Traveling north of Winona, MN on the Great River Road Scenic Byway, we elect to continue traveling the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River Road: Wisconsin State Highway 35. Travelers in a rush to get to Wabasha may opt to stay on the Minnesota side and travel US Highway 61. It is a faster highway, but a little less scenic. From Wabasha to Red Wing, Wisconsin Hwy 35 continues to get our vote for scenery, but it is more of a toss-up. Quilters may prefer the Minnesota side in order to visit the quilt shop in Lake City, Minnesota and we found Minnesota's Frontenac State Park an attractive camping destination with nice hiking trails and scenic vistas.
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Winona, MN to Alma, WI to Wabasha, MN - Great River Road
Crossing the bridge from Winona back to the Wisconsin side of the Great River Road, we continue northwest on Wisconsin Hwy 35. Fountain City is one of several Wisconsin towns along the river road that are squeezed in between high bluffs and the river, producing a village that seems to consist of a two mile long main street and little else.
Further down the road, Alma is another of these ribbon villages sandwiched between bluffs and water. It was a gray, overcast day when we stopped in town, so these pictures don't do it justice.
Alma is an attractive little community with a number of artisan, craft and gift shops. The first weekend in September is their annual Music and Arts festival. Visitors will enjoy the river view and eagle-watching from the Wings Over Alma viewing platform. With its elevated view of the river, intersting shops, and unique stairway streets, Alma is an ideal stop to get some walking around exercise. And for a more enthusiastic hike, you can climb the the Buena Vista Hiking trail to a scenic overlook 500' above the Mississippi River (on our itinerary the next time we are in town). You can also drive to the same overlook and enjoy a picnic at Beuna Vista Park.
A few miles north of Alma is a great overnight camping spot for RV travelers (or traveling tent campers for that matter). Rieck's Lake Park has nice level sites, well spaced, picnic tables, and offers electric hook-ups. Clean, well-maintained, and reasonable price. Also offers wildlife viewing platforms and a nature trail.
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Near the town of Nelson, Wisconsin take the bridge (hwy 60) across the river to the Minnesota side to visit Wabasha, Minnesota (Here seen in the background in this wintertime scene along Wabasha's river front drive). > > >
On our first visit in the late winter of 2006, we stopped for lunch at the Eagle's Nest Coffee House. There we learned about two of the towns most prominent symbols: Eagles and being the fictional home of the Grumpy Old Men movies, with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. On later visits we got better acquainted with both of these themes and the town's history.
The Great River Road from Wabasha to Red Wing, Minnesota
Traveling between Wabasha and Red Wing, Minnesota is a toss-up as to which river road to take, Wisconsin or Minnesota. On the Minnesota side, US 61 is the superior pavement as it is a federal highway designed for interstate traffic. Minnesota's Frontenac State Park is attractive both as a day visit and as a overnight camping destination. Lake City, Minnesota is an attractive riverside community and it hosts a nice quilt shop, Rather-Be-Quilting. On the Wisconsin side, Wisconsin Hwy 35 has a bit more charm and doesn't get the amount of heavy traffic as it's cousin across the river. The towns along the Wisconsin side also get the nod for quaintness. Some interesting restaurants, cafe's, and artisan shops can be found in Pepin, Stockholm, and Maiden Rock.
< < < Wisconsin Hwy 35 snakes around and hugs the lower edges of high limestone bluffs.
The Wisconsin bluffs seen from the high terraces on the Minnesota side.
Turkey Vultures and Eagles are frequently seen cruising the updrafts around these bluffs.
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Jo and her quilting buddy, Sue, camped at Minnesota's Frontenac State Park off of Minnesota Highway 61 SE of Red Wing. Very spacious, wooded, level campsites, clean washrooms, quite comfortable.
Looking from the Frontenac Bluffs across the river to Wisconsin.
Thirteen miles of hiking trails in the park, including this one with switch-backs and staircases that lead from the top of the bluff
to the river's edge.> > >
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Red Wing, MN
Red Wing, made famous for its shoes and pottery, has done an excellent job of preserving and restoring its historic downtown district.