Home » Great Lakes States Directory » Wisconsin Travel

Free Wisconsin Travel Guides – Wisconsin Explorers

Free Wisconsin Travel Guides – Wisconsin Explorers

Free Wisconsin travel guides. Wisconsin explorers. Free online books on historic exploration and present-day travel.

Wisconsin Guidebooks Collection

Free online Wisconsin guide books for present-day Wisconsin explorers, published within the last few decades. Some are from well-known guidebook series such as Moon, Compass, Off the Beaten Path, and Frommers. There are also many ‘specialized’ books here, such as guides for family weekends, golf, mountain biking, skiing, hiking, camping, and amusements for kids.

Be patient as the page loads.

See the Menu at the top of every page for Directories of Free Online Fiction and NonFiction Books, Magazines, and more, on 400 pages like this at Century Past

Wisconsin Door County Collection

Seven free online guide books to Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is a peninsula in Lake Michigan in northeastern Wisconsin that is well known to state residents as a summer recreational area. Unlike many other northern recreational areas in the state, Door County is appreciated by today’s Wisconsin explorers for much more than outdoor recreation.

Wisconsin Guidebooks for Biking Collection – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Wisconsin – Bicycle Trails – Guide books”.

A Merry Briton in Pioneer Wisconsin; a contemporary narrative reprinted from Life in the West …

back-wood leaves and prairie flowers: rough sketches on the borders of the picturesque, the sublime, and ridiculous. Extracts from the note book of Morleigh in search of an estate, published in London in the year 1842

Madison: State Historical Society 1950

This volume is the last five chapters of a longer travel account, Life in The West: Back-wood Leaves and Prairie Flowers: Rough Sketches on the Borders of the Picturesque, the Sublime, and Ridiculous. Extracts from the Notebooks of Morleigh in Search of an Estate (1842). The portion reprinted here describes the pseudonymous Morleigh’s travels through the Wisconsin Territory, commencing at Racine and including Janesville, Madison, Mackinac, Whitewater, Mineral Point, Prairieville, Milwaukee, the Green Bay vicinity, and the Wolf River, in the summer of 1841. The tone is light and anecdotal. The author describes the consequences of land speculation and takes an interest in the experiences of several of the ethnic groups then immigrating into the territory. He also describes the plants and animals of the countryside. He observes Wisconsin’s social life at the taverns, inns, and depots where a traveler was likely to pass the time, and finds the region to be politically lively and filled with partisan factions. Native Americans extend their hospitality to him, and he attends a gathering of Menominee assembled to collect federal annuities.
– Summary from the American Memory website

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

Upper Michigan vacation books

“Geographical, Geological and Statistical Chart of Wisconsin and Iowa: designed especially for the use of Emigrants and Travellers …

and as a Document of Reference for the citizens of those Territories; as well as for those who may feel interested in the prosperity of this new but rapidly improving portion of the “Great West

Abel, Henry J.
Philadelphia: 1838

Printed as a large one-sheet chart, this is packed with information and advice for people considering moving to Wisconsin or Iowa. It also contains a number of stories that are meant to be illustrative of life there, but seem overly optimistic. Here’s an example: “It is customary in Wisconsin, when an emigrant arrives in a settlement, that his neighbors assist him in building a house, (“which can be done in less than three days”) without any charge whatever. The way they do business here may be seen from the following [newspaper article]: “Not long since a young man reached a settlement on Monday, surveyed his ground on Tuesday, built a house on Wednesday, got married on Friday, moved home on Saturday, and with his wife, like the rest of the settlers, went to meeting on Sunday.”

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

The Emigrant’s Instructer on Wisconsin and the Western States of America

Description of the Wisconsin Territory and some of the states and territories adjoining to it, in the western parts of the United States of America

British Temperance Emigration Society and Saving Fund
British Temperance Emigration Society and Saving Fund, 1844

For books about Milwaukee and other cities, see our Wisconsin Cities & Places page

Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 … – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

By J. Carver, Esq. Captain of a Company of Provincial Troops During the Late War with France

Carver, Jonathan
London: Dilly 1781

Jonathan Carver served as a member of Rogers’ Rangers and as a Captain in a Massachusetts regiment during the French and Indian War, and also studied surveying and mapping. In the 1760s he wanted to explore the new territory acquired by the British in that war, finally finding a sponsor in Robert Rogers, who had recently been appointed commander at Fort Michilimackinac. The Carver expedition’s objective would be to find a northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean.

