Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wisconsin Travels: Traveling Along the Wisconsin Mississippi Byway

Disclaimer:  I apologize for the quality of the following pictures, but most of the photos were taken from behind a fly-stained window in a moving vehicle on a cloudy day.  As the passenger, I had little say about when we could stop to snap photos, but this probably was for the better as I don't think that I would have made it home.  Almost overwhelming, the plethora of scenic views and historical stops could provide a month's worth of entertainment for any nature-loving enthusiast, photographer, history-buff, or adventurer.  Like most of Wisconsin, the nature along this drive captures your heart, seduces your eyes, and replenishes your soul.    

As you drive south from the bustling college town of La Crosse, Wisconsin on Highway 35, you find yourself surrounded by spectacular scenery and landscapes all around.  From the grand ol' Mississippi River flowing on the right to the forested rock formations adorning the peaks to the left, your thirst for natural beauty will sure be quenched while on this drive.  Between the trees and rock formations, you will occasionally pass through small towns, all boasting unique charms.  Some towns lay among the trees while others are built into the cliffs, leaving you to only imagine how grand it must be waking up every morning with a mountain in your backyard.  You'll notice magazine-worthy tree-covered roads rising into unknown destinations within the cliffs, the trees draping over like canopies and sheltering the turns.  With multiple bars, one or two mom-and-pop restaurants, and small, all-purpose convenience stores, the smaller, unincorporated towns definitely have an-off-the-beaten-path feel, so don't expect fine dining establishments and Walmarts on most of your drive.  However, being exposed to the stunning environment helps you realize that life surely has more to it beyond our smartphones and flat-screen TVs, and maybe most of us live more extravagantly than we need to be anyway.  Back from my tangent, these towns really are cute with their interesting and sometimes mystical aesthetic that is a blend somewhere between typical country living and old-fashioned western town (it was the west at one point in American history after all!).  If given the privilege of driving this road once again, I would take the opportunity to drive off the main thoroughway into the actual streets of the different towns in order to get a better glimpse of the architecture and history as you'll find buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.    

While Wisconsin's terrain is relatively rolling, the cliffs that shield the rest of the state from the Mississippi River are jaw-dropping.  If you've been to Wisconsin Dells, imagine those towering sandstone cliffs puffed up on steroids - that is what these rocky cliffs look like.  With bluffs literally standing right next to your car at some points, it is not hard to picture glaciers cutting through the sediment down the Mississippi.  At some points along the way, there are working quarries digging into the rock, giving you the opportunity to see the layers of beauty shaping the interior of these cliffs.  Most of the bluffs are covered with trees, but there are patches of exposed rock protruding from the thick forests.  Some of the bluffs almost look like castle ruins or animal shapes, so for those of you with children or those with youthful hearts, make a game out of figuring out what these rocks resemble.  All in all, each bluff is as beautiful as the last one and you won't get tired of witnessing their majestic magnitude.    

For most of your trip, you will drive parallel to the Mississippi River.  Multiple campgrounds, boat landings, and preserved natural parks along the way give you a chance to turn off and stop at viewing areas that lead up to the waterfront.  
Keep your eyes open for the brown recreational signs (there are many!) that direct you to these locations.  
Not only does the Mississippi River draw you to gaze at the flowing current and forest-laden coastline, but the river-spanning dams and old power plants also remind you just how important and powerful the river is.  
With all the history that the Mississippi River has to offer, you will find historical markers and landmarks lining the riverbed.  Some other interesting points you'll pass include an old brewery, small museums, a fish hatchery, rustic roads, and even an old-world working farm village.  I did not get a chance to read these signs or visit these landmarks, but hopefully I'll be able to return and learn more about the history of the Mississippi-waterfront Wisconsin towns one day. 
After passing through the larger town of Prairie du Chien, Highway 35 veers east away from the Mississippi.  All you need to do is follow the green and white "great river road" signs that lead you to the byway that travels alongside the river.  The roads leading to the byway twist and wind through forests and farmland, making them just as captivating as the road along the river. 

As a devoted Wisconsin enthusiast, I may be biased in my praise of the various views and attractions that this state has to offer, but this trip down Wisconsin's Great River Road is truly a fascinating route that lets you experience the magic of Wisconsin's natural beauty.  I highly recommend that you dedicate time to travel these roads one day, stopping every once in awhile to learn and explore.  You'll come away from the journey feeling refreshed and relaxed.  Perhaps you'll even feel appreciative and a tad bit mystified by the environment's splendid glory.  

No comments:

Post a Comment