Friday, July 17, 2015

Camping, Hiking, and Paddling at Wyalusing State Park

After enjoying a work-free, blog-free July 4th hiatus from life complete with hotel rooms, a parade, fireworks, a water ski show, a stroll on the Bearskin Trail, restaurants, and a day paddle in the National Highland American Legion State Forest we felt ready to escape the crowds and get back into the outdoors. We decided to check out the little canoe trail at Wyalusing State Park. After a quick web search we learned walk-in campsites were available. We loaded up the car and off we went, with the Mississippi River on our minds and Subway sandwiches in our bellies.

Located at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, Wyalusing State Park contains about 14 miles (22.5 km) of hiking trails, with two doubling as bike trails. Several of the trails are groomed for cross country skiing in the winter. There are picnic areas and a boat launch with a nice pier for fishing if you don't care for boating. Although the park is on the water, there is no beach at the park, and I do not recommend trying to swim in the turbid water at the boat landing. Other park amenities include tennis and basketball courts, a volley ball net, and a concession stand. Every second week a Saturday evening astronomy program is provided by volunteers. Several small playgrounds are scattered throughout the park near the camping areas.

View of the Mississippi Rive from Henneger Point.

On this trip I enjoyed an easy walk from the Homestead Campground to the Turkey Hollow (2.3 mile / 3.7 km loop) and Mississippi Ridge Trails (3.6 miles / 5.8 km out and back). The abundance of prairie and other wildflowers, along with hummingbird sightings enhanced the hike. After reaching the end of the Mississippi Ridge Trail, all the while expecting but not finding a nice view of the river, I particularly enjoyed finding the Henneger Point picnic area. It's view overlooking the Mississippi River made the walk worth while. The memorial to Rick Henneger, the DNR attorney responsible for legal advice on transactions involving 89% of the total dollars spent acquiring land for conservation purposes since 1876, commemorates a fantastic legacy. What will you and I leave behind at the end of our life's work?

Wildflowers on the Mississippi Ridge Trail.

Wildflowers on the Mississippi Ridge Trail.

Henneger Point.

Wildflowers on the Bluff Trail.

With the family, I enjoyed a short hike on the 0.2 mile (0.3 km) Bluff Trail to several lookout points and Treasure Cave. The Bluff Trail provides easily accessible views overlooking the Wisconsin River. The hike to the cave, although short, does require care due to climbing steep stairs and staying on trail to avoid a fall.

The Keyhole.

Stairs to Treasure Cave.

Bluff Trail.

Although we expected it to be a wee bit longer based on the park literature and internet information, the 5.1 mile (8.2 km) paddle through the river sloughs, onto the Mississippi and back reigns the highlight of the weekend. The beautiful water, overcast skies, and abundance of songbirds, herons, eagles, and other wildlife created the perfect morning for a paddle. The route through the sloughs is well signed, while the portion on the Mississippi River and the return entry back into the sloughs is not signed.

Signage along the canoe trail.

Paddling trough the sloughs.


Paddling on the Mississippi River.

The Canoe Trail Through the Sloughs and on the Mississippi River.

This park is not without the usual park pests. Although we did see bats, and surely the bats helped, the mosquitoes pestered. Then, a racoon showed up mid afternoon not at all disturbed with being so close to me on our site and not willing to budge when I hollered at it, although it did skedaddle when my husband came along. The point of all of this? Arrive prepared to keep a clean camp and fight off a few mosquitoes.

Yummy berries near the Homestead Campground.

Although the family felt a bit disappointed with size of our campsite, we had a nice weekend. With our new found knowledge of the campgrounds at the park, we'll be certain to select a larger and more wooded campsite on our next visit, as are found among the sites in the Homestead Campground. This campground lacks modern facilities and does not have flush toilets. The Wisconsin Ridge campground has tiny, closely adjoining, non-wooded campsites, but makes up for it with it's views overlooking the Wisconsin River and proximity to conveniences such as flush toilets, a concession stand, and nicely maintained showers. Personally, I prefer to put up with the vault toilets and enjoy the increased privacy and larger wooded sites in the Homestead Campground.

View overlooking the Wisconsin River from the Bluff Trail


Meal:                           Food:
Snacks                           Granola Bars, Beef Jerky, Marshmallows for Roasting, Pudgie Pies
Breakfasts                     Oatmeal, Bananas, Bacon, Eggs, Toast
Lunch                            Brats, Grapes, Carrot Sticks
Dinner                           Grilled Ham and Cheese, Carrot Sticks, Apples

Wyalusing State Park is located at 13801 State Park Ln, Bagley, WI 53801 near Prairie du Chien. The usual Wisconsin State Park entry and camping fees apply. The entry fee is $25 annually for in state residents and $35 annually for out of state residents. Day passes are also available at a lower rate. Camping is $12 daily.

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