Whether or not you are an RV’er, if you’re traveled through Wisconsin on any road other than the Interstate chances are pretty good you’ve seen signs advertising Rustic Roads. Wisconsin seems to be the only state that I have found with a state funded “Rustic Road” program. It’s a program that’s been underway for 40 years and it celebrates the bucolic old roads that once were typical of out-state Wisconsin.
What is a Rustic Road?
According to the state, every Rustic Road is unique, but all:
- have outstanding natural features along its borders such as rugged terrain, native vegetation, native wildlife or include open areas with agricultural vistas.
- are lightly traveled local access roads, serving the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel by auto, bicycle, or hiking for purposes of recreational enjoyment.
- are not scheduled nor anticipated for major improvements which would change their rustic characteristics.
- are at least two miles long and often provide a completed closure or loop, or connect to major highways at both ends of the route.
A Rustic Road may be dirt, gravel or paved road. It may be one-way or two-way. It also may have bicycle or hiking paths adjacent to or incorporated in the roadway area.
The maximum speed limit on a Rustic Road has been established by law at 45 mph. A speed limit as low as 30 mph may be established by the local governing authority.
How do you know if it’s a Rustic Road?
Unique brown and yellow signs mark the routes of all officially-designated Rustic Roads. A small placard beneath the Rustic Roads sign identifies each Rustic Road by its numerical designation within the total statewide system.
Each Rustic Road is identified by a 1- to 3-digit number assigned by the Rustic Roads Board. To avoid confusion with the State Trunk Highway numbering, a letter “R” prefix is used such as R-50 or R-120. WisDOT pays the cost of furnishing and installing Rustic Roads marking signs.
There are 119 of these routes, spread throughout the state. When we see them, I’m always inclined to hop on and go for a short drive, just for the nostalgia of it. Some of them are less than one mile long, others travel a dozen or more miles, the majority seem to be between 5 and 10 miles.
Next time you’re going through Wisconsin, go online and find the Rustic Road guide in PDF form. And while you’re in the state take some time and step back a few years with a drive along some of our Rustic Roads. There’s nothing exciting about them. That’s the point. They serve as a reminder of a quieter and gentler time when neighbors were neighborly, and the pace of life invited conversation and frienship — not rushing around like a chicken with your head cut off.
We like ’em. I hope you do to.
Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow to chat.