On day two I had already filled my day along the road, yet it was still early, only mid morning. It was 10:30 am Sunday when I headed out of Afton State Park . I continued my trip along the West side of the St Croix River. I knew that the St Croix linked with the Mississippi River around Hastings, Minnesota. I had been there earlier in the Spring and had marked my map on the route I would take.
I was using my iPhone maps to tell me how to link up with the road that lead into Hastings. That was my first mistake, trusting my GPS and my electronic devise! I turned left when I knew I needed to turn right. Now I was on a busy roadway without a way to complete a “U Turn” safely. I continued in the direction I knew to be the Wisconsin border! OMG!
Suddenly, my eyes were delighted with a wonderful view of water to the left and to the right of me as I passed over the St Croix River where it actually meets the big muddy Mississippi River.
“Ok, this might not be so bad.” I thought but still not very happy that my “GPS bitch” now had me off track to where I actually wanted to go. Not that I have anything personal against the state of Wisconsin, I just wanted to go along the West side of the Mississippi River. Explore and adventure through the small Minnesota towns that line Hwy 61, on my route to Wabasha.
I pulled into a small construction site on the other side of the river pulled out the paper map and compared it with the GPS. Not trusting anything that now was on the small digital screen of my iPhone!
I was just on the outskirts of Prescott, Wisconsin. I could see there was a Great River Road Visitor Center located just about two miles from where I was sitting reviewing my options. I quickly decided that maybe I could have a look around. After that I could get back on the road towards the West side of the Mississippi River.
I really don’t know why this minor disruption irritated me so much, I had planned on taking this trip as it came to me, but the fact that it was a GPS that told me to turn left instead of right really put me into a bad mood. Plus the temperature had now started to climb to a nice 80F (27C) degrees. My fair skin and true Northern blood hates anything over 75F (24C) degrees.
I pulled into the town of Prescott and followed the signs to the Great River Road Visitor Center. Tucked off the main road and next to a really nice small city park high up on a bluff over looking the rivers it was the perfect stopping point to regroup.
Only I had gotten to the Visitor Center at 11:30 am! The center doesn’t open on Sunday until noon.
I climbed out of the car and walked around the facility and looked at the rivers from the bluffs. I found a nice moth that looked liked a leaf hanging out on the window. I also witnessed a strange activity by some of the people here. There were a people who seemed to be walking very slowly in a path around the center looking at their phones. Crazy! I am guessing they were trying to slave off the WIFI of the center as none of them looked above their screens while walking.
I found that this area also contained one of those Little Free Library houses which had a guest book and was well stocked with books that seemed just perfect for me. So instead of packing up the car and heading back on the road I picked a book and sat in the shade, read the book I had picked and waited for the center to open.
I was so glad I did! I was greeted by a friendly and very helpful visitor center staff member. Her name is Emily, who shared her knowledge of the River Road and told me that the drive on the Wisconsin side was actually very nice. After several minutes chatting with her I shared my blog site with her. I recently heard from her and now have a new follower!
Thanks Emily for all your help and hope you continue to enjoy our content.
After loading up on “free” brochures I started again on my trip, now on the East side of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.
I followed highway 35 down a flat river bed area that had wonderful bluffs to my right hand side. The river was not easy to see and a railroad line obstructed my view to the left but I passed through some small towns. Just outside of Hager City I turned back to the left and towards the Mississippi River to cross it again to be back on the Minnesota side.
The long bridge crossing was under construction but the views of the marshlands that the Mississippi River created between Wisconsin and Minnesota were breathtaking and had my mind thinking of all the possible canoe trips the hubby and I could take. Wishing he was along to share my excitement in this discovery but glad it wasn’t driving in the crazy construction zone which would make him nervous and perhaps a bit grumpy. (This is the part of the blog I am hoping he skips over… as I already can hear that discussion in my head!)
Now, back on track on the westside of the river I headed South along HWY 61 towards my destination of Wabasha.
I was determined to visit each Minnesota State Park along my route. Now another opportunity came as I approached Frontenac State Park. I arrived just after 1pm and was hungry as heck. I hadn’t stopped to eat and now the temperature was creeping towards 90F(32C)! I checked in at the park desk and checked out a birding packet. I have featured these wonderful free sign out items before on this site. A birding book, and binoculars with the list of park known birds.
As I headed towards the bluff parking lot, I was greeted by a tree full of vultures. Not my favorite bird but they do have a critical function in the eco system.
When I got to the parking lot and downed a peanut butter sandwich I found the views from this point spectacular! The river (now called Lake Pepin) below was wide and sparkled in the afternoon heat and sun. I could see small sail and motor boats making their way around the water and barges heading with heavy loads up and down the river to destinations unknown to me.
I walked along the hiking path along the bluff overlooking the river. The shade of the trees was welcoming as the heat was sweltering. Not many birds to find in this sort of heat but I did see a couple of cardinals and could view a group of about 50 pelicans on Lake Pepin through the binoculars.
Once I finished my visit and returned my birding packet, I drove the now short drive to Wabasha and checked into my Bed and Breakfast for the evening, Turning Waters.
What a welcome site at the end of a busy day adventuring on the road.
Here are a couple of fun facts to reflect on about the Mississippi River. These I found at the Great River Road Visitor Center in Prescott.
Next blog- Wabasha and on the road to camping/fly fishing at White Water State Park.
Have you travelled the Great River Road? Please share your experiences below with our readers. Found a special place along the route? We would love to hear about it. Made a GPS turn that ended up being pretty cool after all? Share it below.
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