Famous for its rugged, panoramic bluffs, Wyalusing State Park sits at the intersection of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. Originally named the Nelson Dewey State Park, this 100-year-old park is located in Grant County, and it occupies 2,700 acres in southwestern Wisconsin. With two campgrounds open year-round, Wyalusing State Park is one of the most picturesque RV destinations in Wisconsin.
If you visit Wyalusing in your camper during the spring, you will enjoy a beautiful floral display when the bluffs are in full bloom. Towering more than 500 feet above the river valley, these bluffs are a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to over 90 species of birds. With over 14 miles of hiking trails and seven miles of mountain biking trails, Wyalusing offers plenty of opportunities to explore nature.
Wyalusing State Park offers the unique opportunity to visit Native American Burial Mounds. A sacred piece of history, the burial mounds date back more than 3,000 years to the Woodland Indians. Hike one of Wyalusing’s nature trails to check out the deer and bear-shaped effigies, then head to Lookout Point to take in the spectacular sunset view. Wyalusing State Park is one-of-a-kind, and you may just find yourself coming back year after year.
Wyalusing State Park is located seven miles north of Bagley, WI, across the Mississippi River from the Iowa border. The route into the park is clearly marked, and the entrance will be on your right just a mile after you turn onto County Road X.
Within the park, it is possible to drive to most points of interest, and there is parking at each trailhead that is easily accessible. Be cautious when driving on Long Valley Road to the boat launch, as the road crosses a set of railroad tracks that run parallel to the river. Trains are fast and frequent at this intersection, so be sure to stop and listen before crossing the tracks.
If you brought your bike, be aware that the roads are quite narrow and heavily traveled. With steep downgrades and sharp corners, this is not a road for a casual bike ride. Watch carefully for traffic and wear a helmet, and be sure to fully move off the road when stopping to view wildlife and nature. Also, there are over seven miles of designated mountain bike trails centrally located in the park, including the Whitetail Meadows Trail and the Mississippi Ridge Trail. While on these trails, please give hikers the right-of-way.
While there is plenty of free and accessible parking throughout Wyalusing State Park, you will need to register your vehicle with the Wisconsin State Park System. This is easily done on their website, and you’ll find more information about fees and admission. After you have registered your vehicle, you will receive an annual sticker for your vehicle and can be on your way. If this is an impromptu RV trip, you are able to register and acquire your pass upon entry to the park.
Wyalusing State Park also holds a large hardwood forest, and, as a result, it is not very close to an urban center with public transportation. For this trip, you will need to rely solely on your camper or another vehicle to access the park.
If you prefer a bit more privacy, the pet-friendly Homestead Campground has larger, wooded sites, which offer excellent shade. This quiet campground is broken up into four loops that circle around the new, centrally located shower building. Campers rave that this is one of the best facilities they have ever seen at a campground. Of the 55 sites at Homestead, only nine are electric, and all electrical sites are non-reservable. Most sites have gravel pads featuring a picnic table and fire ring. If mobility is an issue, one site has been designated as an accessible campsite. The Homestead Campground is conveniently located close to the Visitor’s Center and dump station. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
For each site, there is a limit of six individuals, or a family and two guests. Only one wheeled camping unit is allowed per site, but additional tents are permitted as long as the limit of guests is not exceeded. Friends of Wyalusing State Park operate the Bluff Top concession stand from late-May until October. At the store, you can purchase firewood, grocery items, ice cream treats, and also rent canoes or kayaks. The store is located near the Wisconsin Ridge Campground.
As the most popular campground at Wyalusing State Park, the pet-friendly Wisconsin Ridge fills up quickly. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance, so make sure to reserve your site no later than early spring if you want to guarantee a coveted spot on the north ridge. These sites are smaller, less private, and non-electric, but they make up for it with their panoramic sunset view. Their size will accommodate a medium-sized RV, but larger campers will need to choose a site across the road, which still offers an excellent view. Out of the 55 campsites at Wisconsin Ridge, 22 are electric. You must set up your camper on the dirt camping pads provided and vehicles are not allowed on the grass. A picnic table and fire ring are available at your site as well.
Wisconsin Ridge has excellent bathroom and shower facilities. If you have mobility issues, an accessible site is available, and there is an accessible flush bathroom and shower nearby. The park’s basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts are located in the Wisconsin Ridge campground, as are the ball fields and playgrounds. This campground also has a water spigot for use in the winter, but shower facilities are not available during the winter months.
Similar to Homestead Campground, there is a limit of six individuals or a family and two guests at each site. Only one wheeled camping unit is allowed per site, but additional tents are permitted if the limit of guests is not exceeded. Located near the Wisconsin Ridge Campground, the Friends of Wyalusing State Park operate the Bluff Top concession stand during the peak season from late-May until October. At the store, you can purchase firewood, grocery items, ice cream treats, and also rent canoes and kayaks.
A select number of sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the pet-friendly Homestead Campground. In fact, each of the electrical sites are non-reservable, but if you are lucky enough to snag one of these spots you’ll enjoy camping in a shady forest setting. Most sites have gravel pads, featuring a picnic table and fire ring. You will have convenient access to restrooms and showers, and the water fountains and a dump station are nearby as well. Plus, you can easily head on out to the hiking trails from this campground, including the Turkey Hollow Trail. The Visitor Center is also a short walk away.
