Kathan Inn & Resort
8570 County H
Eagle River, WI 54521

Glassy RedHOME







Glassy RedEMAIL US

History of Eagle River, Wisconsin

The City of Eagle River, Wisconsin is located in northern Wisconsin in Vilas County.  Vilas County is one of 72 counties in Wisconsin. Eagle River is the county seat, and is the only city in Vilas County. The community is in the Central Standard time zone.

Vilas County, created in 1893 from Oneida County, is named for William Vilas, a Civil War officer, postmaster general, secretary of the interior and Wisconsin senator.

The City of Eagle River itself is approximately one square mile. The latitude of Eagle River is 45.917N. The longitude is -89.244W. The approximate population is 1,500.

The development of the village dates with the coming of the railroad in 1883, however, there were pioneers in the area in the 1850's. It is believed that a Bethuel Draper and "Dutch Pete" Cramer camped this area in 1853 and were responsible for naming Eagle River. The name came from the number of eagles nesting along the river. Eagle River was incorporated as a Village in 1922 and as a City in 1939. The Townships of Cloverland, Lincoln and Washington make up the surrounding area.

James Hall settled in Eagle River in 1863. Other prominent settlers arrived with the railroad. Among them was John O'Connor, who is considered the founding father. He had the village platted in the name of his wife, Ann O'Connor in 1885. Lyman J. Cook and George P. Dickinson, the first merchants, opened their tent store in 1883. Logging was the primary industry in those days.

More on the history of Eagle River can be obtained from the Eagle River Historical Society, P.O. Box 2011, Eagle River, Wisconsin 54521.  The phone number for the Eagle River Historical Society is 715-479-4845.

History of annual events

World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Eagle River, Wisconsin is the host of many events recurring on an annual basis, including the World Championship Snowmobile Derby, Klondike Days, the Journeys Marathon, the Professional Musky Tournament Trail, the National Championship Musky Open, and Cranberry Fest.

The World Championship Snowmobile Derby got its start in Eagle River in 1964. A race was planned and the North Woods has never been quite the same since. It has catapulted Eagle River into the winter sports spotlight in the snowmobile racing circuit, each January since its birth. The races have brought invaluable publicity to Eagle River and the north where the snowmobile has turned winter around. They have played an important part in helping a new recreational sport grow.  Mention the name of this northern Wisconsin resort community and snowmobile race fans think of a long history of colorful, exciting races that have brought the best snowmobile racers in the country together year after year. Through the years many thrilling races have been run on the Derby Track, thanks to the tireless work of the sponsoring Eagle River Lions Club and many volunteers from Eagle River and nearby communities as well. All have pitched in and the Derby has soared to tremendous heights, reaching weekend crowds up to 50,000 during peak years. The Derby itself was a big winner as Wisconsin Governor Doyle presented track owner Chuck Decker with the very prestigious “Putting Wisconsin on the Map Award,” the states highest honor given for promoting a significant tourism event.

Another award came all the way from Washington D.C. and was delivered by U.S. Representative Mark Green in the form of a congressional certificate for “Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the Community.”

The Eagle River Derby Track's history is long and proud. While each year brings new challenges and changes, the fans and racers have yet to be disappointed by what the Derby offers -- first-rate entertainment and world-class snowmobile racing.

top of page

Klondike Days

Klondike Days in Eagle River, Wisconsin -- "One of the most multi-faceted winter events in the nation."

Klondike Days got its start in the late 1980's. The first name considered for the event was "Ice Fest," but it was believed the name should reflect the history and pioneering spirit of Eagle River's original settlers and Native American culture, and "Klondike Days," was adopted.

Klondike Days was an instant success, and, unlike so many other like events, broke even its very first year, with a budget of $69,000 and 250 dedicated volunteers. Today, the budget is measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are many loyal sponsors, and hundreds of equally loyal volunteers, many working year-round to make Klondike Days a success.

The first event featured dog sled races and dog-pulls at Eagle River's World Championship Snowmobile Derby Track.  A "History of Logging" event was added, where loggers cut, split, and stack wood. "People loved it, as did the participants," and it went from there. Then the world-famous and historically faithful Klondike Days Voyageur Encampment was added. Also to this day, the Klondike Days Native American Exposition relates in ever-growing detail the culture and heritage of our Native American brethren."

And each year, Klondike Days draws more people -- from around the world. The weekend crowds now approach 20,000 visitors, and Klondike Days venues include the World Championship Snowmobile Derby Track, the adjacent middle school and high school, surrounding fields, and other locations around Eagle River.

The events continue to expand, including the authentic Voyageur's encampment, with recreations of authentic period foods, clothing, housing, and activities; dog and horse pulls; the only winter competitive lumberjack event in the Midwest; chainsaw carving; live bluegrass, and local music; fireworks; sleigh rides; educational lectures and exhibits, from making a drum to blacksmithing, muzzle loader shooting, and popping authentic kettle corn; Native American Cultural Expositions; a permanent, original fur trader's cabin; a fabulous juried craft show featuring over 100 exhibitors whose works are for sale; a wildlife art show and sale; foods including buffalo burgers, Paul Bunyan brownies, and wild rice soup; snowshoe demos; dogsled rides, and the list goes on.

top of page

Journeys Marathon

2006 will mark the 10th annual spring race in Eagle River in May. The Journeys Marathon is a challenging and inspirational spring race that starts with the woodland backdrop of Boulder Junction, Wisconsin on rustic roads while meandering through the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest and passing many scenic northern Wisconsin lakes. This is a race not to be missed.

Professional Musky Tournament Trail (PMTT)

The Professional Musky Tournament Trail in Eagle River is held in June of each year. The Trail events are the most high profile, exciting, educational and entertaining musky tournaments in the country. The PMTT's high energy format has been developed not only with the Pro's in mind, but also the dozens and dozens of other excellent musky anglers who may have the desire and ability to become Pro's or just enjoy a little competition and want to have a good time. Success in the PMTT can take you down many roads, no matter what your skill level.

Paul Bunyan Fest

2006 will mark the 26th annual Paul Bunyan fest, held in downtown Eagle River in the month of August. Over 40 crafters line downtown Eagle River streets for this festival. Chainsaw carvings and demonstrations all day. Paul Bunyan lunch with heaping servings of roast beef, potato salad, beans, pickle and dessert. Merchants dress in Paul Bunyan era costumes.

top of page

National Championship Musky Open

The 21st Annual National Championship Musky Open will be held in Eagle River in August. The Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center along with the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin each year host a very exciting family oriented catch and release musky tournament held on 6 different lake families.

Cranberry Fest

The 26th Annual Cranberry Fest will be held in October at the Vilas County Fairgrounds in Eagle River. This family fun festival has something for everyone. Fresh Locally Grown Cranberries, Cranberry Marsh & Winery tours, Large Arts & Crafts show, Cranberry cook-off, World's Largest Cranberry Cheesecake, Cranberry Food of every kind, Antique Market,, Flea Market, Cranberry Country Quilters Show & Sale, Bike, Walk, & Run Fitness Events, Family Entertainment, Farmers Market, and much, much more!

top of page

Kathan Inn & Resort
8570 County H
Eagle River, Wisconsin 54521
Email: kathaninn@nnex.net

Website designed by Barb Domnick, Kathan Inn & Resort, Eagle River, 715-479-4260