History of the Park

Governor Dodge State Park is named after Henry L. Dodge, a pioneer resident of this area and first governor of the Wisconsin territory. Over 7,000 years ago, Native Americans inhabited the park. As they hunting the area for food, they used the natural shelters of the bluffs for camps. Marquette and Joliet probably passed near the park in the late 1600's on their way to the Mississippi River.

By 1820, the area was the population center of Wisconsin, largely as a result of the booming lead mining operations centered in southwestern Wisconsin. Much of the land that Governor Dodge now occupies was farmed from the mid-1800's until 1948, when the park was established.

1944

Iowa County Conservation Committee chose the Cox Hollow area as a possible site for a lake.

1947

Iowa County Board of Supervisors approved the donation to the state of 160.5 acres for a park.

1948

Conservation Commissioners voted for a park in the Cox Hollow area. This is the "birth of the park."

1954

Commissioners approved a western road entrance into the park. Work commenced on the road.

1955

The park was officially named Governor Dodge State Park after Henry Dodge. Park road was also completed.

1957

Conservation Commissioners approved dam and spillway plans. Work started on the dam and spillway.

1958

Beach area and boat landing completed.  Lake started to fill. Northern Pike and Bass planted. Melvin "Mike" Thomas assumed duties as Park Manager. Fire broke out in the northeast corner of the park causing limited damage. Electricity brought to the park. Newly created lake called Cox Hollow Lake.

1959

No fishing allowed on lake. Lake completely filled.

1960

Fishing opened June 1st. Bathhouse construction started.  New park roads construction started.

1961

Bathhouse completed and opened for public use. New roads completed.  First camping area completed. Unwanted bluegills dumped into lake.

1962

Beginning of state parks admission sticker fee.

1964

Work started on a new addition to Cox Hollow campground. Iowa County received approval for a second dam and lake in the park (the future site of Twin Valley Lake). New dam project started.

1965

Cox Hollow campsites 49-117 open to the public.

1966

Construction on additional park roads started. Second dam completed.  Lake started to fill. Aerators installed in Cox Hollow Lake.  New beach area started and completed near new lake. Northern Pike and Bass planted in new lake.

1967

Construction commenced on new bathhouse. New boat marina completed.  Fishing opened on new lake. Snowmobiles allowed in park.

1968

New park entrance opened. Construction started on new visitor center.

1969

Visitor center completed. Concession stand opened near Cox Hollow Lake. Work started on service building. Work started on new 90 unit camping facility. Cox Hollow lake drained.

1970

Control tower valve in Cox Hollow Lake closed. Cox Hollow Lake restocked with trout and bass. Fishing allowed on Cox Hollow Lake. Service building completed.

1971

Muskies were first planted in Twin Valley Lake.

1973

Cross-country ski trail was developed. New camping area; "300 series" was opened in the Twin Valley camping area. This added 55 new units to the existing facilities.

1975

New group camp area opened.

1976

New amphitheater constructed.

1977

New Mill Creek cross-country ski trail and bridge constructed.

1978

New Meadow Valley hiking-ski trail developed (7.5 miles).

1979

Three new picnic shelters constructed.

1996

Visitor Center remodeled and expanded.

2001

160 acres purchased from the Cassidy family.

2002

Newly constructed shower/toilet building opened at Hickory Ridge Group Camp.

2007

New boat dock installed at Cox Hollow boat launch.

Memorial flagpole erected at the park office.

The park grew another 80 acres with the purchase of land from the Rundhaug farm.

2012

Dedication of the new Stephens Homestead area and Trail.

2014

June 29th, two tornadoes swept through the park causing significant damage.  One tornado damages parts of the group camp area and northern portion of the horse trail.  The second tornado cuts a swath through the southern portion of the park damaging trees and completely blocking trails including Pine Cliff, Lakeview, Mill Creek, the Military Ridge Access Trail and portions of the southern section of the Outer Horse Loop.  Luckily, no injuries or structural damage was reported in the park.

2015

Clean-up of tornado damage completed including salvage harvest of downed trees and slight re-route of Pine Cliff trail near Lakeview trail.  Clean-up completed by park staff, private contractors and the help of the Friends of Governor Dodge and many volunteers.