Perrot State Park

Given the splendid beautiful weekend weather, we took advantage of our Wisconsin state park annual pass by making our second-ever visit to Perrot State Park. Our first visit was in November 2015. We were awestruck by the grand view of the Mississippi River and the Trempealeau Mountain from the summit of Brady’s Bluff. We initially planned to do the same hike this time but discovered at the last minute that it was possible to kayak in the marsh. Not knowing whether the kayak rental season had begun in this state park, we brought our water shoes (plan A) and hiking shoes (plan B).

We started our drive at 8 AM to a nearby gas station first and stumbled upon our neighbors heading to Wisconsin for a hike in La Crosse. So naturally, we were excited to rent 2 kayaks upon arrival at the park headquarters. So excited that we paid the money, we immediately jumped into the car and drove towards the boat launch area, only to turn back around to pick up our paddles. Although both canoe and kayak cost $15 each for 3 hours, we opted for the latter since we figured we would have no problem navigating the calmer current in the marsh.

Voyageurs Canoe Trail is the only water trail in Perrot State Park, a 3.5-mile loop around Trempealeau Bay. Many red-winged blackbirds sang loudly in the arrowheads and wild rice-filled marsh right beside the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. These black songbirds look like crows from afar but have distinctive bright red and yellow shoulder patches. We saw one turtle sunbathing on a toppled tree trunk and several elusive beavers swimming at a distance — too fast for us to photograph them. The first half of the adventure was tiring because we had to paddle against the current on a breezy morning. On our way back, no paddling was needed as we allowed the gentle breeze to push our kayaks downstream in circles like a compass gone haywire. French Canadian explorers came to this area in their canoes in the mid-1600s to expand the fur trade. We doubt these voyageurs also floated aimlessly like us. Our kayak trip was a little over 2 hours long. By the time we were done, the temperature had become considerably warmer, which wasn’t surprising due to the looming heat wave in the coming days. We stopped by the coffee shop in downtown Winona for a delicious lunch before heading back home.

Tall wild rice with Trempealeau Mountain at the background.
Kayaking past a huge falling tree.
A perfect day to float in the marsh.
2 planes and 2 bridges in Winona.
The brown lines represent our kayaking paths.

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