Medford is a small city of about 4,300 in North Central Wisconsin, just at the border between farm country and the beginning of the northwoods.
The last glacier stopped its advance just around Medford, leaving behind the band of choppy hills, little lakes and swamps that runs northeast and west of Medford. Forest covered the area, with scattered groups of Indians hanging near the bodies of water.
Settlement began in 1873 when the Wisconsin Central Railroad built a track up through the forest. Logging was the first industry, with sawmills in Medford. Today's little lake in Medford's city park was once the millpond for Medford's sawmill. A tannery followed, using hemlock bark from the surrounding forest. After logging, farmers bought the better cut-over land and began converting the stumps to pastures and fields. But much of the land in the middle of the county was hilly and swampy. By the 1930s little of it was farmed and much was tax-delinquent and a fire hazard, so it was incorporated into the Chequamegon National Forest. Since then, the area's livelihood has continued to shift from logging to farming and manufacturing.
In the early years, most of Medford's businesses located downtown, near the railroad and the mills. Around the 1960s and '70s, almost all new businesses began to locate a half mile to the east on highway 13. Outside that band of new construction, the town has a nice sprinkling of quaint old buildings sheltered by trees.
Medford is at the intersection of WIS-13 north and south and WIS-64 heading east and west. By car it is about three hours from Minneapolis and four hours from Milwaukee. Private planes can land at the Taylor County Airport (KMDZ), just south of town. The nearest regularly-scheduled commercial flights are at Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA), south of Wausau.
Public transportation is limited, making a car almost a necessity.
- Historic Buildings The county courthouse at 224 S. 2nd St. is a handsome building with a metal dome. Main Street has old stores in various styles, including some with interesting arches in the second story. East Perkins Street has some nice historic homes - Craftsman and other styles - as does East Broadway.
- Timm's Hill, W3206 County Road RR, Ogema WI, ☏ . The highest point in Wisconsin is in a range of hills 28 miles NNE of Medford. After a hike up the hill, you can climb an observation tower to look out over the surrounding forested hilltops. This is a good spot for viewing leaf color in the fall.
- Pine Line Trail, ☏ . The Pine Line trail runs north out of Medford for 26 miles on the abandoned bed of the Wisconsin Central Railway. It threads its way past forests and bogs, and through quiet little hamlets like Whittlesey and Chelsea. The gravel surface is suitable for mountain bikes, ATVs and horses in summer - snowmobiles in winter. Don't worry about traffic; it's generally lightly used.
Some popular fishing places with public access:
- Chequamegon Waters Flowage, a.k.a. Miller Dam (20 miles west of Medford on CTH-M). Miller Dam is a 2400 acre man-made shallow reservoir on the Yellow River, mostly in the Chequamegon Forest, regularly a good place for panfish, bass and northern.
- Chelsea Lake. Chelsea is a 91 acre lake 13 miles north of Medford, regularly popular for ice-fishing.
The Ice Age Trail meanders through the Chequamegon National Forest west of Medford and through the county forest to the northeast. Spring, fall and winter are the best times to hike in this neck of the woods because mosquitoes tend to rule the trail from mid-May to August. The trail is marked only with occasional yellow marks on the trees, and some of this area is big woods, and cell-phone coverage is spotty, so take a compass and a map of the general area to tell which way the nearest road is, in case you get lost. The first two hikes below are good starters:
- Mondeaux Esker trail: This is a one-hour hike on a ridge above a lake, a half mile out and a half mile back, mostly level except for some elevation change at the end. The trail follows the top of a sandy esker deposited by the last glacier, so it's a good hike when every other trail is muddy, and it would be hard to get lost on this trail. The trail is about 22 miles northwest of Medford, at Mondeaux Flowage. Get there from Medford by taking WIS-64 west 5 miles, then CTH-E north 14 miles, then FR-1563 east three miles. Then to find the trailhead from the dam, go west a couple hundred yards up the hill to the parking lot at the top of the ridge. The trailhead is across the road from the parking lot, marked as the Leopold Trail. This is a nice hike at any time, but on a clear fall day with bright leaves against blue water it can be glorious. Late in the day is also good, when you'll probably see wildlife swimming around the lake at the end of the trail.
