Mar 10, 2018

Ashland, The Heart of Chequamegon Bay!  

Located in both Ashland and Bayfield counties in Wisconsin, Ashland is a port on Lake Superior, near the head of Chequamegon Bay.  The population was 8,216 at the 2010 census, all of which resided in the Ashland County portion of the city. 

Ashland is situated at the junction of U.S. Route 2 and Wisconsin Highway 13.  It is the home of Northland College and the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, as well as Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

The county seat of Ashland County, the city of Ashland was named for the home of Henry Clay, a statesman.  The city was incorporated on March 25, 1887.  In the late 1800s, Ashland was one of Wisconsin's largest cities and a major Lake Superior port. 

The Chippewa Indians were the original inhabitants of Ashland.  The first white men to come to Ashland were the French missionaries and British and French fur traders.  They entered Ashland in 1659 via Lake Superior.  The first white man to build a home and settle down in Ashland was Asaph Whittlesey, immortalized in the first of Ashland’s many murals.

The community’s pride in its rich history is evident in its 17 vibrant murals highlighting a particular aspect of Ashland’s colorful past, depicting subjects ranging from the city’s lumberjacks and military veterans to its railroads, storefronts and former massive ore dock.  Since 2005, Ashland has been known as the “Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin,” making the city a year-round public art destination.  The newest mural is a “Tribute to Ashland’s Women” and will be unveiled on Mother’s Day in 2018.   Ashland’s murals are created by local artists, Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen. Ashland offers guided trolley tours starting in June through Labor Day. The mural tours are about 90 minutes and the local guides lead a non-stop tour of the murals, historic downtown and point out the fabulous architecture that lines the main street.   


Ashland is home to a full-service, 140-slip marina. Our marina includes washrooms with showers, fuel and pump-out, water, electricity, seaplane dock, ship store and dock attendant.  The marina is conveniently located in the center of town and within walking distance to historic Main Street. All amenities are conveniently located next to the piers.  Rates vary according to your boating needs.  Whether you require full service slips, minimum service slips, or long versus smaller boat docks, the marina manager will be very helpful in filling your request.  Sail thousands of square miles of easily navigated water and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of sunsets on tree-lined shores.  

Head out on the world’s largest freshwater lake offering word-class smallmouth bass fishing.  Lake Superior is known for its coldwater and warmwater fisheries.  Fishing for warmwater species on Lake Superior can be nothing short of spectacular. The waters between Washburn and Ashland are home to some behemoth smallmouth, walleye, northern pike, and even some big perch. There are even shorefishing spots where these fish can be caught, for those of you who have not heard. Chequamegon Bay’s stringent one fish over 22" smallmouth limit has made the bay THE premier destination for big smallies in the country. 

Trolling is the method to use while targeting trout, salmon, walleye and northern. Large charter boats take up to six people at a time and smaller guide boats take up to three. Rod in hand casting and drifting is the method used to target smallmouth bass. Enjoy breathtaking views of sunsets on tree-lined shores and then dock within easy walking distance of Ashland’s historic Main Street business district.  

If you don’t have a boat, we have several areas to fish offshore.  Visitors enjoy the natural environment Ashland has to offer.  A walking trail along the shores of Lake Superior will capture your attention.  The walking trail is nearly 10 miles, and will take you past two Ashland beaches with playground equipment for the kids and one, Maslowski Beach, offers a fresh artesian well where you can fill up your water bottles and jugs 365 days a year! You won’t taste any better water than the water from the artesian wells in Ashland; fresh, clean, clear, cool water!  The trail meanders along the lake with a tunnel that runs under U.S. Highway 2 connecting to the Plaza Park and historic Main Street.

Every season in Ashland, and on Chequamegon Bay, offers great opportunities!  Spring is no exception!  The “Smelt Run” in the Chequamegon Bay usually starts around the 3rd week in April shortly after the ice goes out of the Bay.  Visitors and locals love “smelt season.” The smelt usually run late at night and are brought in with a seine net or dip net.  The seine net is used on the shores of the big lake and some smelters use a dip net in the creeks.  Smelting is always a fun time with the smell of campfires along the shoreline.  Smelters light campfires and enjoy the outdoors as they wait for the run to come in heavy.  At times the smelt may start running at 9:00 pm or they may be running at midnight or later.  They are very unpredictable little fish (approximately 4 to 5 inches in length) that only answer to Mother Nature.  There is an old tradition that you bite the head off of the first smelt brought in… of course you don’t actually eat the head, but you would be the brave smelter for sticking with tradition.  Call the Ashland Chamber’s “Smelt Hotline” during the month of April at 800-284-9484 to find out daily activity.  

The Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival takes place at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center located just outside of Ashland on highway “G”.  Among the best birding destinations in the Midwest, the Chequamegon Bay region encompasses a wide variety of habitats home to nearly 300 species. Abundant public lands and extraordinary natural beauty provide visitors with unparalleled nature-watching opportunities in this exceptional area of northern Wisconsin.  All of this combines to make an ideal setting for a festival dedicated to birds and nature.  Casual and avid bird watchers alike as well as nature lovers will be flocking to the south shore of Lake Superior May 17th through the 19th to celebrate the spring migration and take part in over 100 activities over the three-day period.  Come one or all of the days!  From birding to hiking to biking to kayaking, there is something for everyone! 

For your next adventure, explore our unique shops, galleries and specialty stores where you’ll find everything from local delicacies and gourmet delights, to outdoor gear, vintage clothing and fine art.  Ashland also offers a wide variety of mouthwatering mealtime choices. From regional beer to award-winning food, grab a quick bite to eat before heading out to explore the area or savor a candlelit dinner on the shores of Chequamegon Bay.  Gather local organic treats and artisan breads and cheeses for a picnic in the northwoods.  Check out one of Ashland’s locally-owned eateries for home-cooked specialties.  And, don’t miss a stop to South Shore Brewery where they produce award-winning beers in the renovated Wilmarth Building on West Main Street.  

Abundant public lands and extraordinary natural beauty provide visitors with unparalleled nature-watching opportunities in this exceptional area of northern Wisconsin.  Some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the entire state are located in Ashland County.  Copper Falls State Park near Mellen features three scenic waterfalls on the Tyler Forks and Bad Rivers.  Hikers will be enthralled by the breathtaking beauty of Morgan Falls, the second-highest waterfall in Wisconsin.  Morgan falls will be open in the fall of 2018 after a devastating “1000 year” flood destroyed much of the trail within the park.  Make sure to request the waterfalls brochure that highlights waterfalls in Ashland, Bayfield and Iron Counties.  

Swimming beaches and parks are available along U.S. Route 2 at Bayview Park on Ashland’s east end, (where kids will love the diving board on the pier), at Kreher Park and RV Campground near the former ore dock in the center of town, and Maslowski Beach at the west end of Ashland.  A stone marker on Maslowski Beach commemorates the site of the first cabin built by Europeans in Wisconsin, erected by French explorers Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Groseilliers in the fall of 1658.  The ore-dock base is open to the public.  Stroll out the ¼ mile for spectacular views, exercise, or throw in a line off the pier.  The Ore-dock was at one time, the largest cement structure in the world!  

Prentice Park, the largest of Ashland’s 12 parks, is a shady, secluded area, perfect for picnics.  It encompasses 100 acres and offers refreshing cold water from artesian wells, hiking trails, viewing platforms, a playground and tent camping.  The city also boasts the Chequamegon Bay Golf Course, an 18-hole, par 72 course that is open to the public.

And when it’s time to rest, you’ll find just the right lodging establishment in Ashland to fit your needs, from charming B&B’s and fine hotels, to family-owned motels.  Relax in comfort with a lakeside view or go for a dip in an indoor pool.  Winter, spring, summer and fall – Ashland is a year-round vacation destination with accommodations to suit every budget.


Ashland is event central offering events year round from the annual Sleigh & Cutter Parade and Rally in January to the Boston Qualifying Memorial Medical Center WhistleStop Marathon & Half Marathon and Brews and Blues Festival in October and many in between!!  If you are interested in inline skating, the Ashland Chamber coordinates an annual inline rollerblading race that takes place on beautiful Madeline Island.  The Apostle Islands Inline Marathon is slated for June 16th, and this race is a great race for the beginning skater to the pro skater, visit for more information.  Maybe bicycling is your thing.  If so, check out the Superior Vistas Bicycle Tour where you choose from eight different routes.  It’s a ride, not a race so it can be as fast or as slow… You decide. (  Our summer festival in Ashland is so much fun!!  Ashland Bay Days takes place on the shores of Lake Superior at Bayview Park.  You can hang out at the festival and then you can swim in the lake to cool off...  Bay Days offers food, music, and fun including the “Strongest Man on the Bay” competition and an amateur Dock Dog Jumping event!  Ashland also still hosts a Christmas Parade and a 4th of July Parade.  Please order your free visitor guide today!  Call the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce at 800-284-9484 or visit