Pack Your Snacks – Parks Along the WI Great River Road
One thing visitors along the Wisconsin Great River Road will surely notice, is that there’s a lot of space. Plenty of room to get outdoors and enjoy yourself in the natural playground of its parks. Hiking trails, water trails, biking trails, even equestrian trails abound. The people of Western Wisconsin love to get outdoors, and they’ve advocated for many natural spaces to be persevered and enjoyed.
The picnic is packed and the hiking boots laced up, but with so many opportunities at your fingertips, it can be tough to decide where to go. We found a few that the locals might just point you to, if you had the opportunity to ask.
This region of Wisconsin was once home to the Mississippian people whose major city of Cahokia was further south in Illinois. But the Cahokian culture spread far along the Mississippi River and remnants of that culture can be found in Trempealeau, Wisconsin. The Little Bluff Mounds Interpretive Trail takes you from the streets of Trempealeau up the bluff and deep into the history of the region. Learn about the three temple mounds at the top of the bluff and enjoy the beautiful view of the Mississippi River.
Rush Creek is best known for its goat prairie’s and spectacular views of the Mississippi River valley. Goat prairies are steep, rocky prairies found on bluffs in the Driftless Region. The prairies are getting harder to find and you’ll see rare species of plants and animals. Watch for the Racerunner lizard and other species reliant on the conservation of these prairies. Wildflower explosions in the spring and summer bring their delicate colors to this Natural Area, making it a great time to visit. You’ll find a steep climb to the top of the bluff, but the expansive view is quite the reward.
Duck Egg – Viroqua, WI
Duck Egg County Forest is over 700 acres of outdoor recreation bisected by a deep valley carved out by a branch of the Bad Axe River. The Forest is open for public hunting and trout fishing, but the reason most people visit is the hiking trails. Expect to be sharing the trails with local horse riders, and to be enjoying primarily forested land. However, you will come across a lookout point on the Duck Egg Trail. The ten miles of trails are considered easy to moderate hiking, but be prepared to get wet feet as you may be crossing a river at a few points.
Nugget Lake – Plum City, WI
At Nugget Lake County Park you will find one of Wisconsin’s highest concentrations of the Snow Trillium. A rare plant that blooms in March when snow still threatens. The park is clean, quiet and has the feeling of being secluded. No motorized boats are allowed on the small lake and the campground doesn’t allow 4-wheelers. Kayaking, hiking, fishing are all popular pastimes here, but a particularly fun thing to do is to try your hand at prospecting. Doing some gold panning is where Nugget Lake got its name. People still bring their pans and sift through the nearby stream to find a flake or two of gold.