Wyalusing State Park, originally named Nelson Dewey State Park is famous for its Native American Burial Mounds, panoramic bluffs that soar 500+ feet above the river valley, and miles of spectacular hiking and mountain biking trails. There is also a cave in the park that once held treasure!
To reach Wyalusing State Park’s Treasure Cave, take the Bluff Trail and look for “The Keyhole” (photo below). Do you see the “Guardian of the Treasure” in the rock? Pass if you dare and continue up the stairs to the Treasure Cave.
Long before the War of 1812 there was a flourishing business of trading furs and hides along the great water routes of Wisconsin. Green Bay and Prairie du Chain had two of the more successful trading outposts. In 1809 the American Fur Trade Company was organized and soon had a nice little fleet of canoes making regular trips from the upper Mississippi valley and Green Bay via the Fox-Wisconsin routes.
At the “ports of exchange” the valuable cargo were put aboard “keelboats” and moved on down the waterways to larger cities. These French-Canadian craft were long and narrow, usually about 70 feet, and had a large capacity – sometimes up to 20 tons. Their cargo was usually furs, hides, food, tools and utensils. On some occasions the boats would carry French coins.
At the breakout of the War of 1812, the Native American tribes had been friends with the French, but quickly changed their allegiance to the Redcoats. As a result, the convoys of French-Canadian keelboats were often the targets of the Sacs (also known as the Thakiwaki).
On one cool Fall day in 1816 a heavily loaded keelboat was polling is way against the current and within sight of the post at Praire du Chien when a friendly Native American brought word that the Sacs lay in ambush around a bend of the river. The boat was full of fur and other cargo, including rum. As soon as the commander heard the news of the attack he gave orders for retreat. Turning the boat around, the current was now in their favor and reached the mouth of the Wisconsin River. About this location the went ashore to hide until the Sacs had gone. No sooner had they landed they noticed canoes coming towards them down the Wisconsin.
The crew quickly gathered coin, tobacco, maybe some rum, and scrambled up a perilous cliff. They found a ledge about 200 feet above the water and discovered a sandstone cave on the ledge. They decided to leave the valuables in the cave and lay low until sunrise.
Early the next morning the crew returned to the boat and took it back to the post. A few days later they returned back to the cave to retrieve the valuables but found a landslide and covered the entrance with large rocks. Realizing they couldn’t gain entrance, they went back and reported what happened to their supervisor. Nobody knows whether any of the fur traders ever returned to try and retrieve the treasure.
Wyalusing State Park Campground has 109 campsites and is a designated World Heritage site (1973) with 2,628 acres at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers.
Here is a photo of Wyalusing State Park Campsite #124
Another nice campsite with a view – Wyalusing State Park Campsite #144
The Park also has many historic sites including Indian burial mounds and a variety of outdoor recreation activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting, picnicking and wildlife viewing. The are also has a number of cross-country ski trails during the winter.
Hope you enjoyed the post about Wyalusing State Park’s Treasure Cave. Now get out there and find some treasure!