A 1999 state law (Wisconsin Act 9) directed the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to develop and administer a state Scenic Byways program.
Currently, there are four state designated scenic byways:
River Road (WIS 35) between Prescott and Kieler;
the Lower Wisconsin
River Road (WIS 60) between Lodi and Prairie du Chien;
County Coastal Byway (WIS 42 & 57) circling the northern Door County
the newest route – the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway
(WIS 13) from US 2 to County H in northwest Wisconsin.
The scenic byway program is a cooperative effort between local communities and WisDOT to identify and promote state highway corridors with scenic and/or historical attributes that provide travelers an enjoyable visual, educational and recreational experience.
Wisconsin scenic byways should:
be part of the state highway system (a numbered state or federal highway other than an interstate) at least
30 miles long.
offer travelers outstanding scenic views or historic resources
combined with recreational and/or cultural attributes.
be initiated/supported by local groups and governments.
Anyone with an interest in their community and in promoting the area’s scenic,
historic, recreational and educational resources can participate in the Scenic Byways program.
Local organization is the key to success. Interested citizens are encouraged to form a local byway group that could include local business officials, community leaders and others. At least one local government sponsor is needed to apply for Scenic Byway designation.
This voluntary group could oversee the application process for scenic byway designation and (if the application is successful) serve a long-term function to
coordinate a byway’s promotional and enhancement efforts.
The Scenic Byways program is similar but separate from WisDOT’s Rustic Roads program. The Rustic Roads initiative provides local groups an opportunity to nominate local roadways as “Rustic Roads.” Typically, Rustic Roads are lightly-traveled town or county roads that offer bikers, hikers and other travelers a leisurely opportunity to see native terrain and wildlife in a rural setting.
In contrast, a scenic byway is a numbered state highway system route (other than interstate highways) at least 30 miles long that offers travelers numerous scenic and/or historical attributes whose promotion can serve to boost a region’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.