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Supporting Tourism in Pierce County Wisconsin

Western Wisconsin

Spring Valley, Wisconsin

About half way between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Spring Valley, with a population of 1214, offers year-round recreation with the friendly feel of rural living. Spring Valley is just six miles from major interstate highway, I-94, via Highway 128, County Road B and Highway 63.

Spring Valley attractions include: swimming, boating, camping and hiking at the Eau Galle Recreational Area and Eau Galle Lake. Also offered are: biking, fishing, village festivals, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, touring Crystal Cave and golfing at the local 18-hole course.

Here's some village history: Logging crews began the first commercial ventures in the area around 1857, traveling upstream from the sawmill at the settlement of Eau Galle. This tranquil scene, with only a few odd stores scattered about, changed overnight in 1891 with the coming of the "pig iron" industry and the true birth of Spring Valley. Discovery of iron ore and other minerals, together with the eastern venture capital raised by S. Frank Eagle, quickly lead to the creation of the Eagle Iron Company and the Gilman Mines.

Suddenly Spring Valley was a major civic project, providing housing, food, blacksmith shops, barbers, doctors, entertainment (saloons), etc. needed by the new army of smelter and mine workers, many of whom brought their families. Thus, up went churches, schools, police and fire departments and other trappings of civilization, such as new village ordinances banning cattle from the city streets and outlawing the playing of baseball on the downtown thoroughfare because of all the broken windows and how it slowed down the horse traffic.

By 1895, Spring Valley had become incorporated and boasted a population of about 1000 souls. Probably the only serious local fiasco was the flood problem. Bridges, railroad beds and trees sustained varying degrees of destruction, depending upon the size of the flood. Major floods occurred in 1894, 1896, 1903, 1907, 1934, 1938 and 1942. There were, in fact, three floods in 1942 and the one that washed through on the night of September 17, 1942 was, you might say, "the mother of all floods" in Spring Valley. That night was pitch black with no electricity and the flood waters moved at 12 to 15 miles per hour. By dawn the valley floor was underwater up to depths of 20 feet (where the present day Bank of Spring Valley is located). The flood quickly receded, but now villagers had to decide whether to relocate Spring Valley or build a dam. Frank Lloyd Wright visited in 1943 and offered to design a new village-as-a-mall (it would have been the first one ever). Instead of rebuilding on West Hill (now the site of Spring Valley Golf Course, "the best kept secret in Northwest Wisconsin"), the residents went to the Army Corps of Engineers and asked for a flood control game plan.

Twenty years later, after tons of paper-shuffling and legislative wrangles, the present-day dam was authorized, funded and commenced in 1964. On September 21, 1968, the completed project was dedicated during the first "Dam Days" celebration and Spring Valley became known as "The Town That Wouldn't Be Licked." Another fringe benefit of the dam was the creation of the Eau Galle Recreational Area by the Army Corps of Engineers, a park that now attracts 250,000 people per year for swimming, picnicking, camping, hiking, skiing or just enjoying the natural beauty of the place. [historical source: Doug Blegen, "resident historian"]

[Printed with the permission of the author Dorie Haugen.]

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