Eagle River's History Rooted in Tourism

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It's no secret Eagle River is run on tourism dollars.

"We've always had tourists coming up here. The people on the railroad would come and fish and they'd spread the word as they went up and down the line from here to Chicago, explains Craig Moore, President of the History Society.

Fishing and hunting have always been a big draw. But come winter, it becomes the snowmobile Capital of the World.

"We go from, I think probably 1,400-1,500 people in Eagle River during the winter and with the summer residents coming in it goes up around 15-20,000,” said Moore of the annual summer population boom.

He says without tourism, the city would become a ghost town.

And it very well could have been as it's gone through several depressions since it's humble beginnings in 1857.

"It wasn't until 1883, when the railroad came to Eagle River that things really took off. Then they could bring the machinery in for the sawmill,” he said. For those following 10 years, the city was booming; until all of the pine was logged out.

“Then the mill mysteriously caught fire and the owner collected the insurance and moved west where there was still pine to be cut,' he said. Unfortunately, the move also cut the city's population in half.

In the mid-20s, another sawmill started up with help from the railroad. But it also burned down, creating another depression for the city while also struggling through the Great Depression.

Thankfully, tourism saved the city.

Moore explained that learning the lessons of history are important so the past doesn't get repeated.

Click here to view photos from the Eagle River Historical Society.

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