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Carson Park

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(715) 834-7871

Chippewa Valley Museum
PO Box 1204
Eau Claire, WI 54702-1204

1204 E. Half Moon Drive
Eau Claire, WI 54703
(This is NOT a mailing address!)




The name and the place

The Chippewa Valley Museum sits in Carson Park, which was named after William E. Carson, an early Eau Claire lumberman. Carson arrived in Eau Claire in 1874 and took over presidency of the Valley Lumber Company. Carson became one of the wealthiest lumbermen in the Chippewa Valley. (Of 64 millionaires in Wisconsin, according to an 1892 New York Tribune study, eight, including Carson, hailed from Eau Claire.) He died in 1898.

People had enjoyed this peninsula for recreation since the 1850s, but it got its new name in August 1915. At 134 acres, it is Eau Claire's largest park.


From mountain to lake

A billion years ago, this part of Wisconsin was the center of a mountain range like the Rockies.

Over the next 450 million years, wind and water flattened the mountains, letting an ocean cover the landscape. This ocean’s beaches collected sand that cemented into sandstone.

The area was uplifted for the last time about 200 million years ago, leaving buttes and hills.

Glaciers came and left from about 2.4 million years ago until as recently as 15,000 years ago. The glaciers flattened the hills. Our rivers have shoved around the left-over debris, helping create our distinctive landscape.

cephalopod fossil

Cephalopod fossil. From the CVM curatorial collection.

glacial advance

Last glacial advance into Wisconsin, from 25,000 to 15,000 years ago. Eau Claire would be about where the red dot sits. From Wisconsin’s Past and Present: A Historical Atlas, The Wisconsin Cartographers’ Guild, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998, p. 37.

In our immediate area, as the Chippewa River cut through the glacial debris and into the stone below, it has taken a meandering path through the relatively level, soft sandstone. Sometimes, one of the river’s loops gets cut off as the main channel finds a straighter path. This is how Half Moon Lake and nearby Lake Hallie were formed.


Finally, a city park

Do the people of Eau Claire realize they have within the city limits the best piece of ground in the state for a park?
— Eau Claire Leader, 1899

The land on which the museum sits was set aside for a park as early as the late 1860s, but a smallpox hospital was built here, and people avoided the area, even after the city burned the building in 1873.

During the lumber era, Half Moon Lake was used as a holding pond for logs waiting to be milled. At this time, the peninsula inside the lake was owned by the Daniel Shaw Lumber Company.

Half Moon Lake, log holding pond

Logs behind booms on Half Moon Lake.


After the trees ran out, the lumber companies had no use for the lake or the land inside it. Every few years brought a new plan to develop the site. These plans included a resort and a race-track. But the land sat idle for years.

In 1914, heirs of lumberman William Carson bought the land, and promptly donated it to the City of Eau Claire. The deed required that "all land shall be used exclusively for a public park," and also stipulated that the park never be renamed.

Causeway to Carson Park, from a 1922 booster publication.

Causeway to Carson Park, from a 1922 booster publication.



Added attractions

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the federal Works Progress Administration, or WPA, cleared and leveled the athletic field and the walkways in Carson Park, and built the baseball stadium.

The baseball stadium under construction in the mid-1930s. It has been home to the Eau Claire Bears, Braves, and Cavaliers.

The baseball stadium under construction in the mid-1930s. It has been home to the Eau Claire Bears, Braves, and Cavaliers.


At the opening game in the new stadium, played on June 1, 1937, the Minneapolis Millers beat the Eau Claire Bears 6-2 in front of a crowd of 5,000.

The Paul Bunyan Logging Camp opened in 1934, first at the location where the railroad depot now sits. It was moved to its present location in 1981-82.

The Birch Pavilion was built in 1954; Sunnyview School was moved into the park in 1964; the Chippewa Valley Museum opened its doors in 1974. The Rural Heritage wing, at the back of the Chippewa Valley Museum, was added in 1982.

In 1977, the 1/4-scale Chippewa Valley Railroad gave its first rides. That same year, the Anderson log house was brought to the museum grounds from its original home in Chippewa County.



William Carson

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