Paradise Springs Nature Area, which is part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Eagle, Wisconsin.
When you visit Paradise Springs Nature Area, your imagination will run wild with it’s rich history under the ownership of Louis J. Petit and August Pabst (founder of Pabst Brewery). My mind worked hard to imagine the horse-racing track, tennis courts, golf course, shuffleboard, and later a resort – none of which exists anymore.
Paradise Springs Nature Park previously was known as Minnehaha, then later Eagle Rock Springs before it became a State Park owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
You can go there to learn about it’s rich history, bask in the beauty of nature, take a short hike, or even go fishing for trout which the DNR stocks each year in the shallow pond fed by the natural spring.
History of Paradise Springs Nature Area in Eagle, Wisconsin
In 1927, Louis J. Petit, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in the salt industry, purchased the spring. He first built a spring house, then after recognizing the natural beauty, he decided to build a horse track, golf course, wading pool, shuffleboard, and tennis courts.
The water harvested from the natural bubbling spring at Paradise Springs Nature Park has been bottled and sold as “Natural Spring Water” and “Lullaby Baby Drinking Water”, but the water level has declined significantly over the years, making bottling and selling the water against the rules.
Ownership Under August Pabst (founder of Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery) and Gorton Mertens
After Louis J. Petit passed away, the property was passed on to his grandson, August Pabst Jr., the same man who started Pabst Brewery which makes the famous Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
It was then acquired by Gorton Mertens in the 1940’s and he built the lavish Paradise Springs Resort Hotel on the land. The resort was two stories and built from locally mined dolomite and had deluxe bedrooms with private, steam-heated baths and a rooftop garden deck.
When you visit, you will no longer see the resort, which was demolished in the 1970’s, but other remnants of it’s previous owners still exist… which really generates curiosity when wondering where the structures all were.
As you walk along the paved, half-mile nature trail which goes around the entire park, you can use the numbered signposts to read up on it from a brochure which provides all the historic details.
Beyond where the former horse track was, now stands a small picnic area and shelter which is built on a 50-foot concrete slab which is all that exists of Louis J. Petit’s tennis courts and shuffleboard.
As you continue walking the trail south, you will soon see a breathtaking sight where the spring is and stonewalled structure built over 80-years-ago to support the water bottling plant that was closed in the 1960’s.
The stonewalled centerpiece is a four-walled, roofless spring house which was built with fieldstones with beautiful shades of texture. The stones have darkened and dimmed as the years have passed and moss has slowly crept up the sides, yet another sign of nature settling back in.
The structure was originally built by Petit, who had a copper dome roof to protect the 5-foot-deep spring, which pumps out 500 gallons of water per minute and allows it to maintain a constant temperature of 47 degrees. There is a small rectangular hole cut in the wall of the structure from which water cascades down into the shallow trout pond.
Fishing At Paradise Springs Nature Area
The trout pond which is fed by the natural spring is shallow enough that you can stand in the middle wearing waders while fishing for trout. The shallow trout pond is stocked each year by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for catch-and-release trout fishing.
Continuing along the paved path on the west side of the pond, you’ll pass the former site of the resort, a fishing pier and a large wading pool Petit built for his grandchildren.
At the edge of the trout pond is a small dam and another crumbling stone structure, concrete blocks and rusted metal pipes strewn alongside a little waterfall. The structure once housed a water-driven turbine built by one of the spring’s first owners, L.D. Nichols, in the early 1900s. Nichols’ homestead was one of the first in the area to have electricity, thanks to that turbine.
From the dam Paradise Creek trickles westward toward the Scuppernong River, which eventually spills into the Rock River, a tribute to the mighty Mississippi.
But here in the quiet shade of oaks just beginning to shed their summer green in favor of autumn’s yellow, that roaring river is nothing but a trickle, bubbling up from the earth amid its own slice of paradise.
While You’re There…
Across County Highway H is a small log cabin which was built in the 1850’s by Prussian immigrant Henry Gotten. The cabin has since been restored with hewed white oak logs which are each held together between layers of gray mortar, which is a typical German construction technique during that time period. The cabin is part of the state forest and is usually closed to the public, but visitors are able to get a glimpse inside during special open house events held throughout the year.
Paradise Springs Location:
You can take the scenic route back to Milwaukee, which is especially beautiful in the fall with it’s rolling hills. You can take the 115 mile Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive which follows county highways and rural roads which pass through six counties. Once you pass Paradise Springs, continue heading south on County Highway N and then drive on Highway 59 – then follow Highway 67 north through the state forest, turn east onto Highway ZZ, north onto Waterville Road, and east onto County Highway C. Follow Highway C east and you can pick up I-94, which allows you to either continue north or hop on the interstate to make your passage home.
Scenic Route Instructions: Wisconsin DNR
For more information on Paradise Springs, you can call +1 (262) 594-6200 or visit the website.