There’s something eerie and rather inhospitable about the Green Lake region. We’d only been there once in the past, and only knew it existed from the listing on a now-defunct sculpture garden. Despite it being a sizable lake, it seems virtually unknown. Have you ever heard of an event, a unique business, or even a mention of Green Lake from any tourism advertising? The general feeling seems to be “you can come, but don’t expect us to go out of our way for you.” Signage is severely limited, and what there is usually only at the entrance of where you want to be. Which is how we ended up wandering one of the odder bits of property we’ve come across…
According to the Green Lake Conservancy (pretty site, almost useless as a guide, especially on mobile) there were numerous locations to visit around the lake. Finding them was another matter. After a driving back and forth on a county road a few times, we finally determined that the trails we wanted were behind a golf course and the Green Lake Conference Center. The Conference Center grounds were unnervingly empty, despite there being numerous large buildings. More wrong turns down crumbling roads, and past a strange hodge-podge of housing and other outbuildings, we did find a trail. The only sign was at the actual trailhead.
The trail led over an old bridge which had a chain to block vehicle traffic, and passed more empty houses on equally empty yards. Finally, we came upon a large structure that looked like a look-out tower. We had seen a few of these spread over the property. On the way out, we did find a small pamphlet explaining that these structures had been water towers, but they had a decided feeling of watchtowers keeping an eye visitors.
The Green Lake Conference Center is a religious retreat and meeting location. Perhaps in-season, with people and some bustle, the property would seem less ominous. But empty and silent, it was highly reminiscent of the Maharishi’s “University” in Fairfield, IA.
Winnebago Trail Conservancy
W2860 Hillside Rd
Green Lake, WI 54941