Accommodations in both communities
1. Briggsville Loop (10 miles) Begin at the parking lot next to the fire department. Travel north on CTY A through the gently rolling Neenah Creek Valley. As you head back to Briggsville CTY X, turn left onto Hwy 23 and at the top of the hill turn right onto Nebraska St and go down the hill past the dam. Turn left on CTY A back to the parking area.
2. Oxford Loop (14.5 miles) Start at the Oxford Village Hall and ride south on CTY A. Take a left on CTY P, left on CTY O, left on CTY D and right on CTY A back to the parking area. This route takes you through the gently rolling Neenah Creek Valley.
MORE INFORMATION: Of all the bike routes of Marquette County, perhaps the most versatile is the Oxford/Briggsville Loop that takes the rider along the southwest border of a land rich with history and scenic splendor. The route is easily broken up into two shorter routes and you can begin your trip in either of 2 VIllages-- Oxford or Briggsville. The entire route is just short of 24 miles with 14.5 of those in the northern Oxford section and about 10 in the southern Briggsville path.
Before beginning in either location, you’re likely to enjoy your ride more by getting a feel for the history of the land you are about to ride through. As far back as 12,000 years ago, people hunted, fished, and lived here. The land offered all the same attributes that we find so appealing today. Rich with wildlife, diverse vegetation, numerous sources of water, both Native Americans and early European settlers were drawn here to live.
If you begin on the north end of the route, the town of Oxford offers many places to park and leave your car. The school grounds just off Main Street on County Road A is a good place to begin your tour. Before you head off south on A, though, you might want to go north on A just outside of town to the Oxford cemetery where the pioneers who settled the community are buried. There’s the first registered woman sulky driver, a man who wrestled a bear and won, and some of the many area men who went off to fight in the Civil War.
Back to the marked route, and the road south on County A is an easy ride. Flat, lush country side opens into fields of alfalfa, corn, beans, and land that lays fallow. You’ll cross Neenah Creek twice. This was a source of water power for settlers and a rich source of food for early people with water fowl and other creatures living in or on its banks.
When you arrive at the junction of County Roads A and P, you can decide if you want to loop back to Oxford on County Road O for the 16 mile ride, or you can continue down A to Briggsville. In any case, don’t miss the small loop made up of County Road A, County Road P, and Neenah Road. Neenah Road to 3rd Avenue takes you past a ghost town. There’s no town there now, but once there was a hotel, mill, school, wagon shop, and skimming station for milk. It was Douglas Center where the hope of the railroad had people dreaming big. A beautiful private home that still stands on Neenah Road was built of local brick and was meant to be a hotel. It never hosted many guests because the railroad was built farther east. Hunters still can find the rail bed that was built up for the proposed tracks that stopped in the middle of a marsh. A log school used to sit along the north side of Neenah Road before it bends north, built in 1853 and a post office was established for Douglas Center in 1861.
If you proceed south on A to the Briggsville portion of the Oxford Loop, you’ll wind through beautiful countryside with little car traffic. You enter into Briggsville from the north. This is where you might also decide to begin your bike route and you’ll find places to leave your car near the Lake Mason public boat launch or along the street near the little park across from the boat launch.
This area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years and ceremonial and burial mounds used to exist along Neenah Creek. Some were lost to farming and some were covered over by water when Lake Mason was formed with the damming of the creek. People who live in the area still find Woodland Indian pottery sherds and stone points and tools when the land is disturbed.
Once a sacred place for Native Americans, Briggsville now is home to a shrine to St. Philomena. The stone shrine arches over a marble statue depicting the 13 year old virgin saint martyred in the 4th century in Greece. Her bones and a vial of her blood were discovered in catacombs in Italy in 1802. The Briggsville Shrine is listed on the official site of the sanctuary of St. Philomena in Italy. The shrine is in front of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and you’ll pass it as you enter into Briggsville from the north on County Road A.
Continue past the shrine and into Briggsville platted in 1854 and named after Alexander Ellis Briggs who settled there in 1850. The Pheasant Inn on the shore of Lake Mason was once a hotel for guests traveling by stage coach. Inside is a fire place that has stone points from the earliest inhabitants imbedded in the grout. It’s an excellent place to take a breather. You can picture a wool carding mill as well as a sugar mill that once sat on the shores of the lake created by the dam that provided power to the businesses.
Before you continue on the designated bike route, you may want to go north on Highway 23 just to the edge of town where you’ll see a cemetery to the west. This has some of the earliest settlers of Marquette County and also is the last resting place of famed wildlife artist and environmentalist Owen Gromme who died in 1991. Gromme’s work capturing the birds, animals, and landscape of Wisconsin as well as the people who make up this great place will forever tell the story of the land. He teamed up with Aldo Leopold and crusaded to stop the wholesale slaughter of hawks, owls, herons and other birds as “vermin.”
Gromme wrote, "There is no sound on earth that stirs the primitive in me like the indescribable rattle of the sand hill crane."
Back in town and after a stop in the pretty gazebo in the downtown, continue your tour taking County Road A south and turning east onto County Road X. Turn north on 3rd Avenue for a pleasant ride with some hills with gradual inclines. When you reach Neenah Road, turn right and drive through the Douglas Center area, now a ghost town, described above.
If you started in Briggsville and are following only the southern loop, you’ll turn west on P and continue south when you get to A and back into Briggsville.
Otherwise, continue north on County Road O which stretches flat and strait back to County Road D where you’ll turn west and head back into Oxford.
The Oxford Loop bike route in Marquette County can begin in Oxford or Briggsville and can be a 24 mile ride or can be broken into your choice of 2 shorter routes. Whichever you decide to take, you’ll be travelling through prairie, woodlands, and wetlands on routes once walked by Native Americans, trails where oxen were driven by early European settlers, and where today, small town, rural beauty still reigns.
What you'll see:
Grotto Shrine of St. Philomena
Ghost town of Douglas Center