When landscape architect John Nolen developed Wisconsin’s first plan for a state park system in 1909, he identified this dramatic site overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers as one of four scenic environments worthy of preservation. It offered grand vistas and a forest lush with walnut, white oak, maple, hickory, elm, ash, and cherry. The legislature responded to Nolen’s suggestion by purchasing the land in 1917. But the park remained little developed until the Great Depression, when the federal government created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Here at Wyalusing State Park, they built trails to scenic overlooks and erected signs, picnic shelters, fireplaces, administrative offices, and a concession building.
National Park Service architects Wedge-wood and Riemenschneider supplied the designs, which employed a rustic style emphasizing log timbers and native stone. At the open-air Green Cloud Picnic Shelter (c. 1938), workers laid stone walls to mimic a natural outcropping. Massive log trusses and vertical supports, and semicircular arched openings at the gable ends, lend the weightiness common in Arts and Crafts designs. A large open-air shelter near Treasure Cave has stone walls laid in random courses, but instead of a front wall, massive logs grouped in twos and threes tied by a log railing support the low-pitched hipped roof. The picnic shelter at the Knob is a circular structure with a polygonal pavilion roof. Its uncoursed stone walls reflect less skill than that found in most of the park’s structures but provide a sense of rustic informality more in keeping with the wooded landscape.