Day 230 – Great River Road, August 3, 2011
We traveled quite a few miles up the Great River Road
today. We started off with another hike
in Wyalusing State Park. It was a short
walk along the Bluff Trail that took us to Point View which overlooked the
Wisconsin River and Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River flows 2,348 miles from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to
the Gulf of Mexico. 15.8 million gallons
of water flow past this point on the Mississippi every minute. The Upper Mississippi (above St. Louis) has
29 dams and is home to 100 species of fish.
In addition, 175 million tons of material (40% grain) is shipped on its
waters annually. One barge carries 1,500
tons of material. To put that into
perspective, it would take sixty semi’s to do the same.
After enjoying the view of just an expanse of water, we
strolled beneath the trees and past the moss covered rocks to a pathway that
led through a large crevice where we reached a wooden ladder smoothed from
use. Petey promptly put on the brakes,
so I let him stare down at me as I descended the planks only to climb up
another ladder to Treasure Cave. By the
time we finished our short amble through numerous spider webs, I was drenched
We continued on through Prairie du Chien, one of the oldest
European settlements in Wisconsin and stopped at a roadside overlook for
another lovely view of Old Man River. As
the drive skirted the Mississippi to the west, high, tree-covered ridges
towered to the right. Eventually, we
reached La Crosse, which is often called the Gateway City due to its location
at the confluence of the Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse rivers. I was hoping to take a trip on a paddle boat,
but I missed the last 1:30 departure by a few minutes. I’m not sure if Petey would have been allowed
anyway. Instead, we walked around the
riverside park, watched a barge pass beneath the bridge and, of course, checked
for geocaches. We found one cache nailed
to a post in the open. Its contents were
secured with a padlock whose combination was included in the log post. That was a little different!
Outside of Trempealeau, we stopped at the Trempealeau
National Wildlife Refuge. I think I end
up at every refuge in the middle of the hot afternoon. Not the best time to view wildlife! We took a short drive along the gravel road
past marsh land, in the shade of tall trees, and past ancient sand dunes. The rolling sand prairie was formed when an
old route of the Trempealeau River deposited sand and silt along the flood
plain of the Mississippi River. Blowing
wind moved the sand into dunes and grasses established roots which stabilized
the dunes creating the present rolling terrain.
Further north we visited one of the 29 locks and dams in
Alma. No barges were coming through when
we were there, so we couldn’t see the locks at work, but the viewing platform
provided a nice look at all the mechanism.
Petey wasn’t too excited about climbing the grated stairs which took us
over the railroad tracks on a grated bridge to the viewing area.
We continued north through Pepin, a town near the birthplace
of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie. I attempted to find a replica of the log
cabin that immortalized in her frontier tales, but failed. Instead, we made a wayside stop at Maiden
Rock. According to legend, a lovelorn
Indian princess leapt off the cliff to avoid marrying the man her father had
chosen for her.
Our last stop in Wisconsin before crossing the Mississippi
to end the night in Hastings, Minnesota was in Prescott. We stopped at Freedom Park to witness the
blue waters of the St Croix River merge with the muddy waters of the
Mississippi. Sadly, I couldn’t tell a
difference…perhaps it was due to the glare from the afternoon sun. It was still a lovely view. The park was also home to a geocache, but it
was hidden down a steep embankment covered in waist high grass. I opted out, but did learn from the cache
description online that the park was the site where a bald eagle named Freedom
was released after being rehabilitated back to health by U of M Raptor
Center. Before his release, Freedom
participated in the 1981 ceremonies in Washington D.C. following the release of
the American hostages held by Iran.
Hastings had a Wal-Mart waiting for us for the evening. ETB