June 13-17, 2012 – Winona, MN
We left Wisconsin Dells on Wednesday morning and drove across Southwestern Wisconsin. We crossed the Mississippi River at La Crosse, WI and headed into Minnesota. The state line between Wisconsin and Minnesota runs along the main channel of the Mississippi. We are staying at the Pla-Mor Campground in Winona, MN across the road from the Mississippi River.
After visiting the Visitor Center in Winona we drove to the Garvin Heights Overlook on a bluff above the town. We got a great view of the town of Winona with Winona Lake in the foreground and the Mississippi River behind the town.
We then drove to the small town of Pickwick and toured the Pickwick Mill. The mill was built between 1856 and 1858. It is 6 stories (there are 2 stories below ground level) and measures 60 feet by 45 feet. The exterior of the mill is constructed of local limestone.
The craftsmanship on the interior of the mill is remarkable. The locally cut and sawn timbers are notched and pieced into place. Nails were used only in the floor.
In its prime the mill produced over 100 barrels of flour a day. At times the farmers and their teams and wagons would be lined up for a mile down the road waiting to unload at the mill. The mill kept up with changes in technology and produced flour and/or livestock feed continuously until 1978 – 120 years!
We always enjoy visiting old mills like this!
We took the kayaks to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and paddled on the Halfmoon Landing Canoe Trail. This was a really nice paddle in the backwaters of the Mississippi River.
After paddling calm water for a while we had to paddle against a strong current in Murphy’s Cut where it flowed into the main channel of the Mississippi. The Mississippi sure looks big from the seat of a kayak!
We do believe this is the biggest river we will ever kayak – luckily we were going downriver and didn’t have to fight the current.
After a short time on the main channel of the Mississippi, we headed back into the calmer backwaters. We saw a few Blue Herons and a Bald Eagle was flying around above us, but we mostly saw turtles.
We heard a rustling in the weeds and a deer poked its head out and watched us float by. Can you see the deer hidden in the weeds in the center of this picture?
We had a great time on this 4.8 mile trail despite the temperature in the mid 80’s with 60% humidity! When we bought the kayaks last year we never dreamed we would kayak on the Mississippi River!
Saturday was overcast and rain was forecast so we took a drive on The Great River Road – a scenic byway that runs along both sides of the Mississippi. We started out by crossing the bridge in La Crosse and driving up river on the Wisconsin side. We stopped at Lock and Dam No. 6 in Trempealeau. To keep the river channel at 9 feet or deeper for commercial navigation, the US Army Corp of Engineers started the Lock and Dam project in 1931. Today there are a total of 29 locks and dams between Minneapolis, MN and Alton, IL. A 6-barge tow came through the lock while we were watching. This tow just fit into the lock.
Each barge on this tow can haul 1500 tons or 52,500 bushels or 453,600 gallons, which is the equivalent of 58 large semi trucks. That means this tow is hauling the equivalent of what 348 semi trucks can haul.
We stopped at the Buena Vista Park Overlook in Alma and were treated to a great view of the river. The overlook is 500 feet above the river.
We also got a good view of Lock and Dam No. 4. We found a really great little BBQ restaurant in Alma right next to the lock. We had some great BBQ and the best potato pancakes for lunch.
We also stopped at the maiden Rock Winery & Cidery in Stockholm and bought some great raspberry wine and hard cider.
At Hager City we crossed the river again the headed downriver in Minnesota. We stopped in Wabasha – if you watched the Grumpy Old Men movies then you know the movies took place in Wabasha, MI. Well, we just happened to run into a couple of grumpy old men – now there are 3 grumpy old men!
We ended in Winona and really enjoyed the drive and beautiful scenery.
Sunday, Fathers Day, was clear and sunny so we drove to La Crosse, WI and took a cruise on the La Crosse Queen Riverboat. This was a real stern wheeler that was propelled by the paddle wheel.
Shortly after leaving the dock we came to this swinging railroad bridge. We got to watch a train cross the bridge before we got to it. As we approached the bridge it swung open so we could pass by.
We saw a number of Bald Eagles – this one posed perfectly for this picture.
We also saw lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs. We count 8 on this log, but we saw one log that had 21 turtles on it.
Our boat went through Lock No. 7 where the water was raised 6 to 10 feet.
After passing through Lock No. 7 we turned around and went through it again on our way back to La Crosse. We had a great cruise and the weather was perfect – this is the first sunny day we have had in a couple of weeks.
We had a really nice time here along the Mississippi River but we are anxious to head West where it is less humid.