WashCo Compass Blog


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Best of WashCo: The Shopping Bag 2020


If you are anything like me, it’s getting to be that time in the winter season where you are searching for ways to beat the winter blues. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to get outside on the amazing trails in Washburn County, but I’m missing the lazy Saturdays of shopping at the local farmers’ market and wandering through the authentic downtowns. Wait, why do we need to wait until summer? We don’t! So, let’s not!



Best of WashCo: The Best Pour 2020

January 31, 2020

To kick things off I wanted to talk about The Best Pour. Who doesn’t love a yummy drink? This category was a very tight race and so was Best Bites - but we will get to that in a different month this year. The winner that we are recognizing for The Best Pour in 2020 is Alley Cats Coffee located on the north end of Spooner.



Gearing Up for the Holiday Season...

November 6, 2019

The cool nights and frosty mornings have arrived & I don’t know about you, but it makes me fast forward to nights in front of the fire with cocoa and my loved ones! There are so many great things coming our way this holiday season in Washburn County that you just can’t help but feel jolly and get swept away in the spirit of it all. 



Flavors of Fall

September 18, 2019

The trees are changing and there is a crisp, coolness to the air - it’s fall, one of the most beloved seasons around the northwoods. And what’s not to love? The sights are beautiful, it’s finally sweater weather again, and the flavors are divine! Yes, flavors of fall are a real thing and around here we get spoiled with just how delicious (and local) they are! 



Train Rides, Tastes & Colors of Fall in Washburn County

August 24, 2019

Imagine riding along in a private train car, taking in the picturesque views of the Namekagon River on a beautiful fall afternoon…sipping a glass of wine. The new Wine & Cheese train ride at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad allows you to do just that! Make your visit to Washburn County extra special with a Sunday afternoon train ride. The Sky Parlour car,  “Namekagon View”, features a mahogany bar, booth seating area, cocktail sofas and plush comfy lounge seats on the upper level. The dome top windows really make the trip an amazing way to see the oranges, golds, and reds of our northwoods this autumn. The bottom level features a 20 seat movie theater which will have a forward engineer eye view on its screen...

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Award Winning Spooner Rodeo

June 27, 2019

Bucking broncs, cheering fans, and fearless cowboys. There’s nothing quite like cheering on a cowboy as he holds on tight for the ride of his life. From the cute little cowboys and cowgirls just learning the ropes on the sheep to the experienced team ropers, you’re sure to enjoy the action-packed performances of the Heart of the North Spooner Rodeo. Spooner has been blessed to be the home of a professional rodeo for 66 years running. Did you know that Spooner Rodeo has won the award of Large Rodeo of the Year for the past four out of five years in the Great Lakes Circuit...

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WashCo Spotlight: Shell Lake Arts Center Youth Camps

June 4, 2019

Did you know that Shell Lake, Wisconsin is home to the longest continuous running jazz camp in the nation?! Did you also know that your middle or high school student can take part in jazz camp, concert band camp, show choir camp or any number of the 16 youth camps that are offered there? So, what is this place? It’s the Shell Lake Arts Center! With over 50 years of experience, the SLAC provides a positive environment where kids can further develop and explore their artistic talents...

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WashCo Spotlight: Spooner Fish Hatchery

June 3, 2019

Have you ever wondered where that monster walleye came from that you caught on your favorite Wisconsin lake? Or what about that first musky that you caught with your grandpa? Well, there’s a good chance that it came from a little hatchery located in Spooner, Wisconsin. Now don’t get us wrong, there is a lot of natural reproduction in Wisconsin lakes, but the Wisconsin DNR definitely helps maintain (and boost) our fish populations with their fish management programs via their fish hatcheries. Spooner, located in the heart of Northwest Wisconsin, is home to the Governor Tommy G. Thompson State Fish Hatchery, known to many as the largest musky hatchery in the world...

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The Potter's Shed: Behind the Scenes

May 22, 2019

From a small clay studio set up in a church to The Potter’s Shed that we know and love today, there’s an incredible story behind the music, art, gorgeous garden, and even the fairy doors that make up this well known attraction. Affectionately referred to by their local patrons as simply “The Shed”, it’s no wonder that they won the award for Washburn County’s Tourism Business of the Year in 2018. For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Potter’s Shed and all it offers, this is one of Washburn County’s most well-known and well-loved places to visit and spend time.

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A Thousand Lakes of Fun

May 15, 2019

Nearly 1,000 sparkling lakes, good old-fashioned resorts and Friday Night Fish Fries, Washburn County is the ideal destination to plan your summer getaway. Washburn County is located in Northwest Wisconsin, directly between Eau Claire and Duluth/Superior. You could say that Washburn County is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, but that might be an understatement. With nearly 1,000 lakes, it's one of the premier destinations for outdoor recreation in the state of Wisconsin. Home to both the Bluegill and Walleye Capitals of Wisconsin (Birchwood and Long Lake), fishing is a great family sport to get out and enjoy the water. Here's our "short list" of some of the ways we love to experience Washburn County!