- Jerry Lake loop hike: Another charming short hike is the one-mile loop to Jerry Lake, an undeveloped small lake nestled in the forest. You can reach the trailhead from Medford by taking WIS-64 west 4 miles to CTH-E, then E north 5 miles to CTH-M, then M 7 miles west to Sailor Creek Road/FR-571, then one mile north to the sign for Jerry Lake on the west side of the road. For the shortest loop, follow the trail behind the sign west a couple hundred yards to the lake. Follow the trail to the left (SW) along the lake, then up over the ridge back out to the road. Then walk the road north back to your car. This hike can be extended by following the Ice Age Trail on the other side of the road, where you'll cross the Yellow River after a mile and then come out to CTH-M after another mile. That extension is not a loop; you'd backtrack to Sailor Creek Road.
- Lost Lake Esker. Another section of the Ice Age Trail traverses this State Natural Area about 20 miles northwest of Medford. A good place to access is from Sailor Creek Road, just four miles north of the parking site described for Jerry Lake above. You should see a little "Ice Age Trail" sign along the road. If you reach the T with Lost Lake Road/FR-111, you missed the trail sign and should backtrack a mile on Sailor Creek Road. Once you find the trail, follow it east for the esker itself. The first quarter mile crosses a soggy bottom where the stream broke through the esker long ago, but then you get up on the esker and hiking should be dry. If you have two vehicles, you can park the other on Lake 19 Road/FR-108 for a nice three-mile thru-hike. The DNR webpage linked above describes plant and animal communities you'll see along the trail, and includes a rough map.
- East Lake Segment (trailhead is 12 miles north of Medford on WIS-13). A more easy-access segment of the Ice Age Trail starts 12 miles north of Medford on 13, at the wayside east of the highway. From there, hike east as far as you want, then back out by the same route.
- Lake Eleven Segment (trailhead is 18 miles west of Medford on WIS-64). This one starts right on a main highway too, with the parking area just west of the junction with CTH-F on the north side of 64. The trail only goes north; at present, the parking area is the end of this segment of the trail. Less than a quarter mile in is a little sylvan pond, then a boardwalk across a marsh. The trail goes as far as you want, then follow it back out.
McDonalds, Hardees, Arbies, Taco Bell, and KFC are all on highway 13. Also in Medford:
- Sue's Medford Cafe, 403 S. 8th St (on 13 in Medford), ☏ . 6AM-9PM. Home-style food, like a mom-and-pop Country Kitchen.
- P&E Steak House, N2319 State Hwy 13, ☏ . Small, old-school steakhouse with bar on the south side of Medford. Call for reservations and more information. Dinner Tu-Sa 4PM-9PM.
- El Jovenase Mexican Restaurant, 125 S 8th St (on 13, south of where 64 crosses), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-8PM. Mexican cooking for somewhat adventurous Midwesterners.
- Las Palmas Restaurant, 149 S Main St, ☏ . Tu-Sa 11AM-8PM. More Mexican food.
- Asian Buffet, 344 S 8th St, ☏ . 11AM-8PM. Chinese food.
Two good restaurants are on Lake Esadore, about ten miles northwest of town:
- High View Inn, W7766 Perkinstown Ave, ☏ . Nautical-themed dining and bar on a ridge above a lake. Fish, steaks and burgers. Call for reservations and more information. Dinner Th 5PM-9PM, F-Sa 5PM-10PM, Su 4PM-9PM.
- Turtle Club, W7944 Perkinstown Ave, ☏ . Serves relaxed dinner and drinks on the isthmus between two small lakes, specializing in seafood and steaks. Call for reservations and more information. Dinner W-Th 4:30PM-11PM F-Sa 4:30PM-2AM Su 4PM-11PM.
Another interesting place is at High Point Village near Timm's Hill, 28 miles NNE:
- Hill of Beans Restaurant, W3075 County Road RR, Ogema, ☏ . Th,Sa,Su 8:00AM-3:00PM, Fri 8:00AM-8:00PM. Paninis, salads, seafood, etc. in an intimate lodge setting.
- Boarders Inn & Suites, 435 South 8th Street (in Medford on 13), ☏ , toll-free: . A full-service chain motel, formerly AmericInn.
- High Point Village, W3075 County Road RR, Ogema (28 miles NNE of Medford), ☏ . Rents cabins near Timm's Hill on the highest-elevation lake in Wisconsin.
- M&R Cabin, Jump River (35 miles WNW of Medford), ☏ . Well-equipped log cabin in Jump River, two blocks from the river. $85.
|Routes through Medford|
|Ashland ← Jct E ← Jct W E ←||N S||→ Jct W E → Jct W E → Rudolph → Wisconsin Dells|