Updated: May 18
Back when I was in college I used to visit Houghtons Point to recharge my mind and practice my rope-swing-belly-flop- skills. At the time I didn't know much about the place, but I did know how beautiful it was, and how cool Echo Dells would be on a hot day.
We would park on a road and walk in on an old railroad bed to get there. Then swim and lay around and not get any homework done. It was a locals type of place with no signs and no markers.
Photo of Echo Dells on a summers day, dry riverbed.
Though you could say we were contributing to history while visiting this special place, I knew little of the past.
During the mid to late 1800's the logging boon was in full swing in northern Wisconsin. Railroads were built to carry the logs to ships in the town of Washburn just to the south. From sandstone quarries stone was cut to provide building materials for the area and as far south as Minneapolis and Chicago. The sandstone from this area was perfect since it was hard enough to be strong but soft enough to resist cracking due to fire.
After the logging era this area of the Chequamegon Bay started to be known for it's ability to restore health and well-being. Retreats were built and even medical facilities catering to those in need of clean air and peaceful surroundings sprang up. Houghton's Point proper became the landing for boats bringing tourists out to Madeline Island.
My favorite Houghton's Point history is about one particular guy. I love to paddle and surf, and it wasn't until recently that I learned of the connection surf legend Tom Blake also had to Houghton's Point. Tom was born in Milwaukee, WI and moved north with family members at a young age. He became a champion swimmer and would regularly paddle his prone paddleboard to Houghtons Point, and sometimes purportedly surf the point break that can happen here when the north winds blow.
Tom moved to Hawaii to become a surf legend, inventing the surfboard fin, and built the hollow surf board. He eventually came back to northern Wisconsin and lived out his last days here. You can still see his "Nature=God" scribed in a rock at Houghton's Point, if you know where to look...
Houghton's Point has recovered from the logging, from the quarries, and from the tour boats. A local conservancy was successful in making it so now anyone can visit Houghton's Point, however the only way to get here is by walking the trail from Houghton's Point Road, or by paddle.
If you're interested, Lost Creek offers a kayak tour to Houghton's Point as an alternate to our regular sea cave tours, and as a nod to Tom Blake, a stand up paddleboard tour as well. One of our past participants wrote a really nice article about their tour with us with some fantastic photography, and the Town of Bayview wrote up a nice history of the place.
Thanks to all who came before us to make Houghton's Point such a wonderful spot to paddle, play, and relax.