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WashCo Water Facts

April 29, 2019

While you’re out looking for your new honey hole for the upcoming fishing season, Washburn County will be sure to have what you’re looking for. Here are some fun fishing & lake facts about our area that you may want to know while exploring for the perfect spot to cast a line.

  1. Did you know Washburn County has nearly 1,000 lakes?! 964 to be exact, according to Washburn County Lakes & Rivers Association (WCLRA). Not all of those lakes are named, but they are out there and some of the best fishing can be found on those little “no name” lakes. If you pick up a Washburn County Highway Map you will see where the public access landings are for you to take advantage of.

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Embracing Winter

March 1, 2019

It seems hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago Mr. Groundhog gave us the exciting news that we would experience an early spring. With what feels like neverending snow and cold, winter is here, so we might as well embrace it! Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the winter wonderland of the northwoods.

  1. No matter what sort of winter sport you are into, the trails of Washburn County are waiting for you. The fat bike trails at Wild Cat, ski trails at Spooner City Park and the hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails are in the best condition in years! What better way to experience the northwoods than on one of your favorite trails?
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Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad Debuts New Santa Car

November 26, 2018

The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisconsin has recently completed the construction of what is believed to be the first dedicated Santa Car in the country.  "This is the culmination of a dream we have had for over 10 years", said Greg Vreeland, General Manager.

The former Milwaukee Road Railway Post Office car, No. 2161, with its' six round porthole windows, had been in storage on the railroad since 2002.   In August 2018, work began on gutting the car down to the frame. The rusty exterior was repainted in the railroad's orange and gray scheme and has had festive seasonal graphics applied including Christmas trees and Santa's Sleigh with reindeer.   The car is a show stopper....

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Snowmobiling Fun in the Northwoods

November 20, 2018

As winter is settling in along the landscape of Washburn County my mind is turning towards the upcoming winter season. If you remember the “Waiting for Winter” campaign that Arctic Cat ran a few years back, most of us know that feeling all too well. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, do an image search for “waiting for winter arctic cat”, the laughs will be worth your time. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been staring longingly at your snowmobile and gear wondering when the trails will open so you can get out and explore the winter wonderland. With the lakes already freezing and snow on the ground, we’re all waiting for the start of snowmobile season in Washburn County....

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Fall Doesn't End in Early October

September 18, 2018

As the leaves begin to drop, you may think that fall is over in Washburn County, but that’s not the case at all. There are so many fun fall activities that happen in mid to late October. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy a weekend exploring the area during the late fall season.

  1. Spooner Tin Ceiling Tour - Wander Spooner’s beautiful downtown with authentic shops, but be sure to look up as you wander! Over a dozen of the stores have exposed the original tin ceilings. You’ll be in awe of the intricate designs and wide variety of colors. A brochure and an audio tour are available to help guide you to the shops with the tin ceilings and offers a historical perspective of the previous “lives” of the buildings.
  2. Head to...
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Cranberries, Zombies and Late Fall Fun in the Northwoods

September 7, 2018

As we head into October, the fall colors may begin to fade, but the fun sure doesn’t. October kicks off with the 40th Annual Stone Lake Cranberry Festival. The quaint community of Stone Lake welcomes thousands of people the first Saturday of October each year as they browse the arts & crafts and taste the yummy cranberry treats. When you arrive, be sure to hop on one of the buses to go visit one of the area cranberry marshes where you’ll learn how these delicious red berries are grown. Fun fact: the berries are not grown in water as many folks think...

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It's a 65 Year Tradition: The Spooner Heart of the North Rodeo

June 22, 2018

The Queen and Princess have official started their reign as rodeo royalty for the 65th Annual Heart of the North Rodeo. Coats of vibrant “rodeo red” paint have been put on the chutes that will soon hold the cowboys waiting for their 8 second ride to begin. The arena stands sit quiet waiting for those anxious rodeo fans to arrive to take in a tradition that has lasted for 65 years - one of the longest standing traditions for this community.

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Summer Time Family Fun

May 31, 2018

Summertime: school’s out for some & almost done for others, the weather is beautiful, and that means it is time for a family vacation! Why not make Washburn County your family’s destination this summer? While you’re here there’s lot to do...so let’s give you a few of our family favorites!

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Ainsley's Blog: Pizza Train Ride

May 19, 2018

Today I went to the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad Train Station. We got to eat pizza on the train.  It was a blast! I got to drink a soda. This was my first time on a train, so I didn’t know what to expect and I had lots of questions like were the seats going to be like a school bus. When we entered the station I was excited to see...