Carver departed Fort Michilimackinac in 1766 for Green Bay, where he resupplied and headed west. The expedition explored the upper Mississippi and parts of Minnesota and Iowa before returning to Fort Michilimackinac in August 1767, where Carver found that his sponsor, Major Rogers, had been arrested for treason. Part of this book was probably written at Fort Michilimackinac that winter. Wisconsin explorers.

See the Wikipedia entry on Jonathan Carver for more about his later personal story, which is not in Carver’s book, and later claims by historians that parts of this book were plagiarized. One article about the issue is on this web page; “The Mission of Jonathan Carver” by Louise Phelps Kellogg. Also see Carver’s map of Wisconsin and the upper Mississippi region on this website, at the Wisconsin Maps and Gazetteers page.

Kilbourn and the Dells of the Wisconsin

Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company
Chicago: Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company 1909

Contains numerous large colorized photos.

Walking Trails of Eastern and Central Wisconsin

Crawford, Bob
University of Wisconsin 1997

See our Seamanship PDF books

Walking Trails of Southern Wisconsin – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Crawford, Bob
University of Wisconsin 1994

Country Roads of Wisconsin

Davenport, Don
Country Roads 1996

12 Country road routes around the state, with directions for the route, and tips on what to keep an eye out for.

Great Wisconsin Romantic Weekends

Des Garennes, Christine
Trails 2004

21 locations selected around the state, with suggested itineraries for each part of each day of a weekend. Lists of recommended restaurants and lodging in each chapter.

Green Travel Guide to Southern Wisconsin: Environmentally and Socially Responsible Travel

Dillon, Pat & Diebel, Lynne
University of Wisconsin 2010

“Green Travel Guide surveys the best green restaurants, lodgings, shops, and activities southern Wisconsin has to offer.” -Book cover

This is Wisconsin

Gard, Robert E.
Wisconsin House 1969

“Robert Gard set out one day to rediscover Wisconsin. He traveled throughout the state and found the people eager to speak about their own places and about the events that transpired on their own doorsteps. ‘This is Wisconsin’ is a fascinating view of the state as told to Robert Gard by many narrators. The flavors of places emerge dramatically through the tellers and through their descriptions of time and place in Wisconsin, both past and contemporary.” – Book jacket

Country Towns of Wisconsin: Charming Small Towns and Villages to Explore

Hattes, Ann
Country Roads 1999

The author selected 14 towns or areas around the state to explore, adding some historical background as well as advice and information.

“Zebulon Montgomery Pike’s Mississippi Voyage, 1805-1806”

Wisconsin Magazine of History Vol 32, No. 4, June 1949, 445-455

Hollon, W. E.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

“After briefly reviewing the career of Pike (1779-1813), this article describes at length his travels through the upper Mississippi River to intercept English fur traders from Canada working illegally on American soil. Pike headed north in August 1805, wintered upriver from Minneapolis, and returned to St. Louis in April 1806, describing Prairie du Chien and other Wisconsin locations en route.”
– Wisconsin Magazine of History.

Wisconsin – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Huhti, Thomas
Avalon Travel 2008

A volume in the ‘Moon Handbooks’ series of tour guides.

“Father Allouez’s Journey into Wisconsin, 1669-70”

Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

Kellogg, Louise P., ed.
NY: Scribner. 1917.

This is a portion of the journal of Jesuit priest Jean Claude Allouez (1620 – 1689), when he was sent from Sault Ste. Marie in November 1669 by the Bishop of Quebec to open missions in the upper Great Lakes. He canoed from the head of Lake Huron into upper Lake Michigan. Canoeing barefoot and covered with ice, his party followed the southern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula into Green Bay. He celebrated mass with bands of Indians camped at the Oconto River, then traveled to spend the rest of the winter among the Potawotamie east of the Fox River on Green Bay.
-excerpt from the American Journeys website.

