Mindoro Cut

WI 108, between Mindoro and West Salem, Wisconsin

A hand-hewn cut through hard rock, built in 1907-08, remaining virtually unchanged

Photos 

Highway 108

The road winds its way up the ridge, with tight turns and steep drop-offs.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in August 2013

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Map 

Description 

The Mindoro Cut allows Wisconsin Route 108 through the solid rock of Phillips Ridge in the Town of Farmington in La Crosse County. The cut is 74 feet deep, 86 feet long and 25 feet wide. Untouched since it was completed, it is the second-deepest cut built by hand in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest functional cut that remains unimproved.

Work on the cut began in 1907 and concluded in 1908; the project was completed primarily with hand tools. The Mindoro Cut was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

Citizens of Mindoro were cut off from the rest of La Crosse County by the high and steep Phillips Ridge, a part of Wisconsin's unglaciated Driftless Area. A creamery in Mindoro was forced to take a long route around the ridge to get product to the rail head in West Salem and for West Salem dairy farmers to get raw materials to the creamery. County officials contracted with Louis Miller to dig the cut, it was thought the ridge was comprised of sandstone. Work progressed slowly because the ridge is actually comprised of dolomite, a much harder rock than sandstone.

The ridge was too steep for horses, so the rubble had to be taken down the slopes by hand, in wheelbarrows. Miller reportedly fired any worker who dumped his load three times. Some workers took one load down the ridge and walked off the job.

Upon completion in 1908, the roadway was paved and in 1920, the wire guards were added. Nothing has changed since, making it the oldest, original, hand-hewn cut still in use. Highway 108 between West Salem and Mindoro is a winding road up and down Phillips Ridge, with steep grades and tight turns. It is not a road to take if you are in a hurry, with a mountain on one side of the road and nuthin' on the other side of the road. If you miss one of those turns, it's a long way down!

The road is immensely popular with sports car owners and motorcyclists. Many enthusiast clubs visit the cut on a regular basis, and enthusiasts will drive miles out of their way to travel the Mindoro Cut. When are you coming to try it?

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 2007
Reference number
07000428
Areas of significance
Transportation; Engineering
Level of significance
Local
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Structure
Historic function
Road-related
Current function
Road-related
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1925-1949; 1950-1974
Significant year
1908

Update Log 

  • August 13, 2013: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status, Added Description and Added Photos

Sources