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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide

A brilliant sun sets over a lake in Ozaukee.

In Travel & Visitors Guide

In 2005, "Money Magazine" ranked the Mequon-Thiensville area No. 19 on its "100 Best Places to Live."

In Travel & Visitors Guide

The Interurban Trail runs from the Milwaukee County-line to the Sheboygan County-line, connecting to Ozaukee County's parks and historic sites.

Ozaukee County rich in history, natural beauty and economics


The Milwaukee 7 was formed in September 2005 to create a regional, cooperative economic development platform for the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha and Washington. In this OnMilwaukee.com series, Gregg Hoffmann profiles each of the counties and highlights their unique attractions and appeal.

Ozaukee County is the smallest land area county in the State of Wisconsin, covering 235 sq. mi., but it is rich in history, natural beauty, economic opportunity and many other features.

You can see old Native American trails near Saukville and early settlers' cabins near Cedarburg. Located along 25 miles of the western shore of Lake Michigan, the county offers beautiful vistas of that Great Lake. The new bluff restoration project at Concordia University in Mequon will soon be considered an example for any on Lake Michigan to follow.

Mequon and other communities in the southern section of the county offer shopping, restaurants and cultural attractions that rival any of the suburbs in the Milwaukee 7 region. Additionally, communities like Port Washington, Grafton and Cedarburg have worked successfully to maintain their historic downtowns offering shopping and restaurants to tempt any Milwaukeean. Grafton is booming with the area's first Costco and other destination retail.

Ozaukee County was the 20th richest county in the nation according to the 1998 census and it has continued to prosper since then. The county experienced job growth of 139 percent over a 30-year period and has a median household income of around $75,000. Housing values rank higher than the state and national averages.

The county has done a great job of building on its past to establish the present and prepare for the future. For example, rich deposits of limestone and excellent fishing led to early development of quarries and harbors. Harrington Beach State Park in Belgium occupies the site of one of the original limestone quarries in the county. Stone removed from the quarry was shipped from a dock on the shore of Lake Michigan. Limestone deposits spawned another quarry and tall lime kilns in what became Lime Kiln Park in the Village of Grafton.

Steep bluffs along most of the county's coastline hindered access to the lake waters. The low laying topography of portions of Port Washington and Belgium led to the development of a harbor and permitted the fishing industry to flourish. The quarry dock in Belgium no longer exists; however, the harbor in Port Washington recently underwent significant improvements and the marina there is a great place to spend a day.

Early settlers carved trails through Ozaukee County, which became major transportation routes to other areas of the state. Two Indian trails met in an area that grew to become the Village of Saukville. The old Green Bay Road served as the primary pathway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. Numerous small communities grew along the original trail to support the travelers, including the unincorporated area known as Hamilton.

You can still find plenty of the "country" in Ozaukee County. Fertile ground, moderate temperatures and numerous small creeks and streams prompted development of agriculture and dairy farming. Octagonal and stone barns were commonplace throughout the county. Several remain standing today as evidence of this rich heritage.

The last covered bridge in Wisconsin is found in the Town of Cedarburg over Cedar Creek and remains as yet another reminder of the history and rural heritage of the county. It remains carefully preserved as further evidence of the heritage of the area.

If you have one day to spend in Ozaukee County, start at Upper Lake Park in Port Washington to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan from the high bluff. If it happens to be Fish Days weekend, you might never leave Port.

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