Wyalusing State Park – Wisconsin
Every year my wife and I attend a family reunion at Wyalusing State Park. This last week was the third year we’ve gone. It’s a great opportunity to spend time with family, play games, and relax. In years past we’ve tried to see more of the park while we were there, but we usually ran out of time. So this year we decided to spend a few days camping at the park before the reunion. We had a great time camping and had plenty of time to explore Wyalusing and the surrounding area.
A Brief History
Wyalusing State Park is located in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. It is positioned along a bluff that overlooks the meeting place of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. Wyalusing was one of the first state parks to be created in Wisconsin. There is a lot of history in this area for both native tribes and early euopean settlers. In fact, it is recorded that Father Marquette and Joliet discovered this area back in 1673. Evidence of Woodland Indians are visible throughout the park by the many mounds that are located in park and the surrounding area. The word “Wyalusing” is a word used by the Munsee-Delaware Indians meaning “home of the warrior.”
In addition to camping, there are a lot of things to do at Wyalusing.
Trails – There are 14 different trails totaling more than 22 miles. The hiking trails are all connected, so if you’re looking for a long hike, you’ll definitely have your options. There is also a bike trail, cross country ski trail, and a 6 mile canoe trail on the Mississippi.
Overlooks – There are plenty of great overlooks with breath taking views. Point overlook is the largest and has a great view of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. You can also see a trains passing by and a section of Prairie du Chien. A little further down the trail is Signal Point, which was my favorite. It faces a little more west than Point Lookout and it’s got some great rocks that you can sit on and just enjoy the scenery. Make sure you have your camera and binoculars with you.
Caves – Wyalusing also has several caves. The two that we were able to visit were Picture Rock Cave and Treasure Cave (Sand Cave is the third cave in the park, but were weren’t able to get to it this time). If you’re from Kentucky, these caves might be a huge disappointment, but if you enjoy neat rock formations, these are still worth a visit. Picture Rock Cave is a tall open wall that has a small stream of a waterfall falling off of it. If you follow the trail above the cave you’ll see some really neat rock formations along the path of the stream. Treasure Cave has a few steep stair cases that the park built. At first it appears to be a shallow opening in the side of a bluff, but as you go to the back, you’ll notice a small tunnel that goes for about 30 ft to a dead end (Arr! ‘Tis the perfect place to hide me treasure!).
Picnicking – There are a lot of picnic shelters throughout the park so even if you just want to relax and have a bite to eat on a nice day, you have some great options to choose from.
Bird Watching – Bird watching is also common in this park in the Spring. Wyalusing has one of the highest variety of bird species than any other park in the state. In fact, Wyalusing was just recently awarded the Gold Seal Award for Best Birding Trail by Friends of Wisconsin State Parks.
In Park Activities – Friends of Wyalusing State Park is an organization that helps the park and creates activities for the public. While we were there they were having their annual Spirits of the Past night. These activities are a great way to learn more about the park and meet other campers.
Spirits of the Past at Wyalusing
The Surrounding Area
The closest city to Wyalusing State Park is Prairie du Chien. Some points of interest for us in Prairie du Chien were:
La Riviere Park – this is a 300 acre farm that was donated to the city for the purpose of enjoyment of the natural habitat. It has several trails for hiking, biking, horse riding, and cross country skiing. It also accomidates camping for groups, boy scouts, and horse camping.
Fort Crawford Museum – with all the history in the area this is a great spot to get an overview of it all. It consists of 3 different buildings and over 50 exhibits.
St. Feriole Island / Villa Louis – this is an island in the Mississippi River that has a lot of beautiful parks and historic sites. Villa Louis is a Wisconsin State Historic Site that has several buildings with antique furnishings originally owned by Hercules Louis Dousman in the 1800′s.
There are two main campsites at Wyalusing: Homestead and Wisconsin Ridge. Both are very nice campsites, but for very different reasons.
Homestead consists of sites 201-255. Most of these sites are shady, grassy, and private. The thick brush between campsites (especially at sites 245-255) really make you feel like you’re in your own little campsite. If you’re looking for a quiet personal site, Homestead may be the way to go.
Wisconsin Ridge consists of sites 101-155 and is the place to go for an amazing view. This campsite is located along the edge of a bluff and if I haven’t already mentioned it, the view is incredible. With this in mind, not all the sites on Wisconsin Ridge have this amazing view. The best sites are on the outside of the loop starting with 119 and ending at 155 (142-155 are not reservable). These sites are usually the first to go. Even during the off season, it can be tough to get one. We lucked out. Originally we reserved site 118 which faces the forest and has good shade, but when we arrived the office told us that there were some cancellations and that we could pick a site along the ledge if we wanted. We made the switch in a heartbeat and ended up with what we thought was one of the best sites in the campsite, 127. Actually 125, 127, and 129 all have just amazing views of the valley. The only downside to these sites is that you pay the price for the view with the privacy and size of the sites. They are smaller although you should be able to fit a large tent in any of the sites and they are very open. There is hardly any brush or trees separating the campsites. However, that being said, for us it was a small price to pay for the great scenery.
Both campsites have shower houses, pit toilets, and drinking water. There is a nature center/concession stand at the end of the Wisconsin Ridge campsite.