By Maura Keller | Photo courtesy Town of Merrimac
Although the community of Merrimac may be small, it is a large player in drawing visitors to the Sauk Prairie Riverway. Home to slightly more than 1,500 people, Merrimac features picturesque parks, charming small businesses and a handful of eateries that offer memorable homestyle fare.
Located on the Northern shore of Lake Wisconsin, Merrimac is home to Wisconsin’s only free ferry. Service started in 1848, and the ferry ushered passengers, horses and oxen teams across the Wisconsin River. Eventually the wooden ferry was entrusted to Sauk and Columbia counties to bring passengers across Lake Wisconsin. Over time, the ferry’s management and operation were taken over by the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which ferries cars across the lake free of charge. Today, the ferry routinely ushers 15 cars across the lake at a time from April 15 to Nov. 30.
No visit would be complete without a visit to Devil’s Lake State Park. Known for its incredible hiking opportunities, the state park also highlights stunning rock formations, high cliffs and small waterfalls, including Black Bear Falls and December Falls. Water lovers will delight in the park’s pristine swimming beaches, as well as the ample opportunities for standup paddleboarding, boating, canoeing and kayaking. Wildlife and birdwatching are also a popular pastime in the park. If you are interested in trying rock climbing, this state park is your destination. Guided rock-climbing programs are available for climbers of all skill levels.
After a day of adventures at Devil’s Lake State Park, head back to Merrimac and enjoy delicious food at any of the great eateries.
Plan your visit at townofmerrimac.net.
STUNNING NATURAL RESOURCES
Many visitors enjoy the majestic solitude of Riverland Conservancy’s Merrimac Preserve, which boasts over 1,600 acres of wetlands, savannas, forests, prairies, streams and lakes to explore. Surrounded by the beautiful Baraboo Hills, the preserve is open to visitors looking for a unique nature experience with hiking, fishing and birding.
What is most fascinating about the Merrimac Preserve is the conservation efforts being put forth to restore the region. Visitors can view rare species of plants that were there long before humans, including in the savannas, meadows and prairies within the preserve.
In addition, a visit to Merrimac would not be complete without a visit to the beautiful Parfrey’s Glen State Park (see above), which is Wisconsin’s first state natural area. This spectacular gorge is deeply incised into the sandstone conglomerate of the Baraboo Hills and is a geologic wonder not to be missed.
A MECCA FOR FOODIES
Throughout the Merrimac and Sauk Prairie area, local eateries pride themselves on serving items featuring locally sourced ingredients. From seafood to classic pub food, to vegan to authentic international cuisine, the variety of restaurants dotting the area means visitors can enjoy eclectic dining throughout their entire stay. Relax on an outdoor patio overlooking the region’s stunning bluffs, take in a beautiful sunset on the lake while you sip your favorite beverage, or enjoy dining at a restaurant with goats on the roof. Yes, goats. On the Rox restaurant in Roxbury is one of the area’s favorite places for pizza and visitors are greeted by the goats, Rox and Bury. If the goats aren’t your idea of fun, visit Wollersheim Winery, Distillery & Bistro where you can enjoy guided walking tours of the winery and distillery and enjoy seasonal fares from the bistro while enjoying flight tastings.
Visit townofmerrimac.net/attractions for a full listing of things to do in the area.