Rock Island Gets National Historic Landmark Designation

One of Wisconsin’s most remote and most unique park properties has received a new designation from the National Park Service. 

A 2.5-acre portion of Rock Island State Park has been named a National Historic Landmark by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. The site located on the southern shore of Rock Island is one of 16 sites added to the list of more than 2,600 such sites on Dec. 13. 

“The new National Historic and Natural Landmarks designated today further the Interior Department’s vision for inclusive and collaborative conservation,” Haaland said. “Supporting voluntary and locally led stewardship is key to nationwide efforts to conserve and connect the lands upon which we all depend.”  

“It’s important that the places we deem nationally significant represent the historical and natural diversity of the American experience,” said Chuck Sams, Director of the National Park Service, which administers the National Historic Landmark program. “These 18 new landmarks further illustrate and expand our country’s collective heritage and splendor.”  

“It’s an opportunity for further protections and recognition and possibly federal funds for the site,” said Eric Hyde, Superintendent of Rock Island, Peninsula and Newport State Parks. “It shows how significant of an archeological site there is on Rock Island.” 

Hyde said the work toward this designation began more than five years ago.

National Historic Landmarks are some of the nation’s most historically important buildings, sites, structures, objects and districts, which communicate themes in history, archeology, architecture, engineering and cultural significance. NHL designation is the highest federal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance, and a testament to the dedicated stewardship of many private and public property owners who seek this designation. 

The nomination described the Rock Island site as an exceptionally well preserved, multi-component, stratified archeological site marked by sand dunes and forest cover with substantial archeological remains preserved below the ground surface. The site was occupied over four distinct time periods, spanning the years circa 1630 through circa 1766, based on radiocarbon dates and cross-dating of diagnostic artifacts and trade items. 

The site is noted “for its extraordinary potential to yield information of major scientific importance on the ethnic identification of archeological remains and the westward migration of various Native American groups during the early seventeenth century and into the late eighteenth century including the Potawatomi, Huron, Petun, Odawa, Sauk, Fox, Menominee and Winnebago (today known as the Ho-Chunk).” 

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