Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Scenic Drives- Wisconsin's Great River Road

Larger than life-size fiberglass fish along the route

We had a long weekend due to the holidays and decided to take the scenic route along the Mississippi river from LaCrosse, WI to Prescott, WI.  This great river road, as it is called, runs along both sides of the Mississippi so you could alternatively take the Minnesota side and get a different view point.  We did that in fall several years ago.  It runs through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  There is a map designed to take you through all the scenic points which you can get at experience mississippi river or pick up along the route.  There are also  Facebook pages for the Great River Road and just the Wisconsin Great River Road.  It's worth it to take a look at the Facebook pages for up to the minute information.  We even downloaded a free audio tour to use as we drove so we could get a bit of history about the towns along the route.

Our main reason in driving this tour was to see eagles.  We've heard stories about how hundreds of eagles gather at the open spots on the river during winter and it's possible to see them fishing from closer up than you might imagine. There are several places where the water stays open due to dams.  We stopped at Alma, where they have a viewing platform on a business dedicated to viewing birds at Wings Over Alma.  We arrived near sunset and had missed the bulk of the eagles for the day, but we did manage to see about 6 as they flew right in front of the building.  The only down side is that this is on a very busy rail route and the very long trains pass directly in between you and the eagles.  We've heard that earlier in the day, you can see as many as 75 at a time.  What a magnificent sight it must be.
Eagle flying near the dam in Alma
There are also scenic bluffs and wildlife that can be seen year round.  The river is naturally an attraction for many kinds of birds.  In fall, you can see the Tundra swans as they rest on their journey southward. If you have an interest in birding along the route, use this link for birdwatching.  And don't pass by the manmade attractions without a look.  Loved the fiberglass fish shown above!  There are plenty of creative pieces of artwork out there waiting to be explored!

There's a great book from National Geographic, called Drives of a Lifetime.  Sometimes you'll be surprised by what is in your very own back yard.  You can use this book to plan destinations far and wide, but in our case, there are 4 right here in Wisconsin.  Use the index at the back of this book where you can find drives divided by location.  I've already done at least portions of the others listed- Door County, Lake Superior, and the Kettle Moraine.  You can read about those road trips I made by clicking on those blog links.  Now we plan to do the Great Ocean road when we visit Australia later this month.  So many fine places to see in the world!

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