mn state parks: great river bluffs, latsch, william o brien, interstate, and wild river (whew)

mn state parks: great river bluffs, latsch, william o brien, interstate, and wild river (whew)

what a difference a day makes. my drive home from la crosse was exponentially greener than my drive down. i was hoping for great greenness when i got home (that was a no go. we needed rain.)

the first state park stop was great river bluffs, which is right where i-90 and hwy 61 meet just north of la crosse. this was a nice park, with camping and river views and pine trees and aspen, oh my!

but it also had a lot of college kids. throwing balls at each other and also at my car. cool. 

the views off the bluff were excellent, though. and summer break has to start sometime.

i love that this part of the mississippi is so spread out that there are islands with trees in the middle of the river. it’s hard to notice the width of the river from the road.

speaking of the road, i drove down during the 100-mile garage sale, which was a real pain. cars driving 35 looking at sales suddenly creep up on you when you’re driving 60. i was impressed with my resistance to stopping for minidonuts.

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then i stopped at john latsch state park, which is not far away, just north of winona. and it was so inconsequential that i forgot to take a picture. there was one gravel parking lot that would hold 6 cars and a set of rickety stairs going up a bluff. no other trails. i didn’t feel like hiking up a questionable staircase, so i got my stamp and left.

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sometimes it’s nice to avoid the cities when i’m driving back from SE minnesota, so i swing east and go home through stillwater, then head west pretty soon after that. this time, i headed even more north, driving through the st. croix river valley, which is a DELIGHTFUL little drive. it’s right where the deciduous and coniferous biomes meet in the state, and there are the lovely bluffs leading to the river. imagine everything good about non-prairie minnesota, and that would be it. and luck would have it, there are a couple state parks right there.

that said, william o’brien state park is definitely on my list of parks to return to. what a beautiful park. even though i got there in a downpour, it was still a park i knew that i wanted to try to reserve a campsite in.

my sad picture of a river inlet in the rain really does it no justice at all.

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just north of o’brien is interstate, which is right on the river. it reminded me slightly of a roadside campground in the middle of the black hills. it was really intriguing – there was the busy hwy 95 running right past it, but people were happily fishing from the beach and campsites were sold out for the night.

there was a path to this really interesting culvert that ran under 95, and it still had thick winter ice in it.

the minnesota side of the park is pretty tiny, but the wisonsin side (hence interstate) is really large. i’d like to explore this park more and possibly the wisconsin side, too.

as a ps: taylor’s falls, the little town right by interstate, is a cute little place i’d return to as well.

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then i decided that it still wasn’t dark out, so why not keep on going. wild river was just up the road, and i could hitch onto 95 from there to head west toward home. so i did.

wild river is not quite as picturesque as the other two nearby parks, and it seems like it’s geared toward fishing more than anything.

by this time, the rain had passed and clouds cleared. sunset was imminent. but the river looked calm, and i could see that the green hadn’t quite gotten up here like it had down in the south part of the state.

(that was ok. it just needed another couple days; three days later and the trees have popped here.)

i got out of wild river just about 8 p.m. and headed home. i like the drive west on 95 – i take it often from i-35 to st cloud – it’s a nice journey through some farmlands but even more forestlands, conifers and aspens with their northbound pull. i got to my driveway at 9:30, 8.5 hours after leaving liz’s.

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next up: i think over memorial day weekend i’m going to head to my old stomping grounds and check out the west central parks. we’ll see what sibley has to offer besides a dip in lake andrew!

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