Perrot State Park – Wisconsin
A couple of weeks ago was our last camping trip of the year. Yes, I realize we could still go camping in November or December, but I’m out of vacation time and the holidays are fast approaching. Not to mention the cold Wisconsin weather! And speaking of the cold weather, I will be doing a separate post about camping in the cold because it does require extra preparation. For this trip it got down into the low 30′s for a couple of the nights. It reminded me of the importance of having a warm sleeping bag and a large bladder! I will post a few other issues we ran into on this trip after the review of the park.
Actually, Perrot State Park has a really neat history about how it became a park. In the late 1800′s, there was a man by the name of John A. Latsch who was a wealthy grocer and retailer in Minnesota. He was a hard worker, but also a solitary man and he enjoyed escaping to the wilderness and the Mississippi River to get away once in a while. His interest in land extended from an experience that happened to him while he was canoeing on the Mississippi River. At this time, most of the land bordering the river was privately owned and if someone on the river needed to make a stop, they were usually welcome to come up on the shore. One day, Latsch was caught in a storm on the Mississippi River. He came ashore for safety and to let the storm pass. When he got on land he was met by the property owner who had a shotgun in his hand and ordered Latsch to get off his land. He was forced to get back on the river during the storm. After that incident, Latsch began a campaign to purchase as much of the riverbank along the Mississippi as he could. His intention was to make it so that no one would ever be denied a safe landing on shore again. By the time Latsch passed away in 1934 he had purchased more than 18,000 acres of bluff land on both sides of the river. Latsch had became a conservationist and donated much of his acquired land to the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This was a key transaction for creating four beautiful state parks: John A Latsch, Whitewater, Merrick, and Perrot. The parks name comes from Nicholas Perrot, a French fur trader who set up camp in this area in 1686.
Hiking – There are 12.5 miles of hiking trails and 9 miles of cross country ski trails. We hiked Bay Trail which is an easy terrain. It is actually a cross country ski trail. It has nice views of Trempealeau Bay. If you are looking for a long hike, park at the maintenance shop and take the Du Chute trail. This trail is for skiing and hiking and is a very nice wooded trail that connects with several other trails in the park. Go as long as you like, but just remember which turns you made and where. If you come to the park for a spectacular view, Brady’s Bluff is a must. We hiked the west trail which isn’t very long in distance (about half mile), but the terrain is very steep. As with most scenic overlooks, you will be hiking up most of the time on this trail so watch your step. There are places to rest along the way and the trail is very well marked. At the top is a small shelter and a wonderful view of the Mississippi and the Trempealeau Bay. This was my favorite hike.
Paddling – Perrot has a 3.4 mile canoe trail. It looked very inviting, but we just didn’t have time to do it. The great part about this trail is that it is in the Trempealeau Bay and well marked. If canoeing/kayaking in the Mississippi seems too big for you, than this is the trail to take. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the park.
Biking – To conserve the land, most bike trails in the park have closed. However, nearby is the Great River State Trail. This is a 24 mile trail that was converted from a rail line. It is also part of the Bike 4 Trails route. This is a connection of four major bike trails that result in over 100 miles of continuous trails.
With 102 campsites at this park, you will have your pick as to which site works the best for your situation. The sites are in a well forested area that changes to pine at the very north of the circle (sites 87 – 95). The sites along the Bay are very nice and cost a little extra (sites 36 – 47). Most sites have brush and trees that surround them, but it is still fairly easy to see who your neighbor is. There are several group sites, including what looks to be four new hike-to sites. They have new fire rings and grills and they look very nice. There are also carts to haul your gear to the campsite. Wood and ice are sold on site. There are two flush toilet houses and one of them is also a shower house.
Our Experience at the Park
Overall we had a good time. We came in on a Friday afternoon and there were still plenty of sites available. We chose #44 because of the nice view of the bay. It has its own little half circle driveway and it is pretty well secluded from other sites. After taking a look at all the sites of this campground, I voted site #43 to be the best site. It is also on the bay, has an even better view than our site had, and it had more privacy. Plus, it is right next to the shower house, but that did not make much of a difference while we were there because it was closed due to the colder weather.
The Good – The campsite was private with a good view. It was definitely large enough for a large tent. Although there were a lot of campers present while we were there, they were spread out enough that we were still able to enjoy the quiet of the park. There is plenty of hiking at the park and several bluffs to climb. The Nature Center offers some great information about the history of the area.
The Bad – This is not the fault of the park, but the first morning we were there was the first day of duck hunting season. Trempealeau Bay is a prime area for waterfowl and we were camping right on the edge of it. So every morning at 7am we would awake to what sounded like fireworks going off right outside our tent! Not the best way to wake up in my opinion. Although, there was nothing we could do about it, we might have thought twice about taking a waterfront site had we known this. Keep this in mind if you will be camping here in October. The only other downside to the park was the lack of firewood. The park sold firewood, but it cost $4 for a small bundle that was hardly enough to create a cooking fire. We drove around the surrounding area seeking out a local that would sell firewood, but could not find one ANYWHERE! The best we found was at a gas station and that wasn’t much better than what the park had. Keep in mind that in Wisconsin, you cannot bring in your own wood, unless you bought it in the state and within a 50 mile radius of the park. As it was pretty cold while we were there, we spent more money that we would have liked to cook our meals and keep ourselves warm.
Would we come back? – Definitely. The bluffs along the Mississippi are always a treat and to see the changing colors in the fall makes it even more worth a visit. When we get back to this area, I would like to do some kayaking. As I mentioned before, the canoe trail looked very inviting. I would also like to climb some of the other bluffs that we did not get time to see. In addition to spending some more time in the park, I would also like to explore the surrounding area.