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Road Trippin' - Wisconsin River Road

Road Trippin' - Wisconsin River Road

Madison- In our month-long series, Road Trippin we highlighted great easy-to-travel-to spots in the badger state.  This week, we traveled to Wisconsins part of a national treasure, the Wisconsin River Road.

The entire river road runs nearly 2400 miles from the gulf of Mexico to Canada. We started our journey at the start of Wisconsin's River Road in Petosi, then made our way to Cassville and ended in Prairie du Chien.

In less than two hours from Madison you can start your river adventure.  Wisconsin's lead ore belt meets the Mississippi in Potosi. Miners and brewers built the town in the early 1800's. A town of a little more than 700, Potosi maintains deep roots in Wisconsin's brewery legacy.    

It's the town's 120 year brewery history that lured more than 150,000 people to the Potosi Brewery since it reopened as a museum and working brewery in 2008.

"Then they closed in 1972, the buildings were left to deteriorate, but a non-profit group was formed, the Petosi foundation, said Frank Fiorenza of The Petosi Brewery.  We restored this building and created something much larger than we had envisioned."

The brewery also hosts the National Brewery Museum, which Milwaukee and Saint Louis fought for, but a proud community built this piece of living history of not only a town, but a state's early beginnings.

Just a short distance up the river road, our tour guide, Frank showed us a jewel of the Upper Mississippi, Potosi Point.  The point is a national wildlife refuge, a bird watchers dream. More than 270 birds migrate through this major north-south flyway each year.

"When you come out and see this, it's quite remarkable, said Fiorenza.  If you want a piece of heaven, this is the place to be, right here."

We hit the road again, landing 20 minutes north in the little town of Cassville. It's home to Stonefield, the two-thousand acre country estate of Nelson Dewey, Wisconsin's first Governor. You can take tours of the completely restored first Governor's mansion. You can see the Governor's office and see how the state's first, first family lived.

On the grounds is a replica of a rural prairie town and the state agricultural museum where you can see the evolution of farm machinery and the role farming played in building the state.

"Actually Wisconsin was known for being a wheat state, said Dale Moore of Stonefield. In the late 1800's, being they over-farmed the land and ruined the facility in the soil, they had to find alternative farming so Wisconsin actually became the dairy state."

Leaving Cassville, a must-see is the spectacular Wyalusing State Park, where the mighty Mississippi meets the Wisconsin River.  The views are simply breathtaking.

W hop back on the river road and another 20 minutes north you hit Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin's second oldest city and the oldest community on the Upper Mississippi River.

Cross over to St. Feriole Island and you are transported to where American Indians lived for three- thousand years and French explorers settled in the late 1600's.  You can see the influence of fur trading at the state's first historic site, Villa Louis, the completely restored opulent estate of the Dousman family, early developers in the city.

We ended our river road tour in the most fitting way, a ride on the Mississippi in the middle of the of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  This is a prime eagle watching stretch. We saw a mom and two eaglets on our short trip.


You can cruise right out of Prairie du Chien on to your next river road destination. Its recommend to plan for time to really soak in the local scene.


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Road Trippin' - Wisconsin River Road

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