Upham Woods General History

General History of Upham Woods Research Site

Upham Woods is located along the famous Dells (Dalles) of the Wisconsin River, 2 miles northwest of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Upham Woods consists of 318.7 acres of land on the banks of the Wisconsin River, including a 210-acre island called Blackhawk Island. The land is split into two parts by an old and now flooded glacial channel of the Wisconsin River, whose main channel, cutting a deep and narrow gorge in the soft Cambrian sandstones, forms the eastern border of the property. Between the old channel and the present-day Wisconsin River is Blackhawk Island, and on the west bank of channel is a strip of land where the camp itself is located (dorms, cabins, lodge, nature center, staff duplex, and welcome center).

Almost all of the land was given as a gift to the University in 1941. Mrs. A.V. Keene and Mrs. C.H. Davis (Upham sisters) presented 310 acres of forested land as a memorial to their parents Horace J. and Mary Green Upham, for who the camp was named. The University then bought 8.7 acres in 1947 to add to this gift.

The Upham sisters wanted to maintain the woodland as they remembered it from their childhood. When the land was given, it was stipulated that no part of the land can be sold, used commercially, or made into a public park. Blackhawk Island itself, must remain in its natural state and no permanent structures can be built on it. It therefore, represents a valuable Scientific Area and State Natural Area for teaching, research, and aesthetic enjoyment.

The provisions state, “The lands shall be used as an outdoor laboratory and camp for youth such as 4-H clubs, and other people cooperation with the University of Wisconsin in the advancement of conservation, of agriculture, and rural culture”.