Facing another round of furloughs, we made a last minute decision to go camping in Wyalusing State Park — one of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks — since we managed to reserve one of the 5 coveted non-reservable campsites (ie: first-come-first-serve basis). This state park caught our attention because one of the campgrounds sits 500 feet above the confluence of the Wisconsin River and Mississippi River. Additionally, our campsite has an unobstructed view of the city of Prairie du Chien — the oldest European settlement on the Upper Mississippi River and Wisconsin’s second oldest city.
From Minnesota, we drove south along the Mississippi River to Iowa before crossing the river to Wisconsin. The purple milkweed flowers and the eastern tent caterpillar nests on the trees, which look like giant white cotton candies, dominated the landscape along the 2.5 hours drive. Upon our arrival at the campsite, a trash panda greeted us before scurrying into the nearby bushes. We prayed we didn’t have to encounter it again, especially in the middle of the night. The ruby throated hummingbirds were commonly seen buzzing around at our campsite especially at dusk in search of food. We also got to watch the crop dusting planes doing countless laps throughout the day and refilling at the distant municipal airport across the Wisconsin River.
Apart from the early morning rain on the first day, it was very hot throughout our stay with the heat index consistently reaching 100F. We still managed to hike several trails in the forest to get away from the heat, albeit very muggy and humid. To escape the sweltering heat in the afternoons, we constantly repositioned our folding chairs in search of shade under the 2 tall oak trees at our campsite. When the sun moved, we moved in unison. The only downside of camping under oak trees was the constant dropping of oak nuts like mini bombs. It was considerably cooler at night where the temperature dropped at least 25 degrees.
One of the attractions in this state park is the canoe trails on Glenn Lake, which is part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. There are 2 canoe trails — the north trail cuts through the idyllic Woodyard Slough and the south trail is more exposed to air and water currents. Both trails were well marked and we saw a few egrets hunting for fish along the north trail. Although we rented a canoe for 4 hours, we managed to cover both trails in 3 hours with a total of 6.7 miles. We were not allowed to canoe on the Mississippi River due to liability reasons. We were told the waves from the passing barges would constantly push the canoe to the river banks.
On our departure day, it was very breezy in the morning with the storm forecasted to roll in that afternoon with damaging wind and hail. We departed at 8:30 AM and headed to Pikes Peak State Park — located across the Mississippi River in Iowa — to do a few short hikes before heading home. This state park bears the same name as one of the Colorado’s 58 fourteeners — a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet — because both locations were discovered by the same American explorer, Zebulon Pike.