs were floated downstream to the St. Croix. A German immigrant, Christian Burkhardt, realized the river could also be harnessed for the latter industry, and built a grist mill here in 1868. Burkhardt became a wealthy landowner and followed developments in water-powered industry. He traveled home to Germany to examine hydroelectric power plants and returned in 1891 to build his own on the Willow River. Burkhardt eventually built four power plants and dams on the river, which provided electricity to Hudson. Northern States Power purchased Burkhardt's power company in 1945 and operated its sites until 1963, when damage to one of the plants from a lightning strike prompted the company to liquidate their Willow River holdings.
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Willow River State Park Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
313 reviews
Google
4.5
TripAdvisor
  • Felt like mini-Niagara falls. We were lucky to visit on a perfect 90 degree day. The route to the falls is moderate to difficult especially the walk back to the parking lot becomes difficult. Visitor ...  more »
Google
  • Always have a good time... Doesn't matter if I'm there for 5min or 5hrs it's good park that always "delivers". By far the best local state park in Wisconsin!!. :) Big Willow Falls are still the main attraction in my book, however spring is a tough time due to the muddy trails... So I settled for walking on the roads today. (Still enjoyed it! Beautiful spring day! 52°F and sunny in Hudson, WI) I'm happy that the DNR finally got funding approved for the new dam. Can't wait until it's finished and I can go back over in that area.
  • Just went on a walk with the kidos today down on the beach. It was a beautiful day. Also at the office there was a worker named Anna and she was very helpful and descriptive about the parks features and activities to do. She talked us into a year pass after we found out all the things we could do as a family.

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