When the Wisconsin River meets the Mighty Mississippi - Ol’ Man River

January 20, 2012

Living on Wausau’s northeast side, the Wisconsin River flows by just down the street a bit. She’s a beauty in my book. I’ve done a story about my visit to the source of the Wisconsin River up in Lac Vieux Desert in Vilas County in the far north country. I have visited where she flows into the Might Mississippi River, also known as Ol’ Man River, far to the southeast near Prairie du Chien.

I have visited the embrace of the two rivers twice, once in winter viewed mostly from the Iowa side, and once in summer viewed from the Wisconsin side. It’s a fabulous sight no matter how you do it.

Let’s start with the winter view from the Iowa side.

To do this, you can cross the Mississippi on US 18 from Prairie du Chien to Marquette, Iowa, then hook a left on the McGregor Road to Pike’s Peak, drive up to the park there and look at where the two rivers meet.

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Just as a quick introduction, you are looking upstream shortly after passing into Crawford County from neighboring Richland. It was windy, cold and the Wisconsin River’s current was swift.

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Because of the currents and the river’s path, you see a pretty good sized ice buildup.

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By this time I had found my ay to Pike’s Peak in Iowa. The river in the center is the Wisconsin. To the left is Crawford County, to the right, Grant County. I think, but am not sure, that the water in the lower left quadrant is the Mississippi. You can see the Wisconsin River twisting to the right where it will meet the Mississippi.

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That is the Mississippi River flowing left to right, roughly north to south, with Prairie du Chien upstream a bit out of the photo. The ridgeline you see is in Grant County, Crawford County again to the left, and the Wisconsin completing her mission and meeting up with the Mighty Mississippi.

In the gee whiz column, on the right side of the upper left quadrant, you can see a dark speck against the clouds. That is an eagle. This spot is known for eagle watching. They are magnificent.

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So there she is, a magnificent Bald Headed Eagle.

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And here is a closer look at the same area shown before the eagle. Note that Grant County ridge line.

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This is the view upstream. Prairie du Chien is roughly in the center of the photo. All the water you see is Mississippi River water. This is a complex flood plain where the outcrops of land can change their form depending on the water levels.

Well, it was pretty cold, very windy on Pike’s Peak, and the weather was awful. So after watching the majesty of this meeting of rivers for a while, I headed out.

It’s October 2006, I stopped at Wyalusing State Park, located in Grant County on the bluffs of southwest Wisconsin overlooking the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers, where they meet, just south of Prairie du Chien in Crawford County.

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The bluffs in the distance are in Iowa. The Mississippi River runs just beneath them, right to left across the photo. The rail bridge lower right crosses the Wisconsin River.

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This is a closer look at the Mississippi. The waters around the island in photo center are Wisconsin River waters emptying into the Mississippi.

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This is a look upstream the Wisconsin River. The Wyalusing State Park is 500 feet above the confluence of the two rivers and is one of Wisconsin's oldest parks. It has plenty of trails and camping sites. Indeed while we were there, even though it was a bit brisk, the camp sites were nearly filled and people were bundled up and on their hikes in typical Wisconsin fashion.