There are a limited number of non-reservable sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. You’ll still be able to enjoy all the wonderful amenities at the pet-friendly Wisconsin Ridge Campground. Several of the sites provide electricity access, and most of them offer beautiful riverfront views. Most sites have gravel pads, featuring a picnic table and fire ring. You’ll be close to all the fun at the volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts. If you are camping with kids, they will love a trip to the playground or ball fields nearby. You’ll also be close to the Nature Center and hiking trails during your stay.
Restrooms and showers are easily accessed from this campsite, but the dump station is located by the Homestead Campground. Also, a concession stand is open during the summer months to fill up on snacks and drinks.
Due to the competitive nature of reserving spots or snagging the first-come, first-served sites, you might have to look outside of the Wyalusing State Park for camping locations. Luckily, there are plenty of parks and waterways that provide an abundance of beautiful locations to check out. Not too far from Wyalusing State Park and on the other side of the Mississippi River is Pike’s Peak State Park in Iowa. Pike’s Peak sits atop a 500-foot bluff and is a local attraction due to its historical significance to the region. The peak season for Pike’s Peak runs from May to mid-October, so be sure to make your online reservation well in advance.
If you’re looking for more adventure or you want a bit of a challenge, the Frenchtown County Park and Primitive Campground is only a short drive away. This is not a campground for amateurs, and it does not have access to electricity or shower facilities. The Frenchtown site is a unique setting with three primitive sites along the Mississippi River, and it does provide boat access to the river.
Love watching the stars? Wyalusing State Park is home to the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center. The Starsplitters, a group of amateur astronomers, offer free public programs and telescope viewing experiences at the center in the summer and fall. Join them for a “Star Party” to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. You can bring your own binoculars or telescope, although they do have some to share.
Keep in mind that the park sits in a great location to watch the seasonal meteor showers because of the limited light pollution in the area. Be sure to check out the calendar for more information on the lunar cycle and other astronomy phenomena. You could also attend their monthly “Lunatics” presentation, which is an advanced astronomy discussion. If you attend one of their gatherings, please refrain from using a flashlight or cell phone, but rather use a red light that does not pollute the night sky.
Wyalusing is a beautiful place to visit in the winter, too! With a variety of groomed trails, the park is a great place to view wildlife while you cross-country ski. The two-mile Turkey Hollow trail passes through open fields, an oak forest, and a pine plantation. As you can guess from its name, you might even ski past a turkey! This is a more challenging route with several hills, so only attempt it if you are an experienced skier. A longer, but easier, route is the three-mile Whitetail Meadows Trail, which follows the edge of the woods. If you aren’t looking to cross-country ski, take the opportunity to bring sleds to the hills on Turkey Hollow Trail and enjoy sledding down the hills in the snow.
Voted the state park with the best birding trails and best eagle watching, Wyalusing is a bird watcher’s paradise. During the spring and fall migration, Wyalusing is home to over 100 species of birds. Visit the park in late May or June to catch sight of the endangered Henslow’s Sparrow and the rare Yellow-throated Warbler. In addition to these elusive birds, you may also encounter turkey vultures, great horned owls, or red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks. Bald eagles are also commonly seen year-round, soaring on the air currents above the Mississippi River. Park the camper and hike one of the bluff trails for the chance to catch sight of these majestic birds.
In partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyalusing State Park maintains a scenic canoe trail through the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Come paddle through this well-marked trail where you may spot a great blue heron, egret, a muskrat, or a barred owl. The canoe trail begins to the right of the boat landing, and you can choose to follow the southern or northern route.
If you want to make a loop and canoe in the main channel of the Mississippi, plan to paddle it downstream and stay close to shore as there may be strong currents and large watercraft. Bring your own canoe or kayak in your rig, or you can rent one at the concession stand. Keep in mind that rentals are not allowed in the main channel of the river. Also, please note that each person must have a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket without exception.
Scattered throughout Wyalusing State Park are 64 burial mounds left by the Woodland Indians, some of which date back 3,000 years. Please be careful not to walk on the mounds in order to preserve these sacred pieces of history for future generations. These burial sites have a variety of forms, including dome-shaped, conical, effigy, or linear mounds. Near the main picnic area, you will find two bear-shaped effigies and in Spook Hill you can see two deer-shaped mounds.
While touring the sacred mounds, make sure you check out the Sentinal Ridge Mounds, Procession of the Mounds, Wabasso Ridge Mounds, and Spook Hill Mounds. If you use a mobility device, the half-mile Sentinal Ridge Trail loop offers a wide, level pathway with improved accessibility from which to view burial mounds. Make sure you take the time to read the interpretive signs for more information on the history of this area, the mounds, and the Native American communities in the region. Not only is this a great educational activity, but this will help you appreciate the rich culture and history the park holds.
With over 14 miles of trails, Wyalusing State Park offers some of the best hiking in Wisconsin and you’ll want to explore as much of this terrain as possible during your RV trip. During the fall season, you’ll see a beautiful display of color as the foliage prepares for winter, and you can observe a full bloom during spring as the forest wakes back up from the cold Wisconsin winters. Starting from Point Lookout, the Bluff Trail is a favorite among campers. Re-opened in 2017, this short trail passes by “The Keyhole,” where you can try to find the profile of the “Guardian of the Treasure” carved in the rock.
The trail then follows a side trail to Treasure Cave, which is one of four caves in the park. The Mississippi Trail is a 3.5-mile loop that follows the upper ridge of the Mississippi River. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view when you reach Henneger Point. On your return, the trail follows Cathedral Tree Drive, where you will have the chance to visit the Spook Hill Burial Mounds. Please note, the Sugar Maple Nature Trail is one of the few areas in the park where pets are not allowed.