Everyone has a dream. Some dreams are easily attainable, others take a life time of work, and still, some others never take root or fizzle out after a short time.
Aside from a long paved roadway, all that remains of Rainbow Springs golf resort is a pile of chawed timber, some floor tiles and a couple of cement paddocks. Nature has taken back most of what was manipulated into a golfers Eden. Even though I’d never been here, I felt myself feeling nostalgic. It may have been because the images I found on line reminded me of the places my parents had taken us when we were all young, but it could also have been my feeling vicariously through their memories.
On a previous day trip I’d been out with my parents to visit Paradise Springs which it turns out, was also a resort and a health spa at one time and another. When our stomachs were rumbling my parents remembered a fantastic golf resort in the area where we might find a restaurant and so we went on a mission to find this illusive place. After some driving and a mistaken drive in to Eagle Springs gold course we did a bit of on line searching and figured out that we were looking for Rainbow Springs. We found where we thought it had to be, but all that we saw was a small parking lot along the highway and a blocked off road. After some more research, we realized that we had been in the right place and then found out what happened to the resort.
Designed and built in the mid-century modern style during the late 1960’s by a man with a grandiose vision, the resort was a snappy place with 2 golf courses a lodge and a clubhouse. It was built as a year round get away and being in the touristy popular Kettle Moraine area, it should have done well. The original owner must have been a smooth talker because he managed to add on more and more debt in order to continue adding to the resort. Unfortunately the resort was cursed with financial ruin.
Over the years the resort had several owners but none could pull it out of the debt that seemed to drag it down further into the hole it was stuck in. For a time the golf courses continued to operate and the lodge was used as a local Halloween Hasted House. It 2002, much of the lodge was destroyed by a massive fire and in 2010 the property was bought by the state and the DNR began the process of healing the land.
A few miles west of the historic town of Muskego, bordered by county highway LO (aka. Eagle Lake Ave.), highway I and hwy J to the south is the parcel of land now known as the Muskego River-Kettle Moraine Unit.
I drove in from Milwaukee on Highway 43, exited on hwy 83, then drove through town to connect with hwy LO. Muskego is a lovely town rich with history and I suggest taking a drive around to check out all the gorgeous victorian homes and buildings scattered throughout the area.
Drive up hwy LO past the river nature sanctuary on the left and county park on the right keeping eyes peeled for old farms and the rolling natural landscape. There is a small parking lot on the left side of the highway, just past the county dog exercise park. It is a state park, but for now, a state sticker is not required. One never knows when that will change so be prepared to pay at some point in the future. There is also another small lot on hwy I but the hike in to the resort is much further.
Walk in on the paved road for about half a mile through a dense pine forest where you’ll come to Rainbow Springs Lake. I could easily imagine the joy anyone would feel driving in for a stay and seeing the view of the lake for the first time. It is truly lovely with its old forest and large hilly shoreline.
Continue on the road following the lake and you’ll come across what appears to be the remains of some gathering place, possibly the warming house in winter and swimming spot in summer.
Then walk east and you’ll come to a fork in the road. I came across an old horse drawn wagon and what appeared to be a private home. I was curious but not enough to want to walk close enough to bother them.
Walking north take note that you are walking past the smaller of the two golf courses. It is difficult to see what it once was but a golfers eye may find the distinction more attainable.
Not much further is the main thoroughfare and it is clear that this space was the center of attention. The large lodge would have been on the left and a smaller building was further up on the right. I guessed that the smaller building was the club house and you can see the outline of the building and cement flooring complete with floor tiles. I think perhaps there was a kitchen and bar along with patio seating.
Opposite the ruins is where the larger course was located. There is much overgrowth but here I could more easily see what was once the fairway, sand traps and of course the small ponds where I imagine there is a lifetime of golfballs sunk to the bottom.
With the help of Wisconsin’s DNR, the land there is coming back to a natural state of prairie, wetland and some forest. A good portion of the roadways are meshing with the earth and I think that in another ten years or less, it will be unrecognizable to anyone who had visited as a younger self.
In my wisened years I have learned the most important lesson life can teach. Change is inevitable. Time changes everything constantly. Some things, like hard rocks and stone, age slowly and so it is difficult to see with the human eye. But most places, things and people changed so quickly that a missed time in even a small quantity can make them unrecognizable.
I guess the more important lesson is that we must accept change, see the people who are important to us as much as possible and let nature do what she will in her own good time.
On your way back home, stop for a coffee and a snack or a delicious bowl of soup at Espresso Love Coffee, 105 N Rochester in Mukwanago. (hwy 83) There is a public parking lot in back and you can spend a little time relaxing inside or grab some take away dinner. I highly recommend the soup!
ex nihilo nihil fit
(nothing comes from nothing)