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Pepin, WI.
For more information, visit Pepin's home page. Email us at: [email protected]
From the marina, Lake and Main Streets climb the hill to Highway 35, also known as the Great River Road, and then stretch across the sand prairie upon which early hopefuls thought a city to rival Milwaukee would one day rise. Luckily for the surrounding countryside, it did not! Many visitors and some of the village's 900 residents chose the area's rural peacefulness to escape larger cities.

Pepin is a quiet, bustling village of approximately 900 residents. Farming is still a prime industry. Tourism is strong, due to the area's natural resources as well as the amenities within the village itself. Commercial fishing, which was discontinued in the 1970's due to pollution, is now making a modest comeback. During the 1970's Pepin resident Dorothy Hill received national recognition as the leader of the Citizens for a Clean Mississippi organization, which helped create legislation that resulted in a dramatic recovery of Lake Pepin's water-quality.

Most of Pepin's businesses are now scattered around the blocks between Hwy. 35 and the riverfront. Visitors can enjoy fine or casual dining; accommodations that range from economical to extraordinary; galleries; artist's studios; antique shops; and summer stock theatre. Many of these businesses have settled comfortably into Pepin's original buildings, which has helped retain the charming village ambiance. Commercial activities are expanding as well, with additional interest being generated by a new industrial park.

The main attraction of the water today is recreation, whether it's on Lake Pepin, the Chippewa River or the winding sloughs of the Chippewa backwaters. Hikers in the nearby Tiffany Wildlife Area can wander the logging roads or follow the old wagon trails which are kept clear by the Wisconsin DNR. Walking-tour maps of the village of Pepin are available at the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. Treat yourself to a leisurely stroll and our historic architecture while acquainting yourself with friendly townspeople and shop keepers!

Pepin also offers cozy lodging to house the weary traveler. You may extend your visit by checking into a charming local motels or one of the several beautifully-restored bed and breakfast establishments. If camping is your style, a fully-equipped seasonal campground is available to accommodate tents, campers and motor homes.
If you visit Pepin by boat, overnight dockage with full hook-up, showers and rest rooms is available at the marina. Dan's Pepin Marina now shelters over 150 sail- and power-boats where the steamboats of yesteryear docked. A stroll along the breakwaters features breathtaking sunrises and sunsets over the lake. The steamboat era hasn't entirely passed by, however; several times a year impressive paddle wheelers such as the American Queen, Mississippi Queen and the Delta Queen transit Lake Pepin carrying tourists between Minneapolis/St. Paul and ports-of-call down river. They create tremendous interest on the waterfront!

The combination of charm, beauty and location has made the village of Pepin a Lake Pepin gateway for cultural activities, sightseeing, shopping, boating and fishing, hunting, swimming, biking and hiking, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing… or simply relaxing and absorbing the area's timeless beauty and serenity. Perhaps that's why poet William Cullen Bryant said: "Lake Pepin ought to be visited by every poet and painter in the land."
Pepin History:
The charming village of Pepin, perched at the foot of Lake Pepin, has served as home to a fascinating variety of "citizens" that range from the Dakota Sioux to today's inhabitants, who are a mix of longstanding residents; families from surrounding farms; and a steady influx of new folks who have moved here to start a business or simply to escape the pressures of city life and enjoy the area's beauty and cultural and recreational amenities.

The village of Pepin's first settler was John McCain, who filed a land claim in 1844. Two years later, he built a cabin with the help of his cousin, W.B. Newcomb. In 1848, Lydia Hicks earned the distinction of being the first baby born in Pepin County.
The village was permanently platted in 1856 and took the lake's name. Pepin began to grow steadily along the shoreline and inland toward the bluffs as it benefited from a booming lumber industry that was harvesting Wisconsin and Minnesota's immense stands of White Pine. Log rafts, some containing as much as ten million board-feet of lumber, were floated down the St. Croix and Chippewa Rivers, and then pushed by steamboats down the Mississippi. In 1846, 41 steamboats plied the waters of Lake Pepin: by 1850, 1060 paddle-wheelers navigated the area each season. The lumber supplies were exhausted by the early 1900's, and the last log raft left Lake Pepin in 1915.

In the late 1800's, Pepin also benefited from a unique bounty harvested directly from the lake: the local fresh water mussels and clams were of great value for buttons and pearls. Approximately one-in-one-hundred contained pearls, with one-in-ten-thousand yielding a perfectly-round jewel. By the 1940's, the demand for pearl buttons was gone, and the industry declined, although you'll still find a few treasure hunters on the lake each season.
The village continued to grow as commercial fishing and farming also contributed to the local economy. The first newspaper, the Pepin Independent, was published in 1856, and the local school opened the following year. In 1886, the railroad came through, right along the shore and next to First Street, which caused many businesses to move up to Second Street, in part because the trains frightened the horses! Passenger service was discontinued in the 1960's, but the village has preserved the historic depot, which now serves as a museum from its location in the middle of town on Wisconsin State Highway 35.
While the rivers and railroads were the primary modes of transportation, there was also a road with stage-line service to Chippewa Falls, approximately 60 miles away. The round-trip journey took two days, and a one-way fare was $3.00.
During the 1870's, Pepin's most famous resident, beloved children's author Laura Ingalls Wilder, lived here with her family. Her days in Pepin are recounted in the book "Little House in the Big Woods." She is honored by a museum in the village and a reconstructed cabin at her birth site, just seven miles north of Pepin on County Road CC. There, you'll find a guest book that contains signatures from around the world.
Her books are brought to life each September during Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, a weekend celebration attended by approximately 5,000 people. The two-day event features a Laura look-alike contest; a craft bazaar; an old-fashioned spelling bee; historic reenactments and demonstrations of work and leisure activities from that period; and a parade to highlight the festivities.
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