For more than a century, Eagle River, Wisconsin has been an angling mecca. Surrounded by state and national forests and more than 1,300 lakes, this Northwoods locale is famous for muskellunge, walleye, northern pike and other sport fish. In recent years, however, it has been gaining notoriety for something else: action sports.
The same lakes and forests that have traditionally drawn fishermen and hunters are now becoming a magnet for paddlers, mountain bikers, runners and hikers. This transformation has been due in part to the development of a sophisticated trail system across the Eagle River area, including hiking and biking routes in the Nicolet National Forest, as well as trails developed by the Vilas County Forest Hunter/Hiking Trail System and the Great Headwaters Trails.
The growth of events such as Journeys Marathon, the Callie Rohr Canoe and Kayak Race, and the SepTimber Ride has also contributed to the progress of active sports tourism in the area. For example, Journeys Marathon began as a marathon and half-marathon event in 1997. In its 20th year, it’s expanded to include a 13.1-mile power walk, 10K, 5K and Kids Fun Run, drawing more than 1,030 participants last May. Likewise, the SepTimber Ride will this year add a 50K road bike course to the 28-mile trail route offered at the inaugural event last year.
The expansion of the region’s ATV/UTV routes and the explosion of fat tire popularity have also increased the area’s appeal to active lifestyle travelers, since both can be done in virtually any season. Although seemingly unrelated, a surge in artisanal food and beverage opportunities – such as the Three Lakes Winery, Tribute Brewing Company and the Up North Beerfest – may also have played a role.
“Anecdotally, we know there is definitely a connection between local craft foods and active lifestyle tourism,” said Kim Emerson, executive director of the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce. “Destinations in California and Colorado have shown that for years, and it holds true in the Midwest, as well – particularly with millennial travelers.”
A full list of Eagle River area events and activities can be found on the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce website, http://www.eagleriver.org.