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