High Cliff, Wisconsin

Also known as: High Cliff State Park
N7630 State Park Road, Sherwood, Wisconsin

1,147 acre park situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Winnebago on the Niagara Escarpment

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Photo taken by J.R. Manning in April 2015

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Description 

This 1,147 acre park situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Winnebago was, at one time, a successful lime processing business. It is named for the limestone cliff that, at one time, provided raw material for the Western Lime and Cement Company. The last time the kilns were fired was in the spring of 1956. The State of Wisconsin had already purchased land on the Niagara Escarpment and purchased the holdings of the lime company. The remains of the lime kilns may be viewed in the park.

It is also the home to several effigy mounds, viewable on another hiking trail. A tower provides an overview of Lake Winnebago and there is a family campground. The park also offers a beach, marina, museum and several hiking and ski trails.

Chief Red Bird, the proud chief of the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Nation is honored with a statue, high on the cliff, overlooking Lake Winnebago, named for his people.

Entrance to the park requires either a daily or annual fee.

Lime Kilns at High Cliff State Park 

Transcribed by J.R. Manning

The following text appears on the interpretive sign in front of the lime kiln ruins in the park.

Lime Kiln Ruins

This was once the site of a thriving lime producing business known as the Western Lime and Cement Company. From the beginning to end, production here lasted approximately 100 years (1856-1956). All that remains today are the skeletons of the three lime kilns in front of you.

Niagara Dolostone (limestone) quarried on top of the ledge was maneuvered down treacherous, zigzag trails by horse drawn carts. A pulley system later replaced the horses and made for more efficient transportation. The rock was dropped into the tops of th kilns and after "baking", was drawn out as a power from the arched doors at the bottom.

The kilns were heated to a temperature of around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit to turn out a white powdery substance known as "quick lime." Scraps of waste lime are still present on the hill behind you. Wood fueled the kilns until the supply of trees on the ledge was depleted. Coal was later used. Quick lime was barrelled and bagged in the Cooper's Shop, the brick structure to your right. Product was then loaded onto barges and rail cars for shipment across Wisconsin.

Good quality lime was used in plaster, cement, and for agricultural purposes. Poorer quality rock was sent to the crusher bin to be made into gravel. If you travel east along the Lime Kiln Trail, you can still see the remains of the foundation for the gyrating crusher.

As the quality of available limestone diminished, the liming industry at the High Cliff site began to wane. The last load of stone was dropped into the kilns in the spring of 1956. The land had been previously purchased by the State of Wisconsin and was on its way to becoming a state park.

Update Log 

  • May 2, 2015: Essay added by J.R. Manning

Sources