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Spring has Sprung in Washburn County

May 11, 2018

It is currently warm and sunny in Birchwood, Wisconsin, a sure sign that spring has finally sprung. After months of dreary skies and repetitive snowfalls, Wisconsinites are welcoming the warmer weather with open arms. With sunny skies ahead, communities and individuals begin to start outdoor events and adventures..

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Winter & Spring Trout Fishing

January 29, 2018

When I think of trout fishing on the Namekagon River, I am reminded of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  "There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad she was horrid."  This little poem perfectly describes the nuances of trout fishing on the Namekagon.  When it is good, it is very good.  Trout Unlimited includes the Namekagon in its "Best 100 Trout Streams in America" collection.  So, when it is good, the trout fishing on the Namekagon rivals any trout stream in the country--no questions asked...
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A Winter Wonderland in Washburn County

December 27, 2017

It’s winter time in Wisconsin. That means that old man winter has graced us with frozen lakes and snowy trails. What a great time of year! Whether you want to set up a shack on one of our nearly 1,000 lakes and catch a trophy northern or you want to jump on a snowmobile and explore the over 150,000 acres of forest land in Washburn County, you’re bound to find something fun to do this winter. Here are some fun ideas to get you outside & exploring the area during this enchanting time of year...

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Winter Fun: Eight Great Ways to Enjoy Winter in the Northwoods

November 28, 2017

Load up your fat bike, ice fishing equipment, or your favorite book and enjoy a trip up north this winter. Located in the northwest part of the state, Washburn County is home to the quaint communities of Birchwood, Spooner, Minong, Stone Lake, and Shell Lake. The area offers a peaceful Northwoods getaway with cozy cabins, modern hotels, a bed & breakfast train ride and even a yurt. In addition to plentiful lodging, you’ll find a wide variety of activities to enjoy during the winter months as well. Here are our top picks for your Washburn County getaway this winter...

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Late Fall Adventures in Washburn County

October 19, 2017

The fall season in Washburn County seems to be stretching out this year providing an extended time for fall color viewing, pumpkin patch fun and so much more. If you thought you missed out on all of the fall fun, you should check out our list of fun activities for the remainder of October. Eleven late fall activities you won’t want to miss: 1. The Burch Barn- Not only can you sit on a gunny sack and careen down a 100 foot slide...

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Ainsley's Blog: WI Muskies

October 4, 2017

Saturday night I went to a hockey game in Spooner.  I went to see the Wisconsin Muskies play their first game in Spooner.  When my dad told me we were going that day, I got really excited!  I wanted to make a sign to use to cheer for the Muskies.  I tried to draw a picture of a musky.  Before leaving, I tried to dress warm for the game, but this was my first hockey game so I didn’t know how cold it would be.  When we got there...

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Fall Fun in Washburn County

September 15, 2017

The leaves in the north woods begin to change to enchanting hues of red, orange, and yellow. This means that fall is in the air in Washburn County. There’s no better time to visit the area than during September and October when the evenings are crisp, the days are warm and the fall fun is plentiful. Here are a few of our favorite ways...

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Ainsley's Blog: The Burch Barn

September 9, 2017

Today I went to the Burch Barn in Spooner!  The first thing we did was buy tokens to the “Grain Train” and then went into the fun areas!  The first thing I did was went straight to the barn bouncy house.  It was good.  Then I tried to milk a pretend cow.  It had water in it.  Then I did bouncy horse races.  It was good.  After that...

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Ainsley's Blog: Namekagon River

August 30, 2017

I’m really excited to tell you about my first canoeing trip!  We went canoeing and camping on the Namekagon River.  I was really excited to sleep in a tent.  After packing our stuff we drove to the river and we dropped a car off to where we were going to end our trip.  Then we drove to the beginning of our trip on the river.  We used a canoe and...

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Favorite Fish Fry: Washburn County

August 10, 2017

This is Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, we celebrate Friday nights by frying up some of the most delicious fish you can find. With nearly 1,000 lakes in Washburn County, it’s no wonder that some of our favorite fish fries are made right at home, but let’s take a second to talk about where we go on Friday nights when the last thing we want to do is cook our own food. Admit it; we all have nights like that! We asked you where you can find the best fish fry in the Washburn County area and you had some great...

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Ainsley's Blog: Washburn County Fair

August 7, 2017

I went to the Washburn County Fair.  The first thing we did was buy tickets for the rides.  The first thing I chose to go on was the obstacle course and then the bouncy house.  They were fun.  Next I went on a ride that was like a spinning baby swing.  After that I rode in a little boat in a circle.  Then I rode a train.  After some rides I really wanted to play some games.  I really wanted to throw ten darts at balloons...

