Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway spans several states across the upper part of the Midwest and includes stops at many of the sites where the author lived. The town of Pepin, Wisconsin, is the first stop on the highway. Little House in the Big Woods is also the first of the eight books in the very popular Little House series.
Watch a video about the author, who was born in Pepin County in 1867 and died in Mansfield, Missouri, in 1957, here: PBS American Masters.
Begin your visit to Pepin at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, which has artifacts from the era and a gift shop, and is open May through October. Seven miles north of the town, on the side of a winding road, is a recreated log cabin like the one in which Laura was born. It is on land which actually belonged to her parents, Charles and Caroline Ingalls.
Today, the cabin area is no longer in the middle of the woods, but instead surrounded by farms. A large sign describes the cabin and you can go inside and imagine what it would be like to live in that cozy cabin and sleep in a loft. As I drove back to the main highway, I saw two deer on the side of road. This made me think of the closing chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, and it felt just perfect.
The town is located on Lake Pepin, which isn’t technically a lake, but a naturally occurring reservoir along the widest part of the Mississippi. There are places to eat and small shops selling arts and crafts along the lake. There’s also a train which runs parallel to the lakeside road. Park anywhere along the road and head down to the lake to collect some pebbles, just like Laura did in the book. Just don’t take too many!
Lake Pepin has another claim to fame. It is where the sport of water skiing was invented by Roger Samuelson. That was in 1922, just 55 years after Laura was born.
The town of Pepin is also on the historic and beautiful Wisconsin Great River Road which runs along the Mississippi River and leads to many other spots to explore.
More Places to Visit
See the Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Dakota pages of AuthorAdventures.org for more on Laura Ingalls Wilder. For a cross-country tour of Laura Ingalls Wilder homesteads, click here: Wagon Tour. For a lesser known connection to the author’s life, visit our Florida Author Adventures Trail page here: Literary Florida.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin is the last stop on our Wisconsin Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech