Curiosity is born at Lapham Peak Park

Last Updated on April 14, 2020 by Janet Frost

Lapham Peak Park

Wisconsin is stunning from a motorcycle.   As soon as the snow melts thousands of riders can be seen and heard throughout the rolling hills and forests of the state.  

Chick on a bike
Motorcycling in Wisconsin

An especially attractive route follows the scenic roads through the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Lapham Peak  Park, a gem of this State Forest, is located 25 miles west of Milwaukee and one mile south of the historic village of Delafield.

Lapham Peak State Park
Lapham Peak State Park
Ice Age Trail Lapham Peak Segment
Spring arrives at Lapham Peak  Park

Increase Lapham, Man of Science

The namesake of this park; Increase A. Lapham 1811-1875, was a true renaissance man with a pioneering spirit and driving curiosity.

Increase Lapham
Increase Lapham spent his life studying and protecting the region now Wisconsin

Increase Lapham was born in 1811 in Palmyra, NY to a modest Quaker family and spent his late teens as an engineer. He worked for the companies building the network of canals crisscrossing New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  By the time he arrived in Wisconsin in 1836 he was a self taught Engineer, Surveyor, Cartographer, Botanist, Geologist, Meteorologist, Archaeologist, Limnologist and Zoologist. Phew, that is quite a list.

 He would discover, study and preserve the ancient Native American mounds in  Aztalan State Park. He would help develop theories of glaciation, identify and classify innumerable plant and animal species, and spearhead conservation efforts across the state. Because of his concern for tragic shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, he would be one of the first official meteorologists of the National Weather Service in America. This service provided weather forecasts from Pikes Peak,CO to Great Lakes cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.  

“Increase” Curiosity

I consider myself a champion of Curiosity. Increase Lapham resonates powerfully for me.  I don’t believe that it was an accident that  a man driven by curiosity and yearning for scientific knowledge landed in the Territory of Wisconsin.  In 1836 it would have been an enchanted wilderness for a pioneer like Lapham.  It is apropos that this park is named to honor him.  Lapham Peak Park is still an enchanted wilderness. The park abounds in treasures for the curious. It is beloved by nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts across the region.  Visitors young and old can imagine themselves explorers like Increase Lapham.  

Lapham Peak Highlights

The park is over 1000 acres of terrain displaying the effects of the receding glacier activity from 10,000 years ago.  There are rolling hills, wooded ridges, stands of oaks, birches, and pines, prairie fields, meadows, ponds and a peak 1200 feet above sea level. This peak was originally dubbed Government Hill and was the site of Lapham’s weather tower.

Government Hill Tower
Government Hill Observation Tower

There are 21 miles of trails providing a range for all levels of hikers.  The Ice Age Trail, a 1000 mile long-distance trail that follows the edge of the receding glacier across the state, also cuts through this park. There are over 15 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, several of which are lighted at night.

Lapham Peak State Park
Multi-purpose trails

There are picnic areas with shelter, a butterfly garden, and a nature center in a beautiful eco-friendly building. The outdoor theater presented by SummerStage is a treat. The 45 foot observation tower with distant views of downtown Milwaukee and all of Waukesha county is spectacular. The Lapham Peak Friends and Ice Age Alliance, volunteer organizations, lovingly help maintain the park. They also provide many learning and adventurous activities. Hikers, skiers, runners, bird-watchers, geo-cachers, photographers and curious explorers declare this their favorite destination.

Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers building a walkway over some wetlands.
Tyke Hike
New Year’s Day Tyke Hike at Lapham Peak Park

Feed your Curiosity

 After an invigorating hike through this wonderland I love to stand up on that tower and imagine Increase waiting for a telegraph signal from Colorado, surveying the many shimmering kettle lakes scattered across the county, contemplating what forces moved those erratic boulders across the landscape. Summer, winter, spring or fall I draw strength and energy from this beautiful park. Discover for yourself, the legacy of scientific curiosity that Increase Allen Lapham left for posterity.

A tower view of Holy Hill, in the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest and about 20 miles away

2 thoughts on “Curiosity is born at Lapham Peak Park”

  1. Don’t want to correct this awesome post but Lapham Peak is it’s own separate unit from Southern Unit. It’s one of 5 separate units.

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