Cranberry Marshes in Northern Wisconsin: A Unique and Colorful Experience

Cranberries are one of the most iconic fruits of Wisconsin, the nation’s leading producer of this tart and tangy berry. Wisconsin grows more than 60% of the world’s cranberries, and most of them are harvested in the fall, from late September to October. This is when the cranberry marshes, or bogs, turn into a sea of red, creating a stunning contrast with the green foliage and blue sky. If you are looking for a fun and educational way to experience Wisconsin’s cranberry country, you should consider visiting one of the many cranberry marshes that offer public tours in both central and northern Wisconsin.

Cranberry Farmer at Harvesttime

Cranberry Farmer at Harvesttime

What is a cranberry marsh?

A cranberry marsh is a wetland area where cranberries are grown. Cranberries are not actually grown in water, but on vines that thrive in sandy and acidic soil. The marshes are flooded with water for two main purposes: to protect the vines from frost in the winter, and to facilitate the harvest in the fall. When the berries are ripe, they detach from the vines and float to the surface of the water, creating a spectacular sight.

Where are the cranberry marshes in northern Wisconsin?

There are several cranberry marshes in northern Wisconsin, mainly around Eagle River, Manitowish Waters, Spooner and Hayward. Some of these marshes have been built shortly after World War II, while others have been operating for over a century. Some of them are family-owned businesses, while others are cooperatives or corporations. Here are some of the most popular cranberry marshes that offer public tours in northern Wisconsin:

  • Lake Nokomis Cranberries in Eagle River: This is a fourth-generation family-owned cranberry farm that offers free guided tours from June to October. You can learn about the history and process of cranberry growing, see the harvesting equipment and facilities, and taste some fresh or dried cranberries. You can also visit their gift shop and buy some cranberry products, such as juice, sauce, salsa, jam, wine and more. For more information on tour times and gift shop hours, you can follow their Facebook page or call (715) 479-6546.
  • Manitowish Waters Cranberry Marsh Tours in Manitowish Waters: These tours are sponsored by the Manitowish Waters Cranberry Growers and the Manitowish Waters Chamber of Commerce, and run every Friday at 10am from August 27 to October 8. The tours are free of charge and no reservations are necessary. You can hop on a bus that will take you to one of the local cranberry marshes, where you will see how cranberries are grown, harvested and processed. You will also have a chance to sample some cranberry products and buy some souvenirs. For more information, you can visit their website.
  • James Lake Farms near Three Lakes: This is a certified organic cranberry marsh that has been owned by the same family since 2006. They offer private tours for groups of 10 or more by appointment only. You can see how they grow organic cranberries using natural methods and practices, such as composting, cover cropping and beneficial insects. You can also buy some of their organic fresh or dried cranberries, as well as other products like honey, maple syrup and soap. For more information or to book a tour, you can visit their website or call (715) 421-6510.
Cranberries and Craisens

Cranberries and Craisens

Why should you visit a cranberry marsh?

Visiting a cranberry marsh is a great way to experience one of Wisconsin’s most important agricultural products and traditions. You will learn a lot about how cranberries are grown and harvested, as well as their health benefits and uses. You will also enjoy the beautiful scenery of the cranberry marshes, especially during the fall when they are filled with bright red berries. You will have a chance to taste some delicious cranberry products and support the local farmers and businesses. And most importantly, you will have fun and create some unforgettable memories.

Cranberry Festival in Eagle River

Cranberry Fest in Eagle River is held the beginning of October each year

How to enjoy the cranberry fest in Eagle River

If you are planning to visit one of the cranberry marshes in northern Wisconsin, you might want to time your trip with the annual cranberry fest in Eagle River. This is a two-day event that celebrates everything cranberry and more. It is held at the Vilas County Fairgrounds on the first weekend of October, and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the state and beyond. Here are some of the things you can do and see at the cranberry fest in Eagle River:

  • Shop for cranberry products and crafts: The cranberry fest features a huge arts and crafts show, where you can find over 300 vendors selling a variety of handmade goods, such as jewelry, pottery, woodwork, quilts, candles, and more. You can also buy fresh or dried cranberries, craisins, cranberry juice, sauce, salsa, jam, wine, beer, and other cranberry products from local growers and producers. You can also find some unique items, such as cranberry soap, lotion, candles, and even dog treats. Don’t forget to bring a shopping bag or a wagon to carry your purchases.
  • Take a marsh or winery tour: One of the highlights of the cranberry fest is the opportunity to take a guided tour of a nearby cranberry marsh or winery. You can hop on a bus that will take you to one of the local farms, where you will learn about the history and process of cranberry growing and harvesting. You will also see how the marshes are flooded and how the berries are collected and sorted. You might even get a chance to pick some berries yourself. If you prefer to see how cranberries are turned into wine, you can visit one of the local wineries that offer tours and tastings. You will see how the grapes and cranberries are blended and fermented, and sample some of their products.
  • Enjoy some food and entertainment: The cranberry fest also offers plenty of food and entertainment options for all ages and tastes. You can enjoy some delicious food from various vendors, such as brats, burgers, pizza, cheese curds, funnel cakes, kettle corn, and more. You can also try some specialty dishes made with cranberries, such as cranberry meatballs, cranberry chicken salad, cranberry muffins, cranberry pie, and more. You can also quench your thirst with some cranberry lemonade, cider, coffee, or hot chocolate. For entertainment, you can listen to some live music from local bands and performers, watch some demonstrations and shows from various groups and organizations, or join some contests and games for fun and prizes.

The cranberry fest in Eagle River is a fun-filled event that showcases one of Wisconsin’s most beloved fruits. It is a great way to experience the culture and beauty of northern Wisconsin’s cranberry country. Whether you are a fan of cranberries or not, you will surely find something to enjoy at this festival.

So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to northern Wisconsin’s cranberry country today and discover this unique and colorful experience for yourself!