“Last Voyage of Jacques Marquette 1674-1675”

Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

Kellogg, Louise P., ed.
NY: Scribner. 1917.

This is a translation of the portion of the journal of Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) covering his final voyage until his death near present-day Ludington, Michigan. There is also an account of his death and subsequent events.

Also see:
– Thwaites, Reuben Gold, Father Marquette in Century Past Biographies: M, N & O

Verwyst, Chrysostom, Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Menard and Allouez, in the Lake Superior Region in Wisconsin Religious History

“The Mission of Jonathan Carver”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 12, number 2, December 1928 pp 127-145

Kellogg, Louise Phelps
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Kellogg weighs in on a debate among historians about whether Jonathan Carver actually explored Wisconsin in the 1760s as per his account and if so, the purpose of the trip. See Travels through the Interior Parts of North America (etc.) by Jonathan Carver, on this web page.

“The Mississippi Voyage of Jolliet and Marquette 1673”

Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

Kellogg, Louise P., ed.
NY: Scribner. 1917

Count de Frontenac arrived in New France in 1672 as vice-regent, and had grand imperial ambitions for the undiscovered parts of North America. There had been rumors in New France for many years of a great river west of the Great Lakes, and it is likely that it had been crossed in its upper reaches by one or two early explorers. In 1673 the Count selected experienced explorer Louis Jolliet to make a voyage of discovery to the Mississippi River. A priest normally accompanied such undertakings, and Jacques Marquette, then at his mission among the Indians at St. Ignace, was chosen for the honor.

Near the end of the voyage the journal of Louis Jolliet was lost. This report by Father Marquette, composed after the trip, is the only record we have of the historic voyage down the Mississippi River.

See our Free PDF Magazine Back Issues

“Milwaukee to St. Paul in 1855”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 11, number 2, December 1927 pp 169- 189

King, Rufus (General)
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

A travelogue by the prominent Milwaukee resident General Rufus King. As of 1855 it was still relatively rare and difficult for Milwaukee residents to journey across the state to St. Paul, since no railroad had yet been built on the route. General King provided them this account of his own trip. Wisconsin travel account,

Narratives of Early Wisconsin Travellers, Prior to 1800 – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Legler, Henry Eduard
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1906

A reprint of a 35-page article from a Historical Society journal. The article mostly covers French travelers in the 17th century.

A Souvenir of Green Bay, Wisconsin

Martin, Deborah B.
Iron Mountain, MI: Stiles 1903

A concise history of the city at the beginning, with the remainder of the booklet being photos of the city and area.

Fat Tire Wisconsin: A Mountain Bike Trail Guide

McGrath, W. Chad and Parman, Mark
University of Wisconsin 2001

Authors and Wisconsin natives McGrath and Parman share the knowledge gained from countless hours of riding Wisconsin’s off-road bike trails. They’ve included 21 challening new trail systems as well as changes and expansions to older systems. ‘Fat Tire Wisconsin’ includes details of terrain and levels of difficulty; trail maps, directions to the trail sites, and use fees; and information on organizations, races, and websites.” -Book cover

“Notes on Early Wisconsin Exploration, Forts and Trading Posts”

Collections of State Historical Society Vol X 1883-85 pp 292-306

Neill, Edward D.
Madison: State Historical Society

The author provides details of a number of French explorations within Wisconsin in the 1600s and early 1700s, and efforts to establish trading posts.

See also on this site: Winsor, Justin, Cartier to Frontenac; Geographical Discovery in the Interior of North America in its Historical Relations 1534-1700 in Exploration of North America

Wisconsin Travel Companion: A Guide to History along Wisconsin’s Highways – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Olsenius, Richard and Zerby, Judy A.
University of Minnesota 2001

The authors use 19 road trips in various parts of Wisconsin to give brief histories of the towns encountered along the way.

Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Pappas, Douglas and the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Wisconsin
NY: Duell, Sloan & Pierce 1941

This is a 20th century guidebook; a team effort sponsored by the Work Projects Administration in the 1930s. It contains a description of the state as well as numerous brief histories of towns and locales. This description is from the book’s Preface:

“The book is divided into three parts. The first of these is a series of essays, most of them historical in nature, intended to paint in large strokes the State’s development and to furnish a background against which the detailed information that follows may become more intelligible. The second section describes the State’s nine largest cities. Here the histories of the cities are briefly sketched and their points of interest described for the traveller who wishes to look about him. The third section is a series of selected tours covering the main highways.”

Oddball Wisconsin: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places

Pohlen, Jerome
Chicago Review 2001

“There’s more to Wisconsin than cheeseheads, bratworst, and the Dells! The cheese State is rife with one-of-a-kind people, arcane places, and things with unique and bizarre histories. Skip the home bed-and-breakfasts and the best fall foliage – let ‘Oddball Wisconsin’ take you where you really want to go.” -Book cover

Explore Milwaukee

The complete shopping, leisure & entertainment guide

Rogo, Dan T.
Independent 1996

Numerous attractions described, and well-illustrated. The bulk of the volume seems to cover the communities that surround Milwaukee, in nearby counties.

Wisconsin Tour and Hand Book

Ryan, Sam J., comp.

including lists of local consuls, League hotels with rates, repair shops, bicycle clubs, road maps, bicycles as baggage, guide boards, rights and privileges, bicycle insurance, promotion of touring, etc. etc.

Appleton: Wisconsin Division, League of American Wheelmen 1897

“This 135-page pamphlet published in 1897 was designed to be carried by bicyclists as they explored the state. It describes routes and prints road maps, displays advertisements, and lists locations of hotels, repair shops, and bicycle clubs. It also discusses bicycles as baggage on trains, the rights and privileges of cyclists, bicycle insurance, promotion of touring, and related issues.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin explorer.

“Journal of William Rudolph Smith”, Part 1

Part 2

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Part 1: Volume 12, number 2, December 1928 pp 192-220;
Part 2: Volume 12, number 3, March 1929 pp 300-321

Smith, William Rudolph
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Fine account by Smith of a journey in 1837. The first part is a trip by steamboat from Pittsburg on the Ohio River to the Mississippi, then up the Mississippi to Wisconsin. Much of the second part covers his stay in Prairie du Chien and that vicinity.

Down Historic Waterways: Six Hundred Miles of Canoeing down the Rock, Fox, and Wisconsin Rivers

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Chicago: McClurg 1902

Thwaites was the Secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and a prolific historian.

“This book is composed of accounts or descriptions of three summer vacation tours on the rivers named, made by canoe. To keen enjoyment of this sort of an outing, the author adds a faculty for observation and a wealth of local historical information that helps to make him what he is in his own field, easily the first historical specialist of the time. The accounts are written in a clear, pleasant style that combines qualities of the diary, the personal letter, natural description, and historical narrative.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902).

For works on boats and shipping, see: Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791

Thwaites, Reuben G., ed.
Cleveland: Burrows 1898

Up to 30 volumes of this 71-volume collection are said to contain information about Jesuit activities in Wisconsin.

Guide to Wisconsin Outdoors – Free Wisconsin Travel Guides

Umhoefer, Jim
Northword 1990

This guide covers “not only more than 70 Wisconsin State Parks, Forests and Trails, but also all of the National Parks, Forests and Wildlife Refuges. Included are a detailed description of the extensive Ice Age National Scenic Reserve and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, exciting photographs and beautifully drawn maps.” – Book cover.

Wisconsin Dells

A comprehensive guide to waterparks, resorts, tours and more

Vanderwilt, Dirk
Channel Lake 2008

A volume in the series ‘Tourist Town Guides’. Wisconsin Dells is a very popular summer resort area for families living in Wisconsin and neighboring states.

Wisconsin with Kids

The Family Guide to Fun and Adventure

Visser, Kristin
Prairie Oak 2000

This guide has 13 chapters, each for a different portion of Wisconsin. Attractions, lodging and kid-appropriate places to eat are included.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top