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Ainsley's Blog: Relay for Life

August 1, 2017

On July 21st I went to the Relay for Life Event in Shell Lake.  It was a superhero theme and I dressed like a superhero.  I had my picture taken next to Spiderman.  I got to help put the paper bags with candles in them around the sidewalk and on the dock.  The bags were to remember people who died from cancer.  It made me feel good to be able to help.  When it started to get dark, they lit the candles...

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Insider Tips: Jack Link's Northwoods Music Festival

July 31, 2017

It’s a quaint community in Northwest Wisconsin on a gorgeous summer weekend. Your camper is all set up, tickets in hand; you head over to the festival grounds, set up a couple chairs and get ready for some of the best county stars to hit the stage. Welcome to Minong, Wisconsin and the Jack Link’s Northwoods Music Festival. For the third year in a row, Jack Link’s is bringing some of country’s hottest acts to Minong, population 527...

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Ainsley's Blog: Shell Lake Beach

July 25, 2017

Tonight we went swimming at the Shell Lake beach.  I like to swim under water and tonight I swam under the water with my eyes open!  The water was good.  It was a little cool at first but dad and I got used to it.  He even swam a little bit.  I also swam out to one of the yellow rafts.  I jumped off of them.  I did a couple of cannon balls, jumped off backwards...

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Ainsley's Blog: Fairy Tour

July 17, 2017

Today we went on a fairy tour in Spooner.   We walked around the town and found the fairy doors.  We could see what was in them.  One of them had earrings and they were so cute and beautiful.  One of the fairies helps the other fairies find their missing glasses.  One of the doors...

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Super Sunfish Action on Spooner Lake

July 3, 2017

Rick Anderson may be the hardest working fishing guide in Wisconsin. Anderson specializes in panfish trips in the Spooner area, working out of a 24-foot pontoon boat—equipped with a galley. “My favorite trips are with families,” Anderson said. “The Spooner area has many great panfish lakes, and a pontoon boat is a wonderful fishing platform for kids of all ages.”...

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Exploring a Free National Park: The Namekagon River

June 29, 2017

A free national park flows through the vast forests of northwest Wisconsin. This incredible gem is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The Namekagon River begins in Bayfield County, flowing through Sawyer, Washburn and Burnett counties prior to meeting up with the St. Croix. While many people recognize the name, Namekagon River, few realize that this is part of the national park system...

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Summer Festivals to Mark on Your Calendar-July/August

June 22, 2017

There have been some exciting events happening all throughout Washburn County, and summer has just begun. Get ready, because we’ve got way more to come during July and August. From the world-famous Spooner Rodeo to Jack Pine Savage Days, get those calendars out and mark these festivals down....

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ATVing: Explore the Trails of Washburn County

May 19, 2017

ATVing. That one simple verb brings loads of excitement for young and old alike. What do you think of when you think of “ATVing?” Do you think of getting together with friends to explore places that you simply can’t reach by vehicle? Do you think of getting away from it all and spending some time in the vast forests of Northwest Wisconsin...

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Summer Festivals to Mark on Your Calendar-May/June

May 19, 2017

Summer is coming to Washburn County, and this summer is jam packed with events, festivals, and activities sure to have something for the whole family. From the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Day to the Tri-County Dairy Breakfast...

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Quest for the Best Bloody Mary

April 28, 2017

The quest for the best bloody mary seems to be never ending, not that we mind, really. Recently we asked our locals and visitors “Who, in Washburn County, has the best bloody?” It led us to a very important question...

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Wisconsin Great Northern is Welcoming Sweethearts

January 18, 2017

The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad wants to offer something special for all those sweethearts the whole month of February now that they are open for their first year round operation.

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Fall in Love with Washburn County

September 23, 2016

What is better than Washburn County in the Summer?…Washburn County in the Fall!! With much to do during the summer, you can stay just as busy around here during the beautiful fall months. With the luscious green trees changing to the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows there are many different ways to...

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Kids Scavenger Hunt for Family Fun

August 2, 2016

Have your kids ever been glued to a screen while on vacation? Washburn County has the perfect solution; take them on the Kids Scavenger Hunt to discover Washburn County. On the scavenger hunt there are a variety of activities to do such as visiting Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary, going swimming at a local beach, taking a train ride...

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ATV Scenic Tour: A Cool Way to Explore the Trails

July 15, 2016

Washburn County has a fun new way to explore the area ATV trails. The Washburn County ATV Scenic Tour allows ATV enthusiasts to learn about over 35 points of interest located along the 100+ mile ATV system. If you have ever been riding on a trail and wondered...

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Take a Step Back in Time with Washburn County's Antique Shops

July 1, 2016

Do you absolutely love searching for the perfect treasure? If so, Washburn County has a treasure hunt for you! The area offers a variety of antique shops that will take a true treasure-hunter days to explore. You'll find...

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