U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Pool 5 is located on a portion of the Upper Mississippi River Basin between Alma, Wisconsin at Lock and Dam #4 and Whitman, Minnesota at Lock and Dam #5. The project provides navigation for deep draft and towboats on the River system via the Corps of Engineers, Nine Foot Navigation Project. Local recreational boating and long-distance cruising facilitated by the lock and dam systems are popular activities along the waterway.
A COE recreation area is sited at Lock and Dam Site #5 at Mississippi River Mile 738.1, ten miles northwest of Winona, Minnesota. Lock and Dam #5 was completed in 1935 and underwent upgrading between 1987 and 1998 to ensure its continued effective and safe operation. The dam structure is a concrete 1619 foot structure with six roller gates and 28 tainter gates and an earth embankment 18000 feet long. The lock is 100 feet by 600 feet. The Lock and Dam Site # 5 has a parking area, observation platform, restrooms, and is open from April to November from dawn to dusk allowing visitors to observe the lock operations.
The project lands around Pool 5 are the location of several state parks including John A Latsch State Park, Merrick State Park, and numerous recreation areas and state natural areas. Abundant wildlife in the region attracts wildlife watchers, bird watchers, sports fishing enthusiasts, and hunters. Excellent bird watching opportunities are provided by migrating birds, waterfowl, and bald eagle populations in the region.
Other state parks in the region include Perrot State Park and Great River Bluffs State Park near Lock and Dam # 6.
Mississippi River Pool 5 is located between Lock and Dam #4 and Lock and Dam #5 on the Mississippi River. The Lock and Dam #5 site is on the Minnesota side of the river. You can access the recreation area and observation deck from US Highway 61, approximately 5 miles north of Minnesota City, Minnesota.
Merrick State Park in Wisconsin provides overnight camping in the area on the Wisconsin side of Pool #5. To get to the state park from the Lock and Dam # 5 site take Highway 61 south to Winona, then take Peltzer Street east. Peltzer Street curves southward becoming Riverview Drive and then Hurst drive. Turn left on 4th Street and then left again on Winona Street/Highway 43 to cross the river. Take Highway 35 north along the river to Merrick State Park Campground. Note, you will need a vehicle administration sticker to access Merrick Park.
All highways, the bridge, and access roads are well paved and wide enough to accommodate RVs and tow vehicles. Winter weather conditions in the region can be treacherous with icy conditions. Avoid traveling in inclement weather conditions with RVs and tow vehicles. When necessary, winter tires, chains, and reduced speed will improve traction and maneuverability on winter roads.
There are 65 individual campsites and a 50 person group campsite available at Merrick State park in three camping areas, the North Campground, South Campground, and Island Campground. Merrick State Park is located in the backwaters on the east side of Pool 5 of the Mississippi River and provides an excellent wilderness campground that is accessible for RVs and tow vehicles. The south campground is not always available for camping, as it is prone to flooding when water levels are high.
Activities at the park are supported by hiking trails, boat launches, canoe, and kayak rentals, a pet picnic area, (leashed pets only), and shore fishing sites. Boats can be moored at waterfront campsites. Amenities indulge an RV dump station, dumpsters and recycling station, showers, and flush toilets.
The north campground has 25 sites, 22 with electric hookups, and a site that is ADA accessible. The south campground has 35 sites with 28 waterfront sites on Fountain City Bay and access to the north campground shower building. The Island Campground has five walk-in tent sites, and the group tent site, on an island joined with the mainland by a road. The island has boat launches, vault toilets, a drinking water supply and a picnic area with a shelter.
The observation area at COE Lock and Dam #5 on the Mississippi River allows visitors to watch the operation of the lock which allows deep draft watercraft and towboats to access the pools north and south of the dam. Lock and Dam # 5 allows the passage of 12 million tons of cargo up and down the river, and up to 9000 recreational vessels use the lock annually. The observation platform is open from April to November from sunrise to sundown. Lock and Dam information can be found at Lock and Dam # 5 Mississippi River.
The Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, just across from Merrick State Park allows hunting during the appropriate season for deer and waterfowl. This refuge is located on what is referred to as the Mississippi Flyway which provides feeding and resting sites for multiple bird species on their annual fall migrations. Ensure you have appropriate state hunting licenses and permits, and follow safe hunting procedures to ensure a safe hunt for everyone.
John A Latsch State Park on the west side of Pool 5 is a popular location for snowshoers who can trek anywhere in the park or along the hiking trail when snow blankets the area. Hiking trails in Merrick State Park area, are also frequented by snow shoers and cross country skiers. Trails are not necessarily groomed during the winter months for snow sports, so snowshoers and skiers may find themselves breaking trail. Be prepared. Dress in layers that can be donned or shed as you cool off or heat up with activity.
Recreational boating on the Mississippi River is facilitated by the lock and dam system which allows the successful passage of recreational watercraft up and down the river. Cruising the river to enjoy the beautiful landscape, wilderness, and natural areas along the river banks, and to observe wildlife in the area is a popular pastime. A boat launch at Pool 5 is available near Lizzy Paul's Pond on the Wisconsin side of the river off of highway 35 allows access to Pool 5 and Merrick State Park has boat launches available.
Many visitors are attracted during the summer months to the excellent fishing in the Upper Mississippi River Basin at Pool 5. You can fish from the shoreline or from watercraft on the river, or try out the numerous tributaries, ponds, and lakes in the area that also provide excellent fishing. Be sure to have the appropriate state fishing license for the region you are fishing in. Species available in the river include walleye, bass, sauger, crappie, sunfish and catfish.
The state parks and wildlife refuges and forests along the river at Pool 5 have numerous informal and formal hiking trails to explore. At John A Latsch State Park, there is a half-mile trail leading up to Charity Bluff with an excellent river overlook. If you are camping at Merrick State Park, there are two miles of hiking trails in the park that wind along the river and provide views of the river and surrounding wilderness areas. Autumn is an excellent time for a hike with colorful fall foliage creating a beautiful backdrop.